I remembered loving this book the first time I read it, but that was years ago, when I was younger and more inclined to read YA love stories, so when I picked it back up to reread for this challenge I wasn’t sure that it would hold up in my slightly more cynical mind. There are things I didn’t notice or perhaps didn’t remember before, but for the most part the book is still good.
The story follows Annabel Greene, a model and one time popular girl who, after an incident she refuses to talk about, loses her best friend and resident mean girl Sophie and is branded an outcast. This situation could not have come at a worse time for her, or her family. Her older sister Whitney is battling an eating disorder and her oldest sister Kristen has quit modeling, an activity that pulled their mother from the throes of an all consuming grief. It’s the fear of her mother returning t her grief stricken state that prevents Annabel from telling her family about the indecent or the fact that she also doesn’t want to model anymore. It’s during this time when Annabel is dealing with her isolation and reevaluating all the choices she’s made to get to this point, that she meets (really meets) Owen Armstrong. Owen is burly, and known as the meanest guy in school. Annabel had heard all sorts of rumors about Owen, but she learns as they build a friendship that he’s not what everyone thinks.Owen is obsessed with music and thinks anyone who doesn’t listen like he does isn’t enlightened. Most importantly, Owen never lies. He even tells Annabel that he believes her not saying what she really feels is a form of lying as well, the worst form because it’s lying to yourself. As you may have guessed, Owen helps Annabel become more honest and they soon grow to like each other as more than just friends. In the end we learn what the incident was and Annabel finally tells her family and, to her surprise, her mother does not fall apart. The family stays strong and comes together and supports her in her time of need. And of course, Annabel and Owen end up a couple because, come on, it’s a YA novel.
I won’t lie, as I get older I realize that Sarah Dessen uses the same template for every story. With that in mind, reading all of her stories back to back is a terrible idea, though I remember enjoying the few I read and she does this thing where we get a glimpse of main characters from previous stories in the next one which is nice and something other authors I’ve read haven’t done. It was sort of a great reminder that life was going on for the other characters as well. I’ll also tell you that this story plays out almost in two parts. Annabel has a lot of flashbacks and they flow so seamlessly sometimes you forget you’re in a flashback until someone brings Annabel back to the present and you have to scramble to remember what was happening before the flashback started. For me, these only helped to place you in the mindset of Annabel even better, but there were times I was annoyed by how disoriented I was trying to catch up with where we were in the present. So by two parts I mean we get to see the moments that explain how Annabel got to the current point in her life and the present where things are unfolding even as we read the flashbacks. The story, in and of itself, is surprisingly poignant and holds a very important message. In the end, the message of this book is an important one, and the final note is hopeful which is important given all the issues touched on in this story. My final note is, the flashbacks might throw you off and the overall relationship plays out in a slightly clique way, but for the message and issues touched on makes this worth a read.