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Museum Trip

Barbara Lehman

Just Listen

Sarah Dessen

Viking / $17.99 / Ages 13-16

For many teenagers, your music-listening choices and the CDs you burn for friends show who you are. Sarah Dessen gets right to the heart of music, families and teenage identity. She begins the book quoting Robert Frost - "The best way out is always through" - and creates a stage on which that truth appears. Annabel is the youngest of three daughters, all of whom model because their mother enjoys that world. The book opens after a "long, lonely summer of secrets and silence," and it takes most of the book for Annabel to learn to listen to herself and to speak to others about what the secrets are.

The person who helps Annabel (an avoider of confrontation) to go "through" and not always "around" is Owen. He's a new kid at school, one who always has his iPod and a backpack full of CDs. Dessen integrates the family and school plots without seeming to crowd the story artificially. Just listen.

Mary Harris Russell, who teaches English at Indiana University Northwest, reviews children's books for the Chicago Tribune.

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