Last year, Annabel was "the girl who has everything" --at least that's the part she played in the television commercial for Kopf's Department Store. This year, she's the girl who has nothing: no best friend because mean-but-exciting Sophie dropped her, no peace at home since her older sister became anorexic, and no one to sit with at lunch. This all changes when she meets Owen Armstrong -- a tall, dark, and music-obsessed reformed bad boy with a commitment to truth telling. With Owen's help, Annabel faces what happened the night she and Sophie stopped being friends.
In this episode of UNC-TV's local literary series, "North Carolina Bookwatch," airing Friday, July 21, at 9:30 p..m., Sarah Dessen shares her book's story of a year in the life of a family coming to terms with the imperfections beneath its perfect facade.
"With my seventh novel, 'Just Listen,' I wanted to do something with the idea of perfection," she says. "I think especially for girls in high school there is a lot of pressure to do things perfectly and to look perfect while they're doing it. I was also interested in the idea of conflict and how girls are often raised to be 'nice' -- nice to everyone and sweet--but at the same time need to stick up for themselves.
"So, I created the character Annabel, who is a teenage model and from a family of beautiful girls -- a perfect girl on the surface who has a very imperfect life."
Dessen's teen-friendly fiction has become extraordinarily popular based on her ability to look through the eyes of her young subjects and appeal to young women seeking a protagonist who looks like them.
"Very rarely do you get an opportunity to get inside of the head of that 'perfect' girl, or at least the person you think is perfect," says Dessen. "I think every high school has the girl who's gorgeous and who you think leads a perfect life and dates the perfect boy. Here you get inside of her head and see that there's no such thing as the perfect girl."
During this all-new interview, the Chapel Hill native and University of North Carolina graduate reveals her unique perspective on the world of fiction for young adults and the local experiences that helped shape her latest best-selling work.
"To stay in touch with teenagers, I try to stick to universal themes, without trying to use the latest slang or fashion. My first book came out 10 years ago and I'd like to think it's as topical now as it was then. That's always my aim that the book remain relevant even if times have changed," says Dessen.
"I think the reader is drawn to the fact that in all my books girls are in the process of becoming something. When the book starts up the girl is up against something she thinks she can't handleand then sees her way to the other side."
Dessen is the author of several novels, including "Someone Like You" and "The Truth About Forever." A motion picture based on her first two books, titled "How to Deal," was released in 2003. She still lives in North Carolina.
An encore presentation will be shown Sunday, July 23, at 5 p.m.
Some of this year's guests are Allan Gurganus, Bill Smith, Art Chansky and Angela Davis-Gardner.
For more information about additional series guests and airdates, plus, the all-new Bookwatch blog and online book club, visit www.unctv.org/ncbookwatch.
Funding for "North Carolina Bookwatch" is provided by UNC-TV members and by Quail Ridge Books and Music, Raleigh's independent, full-service bookstore, bringing readers and writers together since 1984.
The program is part of UNC-TV's ongoing commitment to produce programs for and about North Carolina. UNC-TV is the statewide 11-station broadcast network of the University of North Carolina. For more information, visit www.unctv.org/ncbookwatch.
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