Of course Annabel feels pressure to be perfect; she grew up in a home with two beautiful sisters, and a mother who encouraged all three girls to model. The oldest sister, Kirsten, is as loud as a foghorn and has a lot to say. The middle sister, Whitney, struggles with an eating disorder and an awful attitude that's put the whole family through the wringer. Her mom always said to be kind, so that's what Annabel tries to be: nice. But after a massive fallout with her uber-popular best friend Sophie, as well as dealing with her own issues, Annabel feels like her life is crumbling.
Just as all of her problems are swelling to form a massive peak, Annabel meets Owen. Owen's the kid with "anger management issues" who was suspended last year for punching someone who was mocking him. Annabel's never seen him without his headphones on. But when everyone at school is ignoring her and her mom's too busy dealing with Whitney to pick her up, Owen offers her a ride home.
In the weeks that follow, Annabel learns more about Owen than she ever thought possible. He's really into music, even hosts his own radio show! Some songs, like Mayan tribal chants and techno music, aren't her thing, but honest Owen and his bubbly little sister are refreshing.
Despite her new friend, Annabel's problems keep rising to the surface. Her mom still thinks she adores modeling, and Annabel hates confrontation enough to not say anything. Whitney is still refusing to talk to Kirsten because Kirsten was the one to first tell their family about Whitney's anorexia. No one but Owen will talk to her, and Sophie continues to spread nasty rumors. Finally, Annabel reaches her breaking point and realizes she can't hold everything inside anymore.
I loved this book! In so many books, I feel like the protagonist is either likable but completely unrealistic, or someone who does have problems, but isn't fun to read about. Annabel is the ideal mixture! She definitely has an issue with running away from conflict and isn't without obstacles, but I think she is a good person at heart. This book addresses critical issues like sexual misconduct and eating disorders. I think Sarah Dessen did a great job of not getting too detailed in these conflicts that the reader would feel like they couldn't continue reading but did stress the importance of preventing these things.
The ending was awesome as well! Some novels sort of lag in the middle, or have a weak or too perfect ending. This one had a thick enough exposition that you understand what was going on but still had action. The middle to end was especially very fun to read! I've been stuck in a bit of a reading rut lately, but I could barely put this one down.
Overall, I unquestionably enjoyed this read. I think I'll be visiting Annabel again soon . . .