Monday, October 10, 2011

REVIEW: "What Happened to Goodbye" by Sarah Dessen

What Happened to Goodbye

Who is the real McLean?
Since her parents' bitter divorce, McLean and her dad, a restaurant consultant, have been on the move-four towns in two years. Estranged from her mother and her mother's new family, McLean has followed her dad in leaving the unhappy past behind. And each new place gives her a chance to try out a new persona: from cheerleader to drama diva. But now, for the first time, McLean discovers a desire to stay in one place and just be herself, whoever that is. Perhaps Dave, the guy next door, can help her find out.

READ: October 2011
SOURCE: Bought-Borders
GENRE: Young Adult-Contemporary-Romance
SETTING: Lakeview

What Happened to Goodbye deals with the effects of divorce and remarriage on a child.  Mclean Sweet's lived in a seemingly typical suburban family until her mother cheated on her father.  Her mother then divorced her father, married the other man, and proceeded to begin a new family with him.  In reaction, Mclean decided to stay with her father despite the fact that his restaurant consulting job relocates him around the country.  Also, in an effort to escape the divorce and its aftermath, Mclean has created new personas in every new town she and her dad reside in. 

When Mclean and her father move to Lakeview (main setting for almost all of Dessen's works), she plans on creating a new nickname and identity as well.  But, upon meeting her new next door neighbor, Dave, Mclean finds it easy to introduce herself as Mclean rather than another name.  When she begins her new school, she attempts to find the crowd that she believes her "new self" will hang out with until the next move.  Once again, she finds herself becoming friends with a variety of people.  This causes the main conflict of the book.   Mclean must discover who she is under all the made-up personas and figure out why she felt the compulsion to create them in the first place.

Sarah Dessen excels at taking the difficult aspects of teenage life and showcasing how one can grow and move beyond them.  It always seems like her main goal for her characters is for them to figure out who or what makes them truly happy.  Mclean's journey is another fascinating look at the years right before college.  Almost everyone can relate to the desire to become someone else during their teen years.  But, what Dessen portrays is how someone can lose themselves due to this desire.

Dessen's characters are often the best part of her stories and this is no exception in What Happened to Goodbye.  Mclean is a character that all teenage girls can relate to.  Her situation allows her to fit in with any crowd, but she does not always pick the popular or cool crowd.  In Lakeview especially, Mclean seems to become the center of a unique group of friends that migrate from other groups.  These friends help her figure out her true identity and provider her with a purpose in her last year of high school.

Mclean's group of friends are essential to her journey, but they all have issues they are dealing with throughout the book.  Dave, the love interest, is the genius son of academics who is striving for a normal teenage existence before college and understands Mclean from the moment he met her.  But, the secondary character that broke my heart and then left me cheering was Deb, the former new girl who strived to help others despite the fact that she never received a hand in friendship or appreciation until Mclean showed up.  There are many other secondary characters that pepper this world and it seems to me that there is someone every reader could directly relate to.

Also, in a fun little tidbit, any regular reader of Sarah Dessen can see that she loves to place former characters in minor sections of her books.  Almost all of them take place in Lakeview so it is not unusual to see some old favorites pop up just to bring her world together.  In this book, I especially loved seeing the return of Annabel and Owen from Just Listen.

In conclusion, What Happened to Goodbye is a poignant yet still fun young adult book that captures the teenage journey to discovering an identity and  a purpose in life.  There are vibrant characters that help bring the story to life as well as Dessen's trademark sweet love story to get the romantics smiling.



“I mean, it's not surprising, really. Once you love something, you always love it in some way. You have to. It's, like, part of you for good.”

“Accepting all the good and bad about someone. It's a great thing to aspire to. The hard part is actually doing it.”

“Home wasn't a set house, or a single town on a map. It was wherever the people who loved you were, whenever you were together. Not a place, but a moment, and then another, building on each other like bricks to create a solid shelter that you take with you for your entire life, wherever you may go.”


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