May 11, 2013

Review: What Happened to Goodbye by Sarah Dessen

Title: What Happened to Goodbye
Author: Sarah Dessen
Publisher: Viking Juvenile
Publishing Date: May 10, 2011
Pages/Format: 402, Hardcover

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. 

Combining Sarah Dessen's trademark graceful writing, great characters, and compelling storytelling, What Happened to Goodbye is irresistible reading.

Initial Reaction of Book in One Word: Good.*

*After writing this review, I'm tempted to just say DAVE. Just to let you know.

Here's the deal: I can't not love a Sarah Dessen book. I just can't. I may not love love them all, but I can't hate or dislike any of them. I don't how or why that works; I just can't. That being said, it's not my favorite Dessen book (that's a tie between Along for the Ride and This Lullaby, at the time of this review), but it's toward the middle of the list. What Happened to Goodbye was an overall good book, even though it was slow for me to get into, and wasn't focused on romance (which I wish there was a bit more of). It does, however, have all the elements that make it an awesome Sarah Dessen book.

The story centers around McLean, a teenager who lives with her dad, following him where his restaurant takeover job takes him, choosing him over her mother, who left and broke up their family when she had an affair. Every time McLean's dad gets relocated to a new location, she reinvents herself, name, hobbies, and all. But then they end up in Lakeview, where McLean actually goes by her real name, and she tries to figure out exactly who she is, not who she was as all her other personas, and after all that has happened with her family scandal. It's in Lakeview that she changes, makes friends, and meets a boy that may be worth staying for. There, she is, once again, McLean.

I really liked the characters in What Happened to Goodbye; everyone was just so different, and I thought it was really dynamic. It's told from the POV of McLean Sweet, who, as was mentioned in the previous paragraph, has a bit of an identity crisis. After her parents divorce, things change, and she's not quite sure who she is. She takes care of her father and tends to ignore and be rude to her mother, who she blames for destroying their family. Her father Gus Sweet was a great character, and a great parent to read about. Sure, he's not the best dad or anything, but I just really enjoyed him. His ex-wife, on the other Katherine Hamilton was not my favorite person; she seemed kind of like a real housewife or something, and she didn't seem to understand why her daughter had so much against her. Her new husband and kids were whatever, and didn't mean much to me. Opal, who runs the restaurant Gus is changing, was just great, and I also liked the other employees at Luna Blu. McLean's handful of friends were also great, but my favorite is, of course, Dave Wade, the genius with a tattoo who got busted one time for trying out a beer. I loved him. I wanted more of him. Much more. He was just so nice and awesome and just ugh I loved him. And some of the things he did and said just made me sa-WOON. He's definitely one of my favorite Dessen boys. And he was great with McLean, too.

The other thing about this book was that it's kind of relatable. If you're like me, your parents are divorced. Now, my parents aren't much like McLean's, and they didn't split for the same reason McLean's did, but you can still sort of put yourself in McLean's shoes: who are you after the divorce? Who are you when your family is split in two? One parent says this, the other that. You may like one more, and you may pick sides. Divorce is hard on everyone, and this book showed aspects of that. I think that's what made it more serious, at least to me. It's about moving on in life, about figuring out what happens after goodbye, what happens when you don't want to say goodbye but have to--it's what happened to goodbye.

I don't really know what else to say about this book. The writing didn't bother me and the pace was fine (even though it was slow for a while, but I think that was just me). It had all sorts of great moments, from laughs to butterflies. (Dave. Seriously. Marry me.) I felt like it was one of Dessen's more serious books, but it's not super serious. To be honest, my mind keeps flitting back to What Happened to Goodbye, and that may be in part because I didn't want to say goodbye. It really was a good book, full of memorable scenes and fantastic (really, really fantastic) characters. Dessen fans (or newcomers!) if you haven't read this one yet, get on it!

Did I like it? Yes.
Did I love it? Somewhat.
Would I reread it? Possibly.
Would I purchase it? Already have it.
Would I recommend it? Probably.


  1. I have similar feelings about this book in that I adore Dessen's writing but my fave is This Lullaby followed very closely by The Truth About Forever with this one ending up somewhere in the middle. As for characters, I really loved Deb-I mentioned in my review that I found her intense and a little mysterious but it's been so long that I can't quite remember why.

  2. Sarah Dessen is just flawless. That being said, I haven't read this book before, so it's nice to know your opinion on the matter! :)

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