What Happened to Goodbye - Sarah Dessen

January 30, 2013

What Happened To Goodbye Sarah Dessen book cover
What Happened to Goodbye by Sarah Dessen
Publisher: Viking Juvenile
Publication Date: May 10, 2011
Source/Format: Bought || Hardcover

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. (from Goodreads)

Before I share my thoughts on this book, I’m going to preface it by saying that this may be a little biased because I love Sarah Dessen. I’ve been a loyal fan since I first read The Truth about Forever, and she’s my original go-to author for contemporary YA. What Happened to Goodbye is the quintessential Sarah Dessen book, with the perfect blend of family issues, new friendships and a hint of romance.

One of the things I’ve always loved about Dessen books are the wonderful, real characters that she manages to create. McLean is no different, as I ended up really loving her character. Because her dad’s job forces them to move around a lot, McLean has taken it upon herself to create a new identity everywhere she goes. The roots for her actions lie a lot deeper than just self-exploration; McLean is trying to become someone other than the girl who has divorced parents with a scandal attached to their family’s name. She appears to be in a constant state of flux, worried and unable to look back at her past. While it’s interesting to be able to try new things, it’s also a bit sad that she felt like she couldn’t really be herself in any of these places they formerly lived.

Out of all the personalities she donned, it is the real McLean I enjoyed best. She’s laidback and kind, and tries so very hard to do the right thing. She enjoyed what seemed like simple things, and she was capable of taking on responsibilities. I like that McLean, apart from her strengths, also had her real flaws and grievances. She basically shuts out her mother, because she feels like the divorce is her fault. And she is overprotective of her father, because she feels like he’s the victim. Obviously, she also has trust issues and isn’t sure if she can believe that relationships are long-lasting. All these traits just brought her to life as a character, and I totally would want to be her friend.

Apart from McLean, there’s the boy in this book – Dave. He makes my heart flutter, because he’s the Dessen boy who’s the closest to my type. He’s a bit of a nerd, what with his genius mind and his interest in his studies, and perhaps a bit awkward, but he’s also incredibly sweet and attuned to other people’s emotions. I loved a lot of the quiet moments he shared with McLean, because the things he said and did were just wonderful.

 I know that I just swooned about the love interest (and their moments together were adorable), but this book is truly about family. McLean and her parents obviously have a bunch of issues that they work out in this book – the unresolved tension between McLean and her mother, the fact that she tiptoes around her father when it comes to her mom and trying to find a new balance between her old family and her new, unconventional one. If you’ve been reading this blog a while, you know that I love books that focus on family and familial relationships – this book is a great example of that.

What Happened to Goodbye is certainly written with Sarah Dessen’s trademark style, but it was just the kind of contemporary I was craving at the time. Sarah Dessen has, yet again, written a wonderful story, with characters that I can love and root for and want to befriend. If you’re a Dessen fan, you’ll definitely want to read this. And if you’re not or haven’t read a book by her yet, I would highly recommend this one.

104 comments

  1. I"m a huge Dessen fan as well (so glad we're getting a new novel this year!) and found this one very her. My personal favorite character was Deb, one of my favorite Dessen characters ever!

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  2. I've never read any of Dessen's books, despite having several on my bookshelf. I really should read one sometime! I've seen this one for a while and it really sounded up my alley.

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  3. I can say, being relatively newer to contemporary YA, that I haven't read any of Dessen's books, though I've heard wonderful things. I like that this touches down on a more real level --- that the characters are honest and flawed, the situations are realistic and the problems personal. It doesn't sound like the swoony romance overtakes everything else, so it's nice to see that there's a balance here.

    The next time I'm looking for something in the genre, I will be sure to check it out! Great review!

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  4. I'm a Sarah Dessen's fan as well, and I would have to agree with you that she's a perfect go-to author when craving for a YA book. What Happened to Goodbye was the first book I've read by her and I really liked it. It's not my most favorite but it's such a worth it read! Awesome review, Alexa! : )

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  5. This is the only Dessen book, besides the new one, that I haven't read yet! I'm looking forward to changing that with the Read/Reread challenge over @ I Eat Words!

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  6. Word. I love Sarah Dessen, I remember binge reading all of her books years ago and being really into her writing to the point that I was subscribed to her livejournal. AHEM.

    SO, I feel like a failure because I have not read What Happened To Goodbye yet (I even have the audiobook AND a signed hardcover so DOUBLE FAILLLLLL). Also? Dave is totally my favorite sort of Dessen male lead as well.

    Sidebar: Your review has convinced me that this will be my next audiobook after Rootless.

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  7. LOVE Dessen!!! I can't believe I haven't read one of hers in a while. This one is on my shelf calling to me. Your review is pushing me to rectify this injustice. ;)

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  8. YA contemp isn't usually my go-to, but this sounds like the emotional grittiness that I like. Great review!

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  9. I haven't read this one but I do own it! I am so in the mood for a Dessen novel so thanks for reminding me I had this!!

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  10. I love that Dessen's books revolve around family. There's always other things going on, but the root of it tends to be family. And I loved the real McLean, too!! She was such a good character. I'm so happy you liked this one! :)

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