What Happened to Goodbye by Sarah Dessen
Publisher: Penguin Young Readers
Number of pages: 416
My copy: ebook from Amazon Kindle Store
Another town. Another school. Another Mclean. Ever since her parents’ bitter divorce, Mclean and her father have been fleeing their unhappy past. And Mclean’s become a pro at reinventing herself with each move. But in Lakeview, Mclean finds herself putting down roots and making friends—in part, thanks to Dave, the most real person Mclean’s ever met. Dave just may be falling in love with her, but can he see the person she really is? Does Mclean herself know?
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Sarah Dessen is a comfort read. I learned to love the YA genre through her books, and even if I’ve read other good contemporary YA novels (hello John Green and Melina Marchetta), Sarah Dessen remains as the queen of my YA-novel loving heart. So there was really no question that I’d get her newest book, What Happened to Goodbye, in the blink of an eye. In fact, this is probably the most expensive ebook that I’ve purchased so far (it’s $1 more expensive than the usual ebook price).
Mclean Sweet lived a normal life, until her mother fell in love with the coach of the basketball team that her father loved. After a messy divorce, Mclean joins her dad with his traveling job, jumping from one town to another to improve or close some restaurants. Tired of her old personality, Mclean takes on a different persona and a name for every town she lives in — from a cheerleader, a theater geek to an all around girl, she does it all and disappears without a trace when they need to move. Mclean is prepared to do the same thing when she moves to Lakeview with her dad. That is, until she finds herself not only using her real name, but acting like herself.
Reading a Dessen novel for me is like coming home after a long day’s work and snuggling on my favorite chair with a good, comforting drink. It was so easy to immerse myself in Lakeview, and after reading all her other books, it almost feels like I’m coming home. That’s what reading What Happened to Goodbye feels like, especially for someone who’s loved and read all Sarah Dessen books like me — coming home after a long trip or adventure to faraway lands and finding comfort in all things old and new.
Although, as far as other Sarah Dessen novels are concerned, this book isn’t really all that. While it didn’t really annoy me, there were some things that kind of niggled at me and made this novel less “OMG AWESOME”. For one thing, the premise of this book reminds me of Stealing Heaven by Elizabeth Scott, with the town-jumping and the new personalities but sans the stealing. I think this may be what made it a bit hard for me to accept that Mclean could change personalities like that. I can’t help but think that her dad is a fugitive somewhere and he needs to escape, but he has a good job here, and he obviously cares for his daughter a lot. I just can’t figure out why he just runs off without saying goodbye to people — it’s not like he’s running away from not paying check city payday loans, you know? It seemed a little bit weak for me.
I also echo what other people say about the “swoon” (or “sa-woon”, LOL) in this book — it’s almost non-existent. Not completely, because the build-up between Mclean and Dave is agonizingly slow, and there aren’t much swoon-worthy moments here unlike the ones between Macy and Wes or Remy and Dexter. I understand how some people would be disappointed with that, and I am a little bit disappointed. Just a little, because I actually liked it. Sometimes the agonizingly slow stuff makes for good stories in the end, you know?
But on a more positive note, Sarah Dessen still knows her characters, especially the secondary ones! I loved the staff at Luna Blu, and Mclean’s friends, especially Deb! I also loved that giant Easter Egg there. A part of me wishes that Sarah Dessen would write an entire novel about that guy because he’s been in too many of her novels, and I think he deserves his own story. :D I loved Deb, too, but I think my favorite secondary character for What Happened to Goodbye is Opal, the restaurant owner. I spotted the development with her a mile away, but it was a satisfying reveal. :)
What Happened to Goodbye may not be a favorite Dessen, but I think it’s another solid release. As a longtime Dessen fan, I really enjoyed reading this one. However, if you’re new to Dessen, I’d suggest you pick up her older titles, especially The Truth About Forever, This Lullaby, and Just Listen to be introduced to her contemporary YA writing prowess. :)
So what’s next for Dessen? I truly hope she decides to write a book with a male lead this time, just like John Green is writing a book with a female lead. I think it’s high time we read a story of a Dessen boy from his point of view, right?