Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Review: What Happened To Goodbye

Author: Sarah Dessen
Release Date: May 10th 2011 (US) / May 30th 2011 (AUS)
Publisher: Penguin
Add it: Goodreads

In the past two years, Mclean Sweet has moved four times. At each stop, she assumes a new persona, but it never quite works. Whether she's an effervescent cheerleader or an intense drama queen, nothing can permanently dispel the turmoil and rage at her mother since her parents' divorce. Sarah Dessen's novel about a teenager and her restaurant manager father captures the vulnerability that young people often experience after the dissolution of their family. A compelling story; strong characterization; and with a touch of romance.

There is something so relatable, so wholesome, so comforting about Sarah Dessen's stories. They don't deal with the earth-shattering, good vs. evil, the whole-world-hangs-in-the-balance type of stories, but take issues that we've all struggled with in some form and explores them so realistically.

Every time she and her father move towns, McLean Sweet adopts a new identity for herself. Beth, Eliza, Lizbeth. All with their own set of hobbies and interests, each with a different personality. It's easy to understand why she does this - who hasn't, at some point, longed for the opportunity to be someone different? To let go of everything that defines you and completely start over fresh? She tries not to get close to people, form bonds. Because isn't it so much easier to just disappear without a goodbye when you have no attachments? That's what McLean does and what she plans to do in this new town. She was supposed to be Liz Sweet this time, but things don't always turn out the way you plan.

She makes genuine friends, becomes invested in the restaurant her father is fixing and the community model project, but more importantly let's one person in particular into her heart - Dave, the guy next door. She makes a home for herself. Something she hasn't done in a long time. Throughout it all McLean begins to realise that changing yourself isn't such a glamorous life - a cheerleading outfit or drama club can't hide who you truly who. You can't change what's in your heart and running away from everything that defines you, controlling everything about yourself and the people you allow into your life - it's not really living. It's okay to be guarded, but you don't 'choose' who you are, you don't 'choose' who your friends will be - life does that for you. And coming to Lakeview makes McLean realise how much she's been running away and not allowing herself to ever find a home again.

I really enjoyed all of the secondary characters, Deb in particular. They all come with their own issues and are layered, rather than just 2D stand-ins to accompany the protagonist and make it seem like a well rounded novel. They all have a purpose there and they all have an impact on McLean's life in some way. Especially her next door neighbour, Dave. Who becomes more than just the guy who pulled her into a storm cellar and saved her from an arrest. While Wes from The Truth About Forever is  my favourite of Dessen's love interests, Dave is definitely a worthy contender!

It's also really nice to see a strong parent-child bond  - not that they don't exist, it's just many books often lack in a solid relationship with either of the parents. McLean and her father are a tight unit, he's probably the only person she's allowed in over the years, but even he doesn't realise the full extent of McLean's need for recreating herself. On the other hand, the relationship with her mother is pretty much in tatters, but as the novel progressed and McLean began to make those realisations about herself and her life, I enjoyed watching that broke bond begin to repair itself.

Sarah's novels have a way of burrowing themselves in your heart and even teaching you a lesson or two alongside the main character. The characters, the setting, the issues explored and the relationships - both the blossoming and the broken - all create another stunning standout Dessen creation. What Happened To Goodbye shows us that's okay to be ourselves - better, even - because who are you if you don't open your heart to the world around you?

Rating: 4/5 

To all the Sarah Dessen fans out there... which is your favourite of her novels? Give me some recommendations! I want to read more of her awesomeness.


  1. I can't wait to read my first Sarah Dessen book !! I only hear great things about this author !
    Thanks for this review ;)

  2. Yay! So glad to see you really liked What Happened to Goodbye! I still haven't cracked open the pages but your wonderful review definitely makes me want to! I recently FINALLY read Along for the Ride and really liked it! But I still enjoyed This Lullaby too and like you already mentioned, The Truth About Forever. It's hard to pick a particular favourite! :)

  3. Nice review. Very thought out. I just ordered Dreamland (I'm saving up for those box sets, and this one isn't in any of them) and will be getting What Happened to Goodbye soon. Can't wait to finally pick up a Sarah Dessen book!

  4. I can't wait for my copy to arrive! I love all Sarah Dessen books but I think The Truth About Forever and This Lullaby are the best. Great review! Now I want to read this more.

  5. I absolutely love Sarah Dessen! She's an amazing writer! While I did enjoy this novel - so very much - but Along for the Ride still remains my TOP Dessen favourite!

    Nice review. :)

  6. Great review! I just need to resist a little longer until exams are over... GAHH. I love Sarah Dessen, and I like how What Happened to Goodbye features a solid family, since families seem to be so often split apart for story fodder. Can't wait to read this one! :)

  7. have this book in my pile, but havent had time to read it yet. I kind want to now :) thanks for sharing your thoughts!

  8. I love Sarah Dessen books, they just never dissappoint you!:D
    I love your blog, it's super cute!


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