What Happened to Goodbye Book Review

what happened to goodbye sarah dessen

Hey guys!

How are you? I’ve just finished my first full week back at work after 14 weeks off and it was exhausting! It’s so hard coming back to full-time work after being at home for so long! Plus, trying to get little kids to wash their hands all the time and not go too close to each other is no easy feat!

Today’s post is going to be another book review! Yep, I’ve written so many during lockdown that my blog has basically just been 99% book reviews lately! This review focuses on What Happened to Goodbye, one of my favourite Sarah Dessen books. It’s quite a long review so brace yourselves!



what happened to goodbyeWho 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.


My Review

I’ve read at least 6 Sarah Dessen books within the last couple of years, and I could easily read several more. Her protagonists – all teenagers – are likeable and relatable, and her books are uplifting. What Happened to Goodbye, Sarah Dessen’s 10th full-length novel, is no exception. It’s definitely one of the best books I’ve read by her.

What Happened to Goodbye explores the life of 17-year-old Mclean, who has just moved to her fourth home in just two years. Following her mother’s affair with basketball coach Peter Hamilton, Mclean’s parents split up and, unable to forgive her mother, Mclean decides that she wants to live with her father until she starts college. The one downside is that Mclean’s father Gus works as a restaurant consultant, which requires them to move around a lot. However, Mclean doesn’t mind too much as it allows her to reinvent herself and create a new identity – whether that’s as Lizbet, Beth, Eliza or Mclean. When she moves to Lakeview, things seem more permanent, and Mclean is comfortable enough to go by her real name. Unfortunately, there are problems with the restaurant her father has been assigned to – will he be able to salvage it or will they have to move again? Or worse – will Mclean have to live with her mother and her new family?

Sarah Dessen has created another protagonist that readers will be able to root for. Mclean is likeable and relatable, and eager to help other people around her, particularly her father. She quickly settles into her new home and school, partly because she’s so used to moving around, but also because she’s so charming and easy to get along with. Not long after moving to Lakeview, Mclean strikes up friendships with Riley, Ellis and Heather, as well as Deb, who was a bit of an outsider before Mclean came along.

Mclean is also drawn to her neighbour Dave, and they start hanging out a lot. Dave is a child genius and was heading for an early college admission until he got busted drinking at a party and had to complete community service. While that may send warning bells, at least he was honest and owned up to what he did. Due to what happened with her parents, Mclean is a bit wary about getting into a relationship, claiming that she’s “a girl who’s not looking for anything right now. Even with a really nice guy” (pg 140) when Riley tells her that Dave is interested in her. Dave and Mclean remain friends for the majority of the novel, but things start to progress into something romantic near the end.

One of the major themes of What Happened to Goodbye is relationships – relationships with parents, friendships, and romance. Sarah Dessen shows us that relationships aren’t always straightforward, especially in the case of Mclean and her mother Katherine. Mclean blames Katherine for ruining what was seemingly a “perfect” family and needs more time to forgive her. Katherine is keen to mend things with her daughter, and keeps calling her to try to persuade her to come visit her. Mclean is initially reluctant, especially since she has just settled into Lakeview, but she agrees to go to a sports match with Katherine, and later stays with her in Colby (a seaside town that was the main setting in Sarah Dessen’s other novel Along For the Ride, and has also cropped up in Keeping the Moon and The Moon and More).

Although Mclean’s dad is a workaholic, it appears that Mclean has a very close relationship with him – perhaps because they have a shared love of basketball. Mclean looks after Gus and makes sure that he is doing well after the divorce.

If you haven’t read anything by Sarah Dessen, I urge you to do so ASAP – and What Happened to Goodbye is a good place to start. The character development is fantastic; the plot is compelling; and the book delves into a range of important themes that teenage girls experience, such as divorce, reinvention, self-discovery and family. I loved watching Mclean grow over the course of the novel and begin to mend things with her mother. What Happened to Goodbye is great for teens, especially if their parents have divorced or they have moved home/school, but as with Sarah Dessen’s other books, adults will enjoy it to. If you’re a fan of YA or Sarah Dessen, don’t miss out on this one – you can buy a copy from Amazon – as it’s an affiliate link, I’ll receive a small commission!


Have you read What Happened to Goodbye or anything by Sarah Dessen? Who is your favourite author? 



27 Comment

  1. Chris says: Reply

    Sarah sounds like a great author, thanks for sharing!

  2. I’ve heard lots about Sarah Dessen over the years but I’ve still never read anything by her! I’ll have to add her to my list!

    Tash – http://www.agirlwithview.co.uk

  3. Hey, I used to read Sarah Dessen’s book when I was a teenager. Reading your review bring back some teenage memories.

  4. This sounds like my kind of book! Thank you for sharing!

    Amber – https://theunpredictedpage.com

  5. Lauren says: Reply

    This sounds like a really good summer read. Thanks for sharing.

  6. Rachel says: Reply

    This sounds super interesting! I don’t often read so I’m looking for some good books to get started on, thanks for sharing! X

  7. Laura says: Reply

    I always find Sarah Dessen’s book to be reliably enjoyable, and they definitely have that summery feel! I really enjoyed this one too, but I’d say my favourite is definitely The Truth About Forever, so I’d recommend that one if you haven’t already read it.
    Great review! 🙂

    1. Serena says: Reply

      I’m glad you enjoyed What Happened to Goodbye! I’ve actually read The Truth About Forever and loved it!

  8. Giulia says: Reply

    Sounds like an interesting book! I personally love novels that explore realationships as they are relevant to all of us.

  9. I’m not a reader but trying to get into it. This def sounds like an interesting book!

  10. I’m on the lookout for new books; I love reading but always thought I never had time to do it, now since lockdown I’ve found the time to read! Will definitely keep an eye out for this author.

  11. Great review! This sounds like an amazing book!

  12. Claire says: Reply

    I’ve not read anything from this author but I’ll be adding this to my goodreads.

    A strong likeable protagonist is the key to a good book and it’ll often be the one thing that keeps my interest.

    Thanks for sharing x

  13. This is a great book review! I’ve never heard of “what happened to goodbye”, but it sounds like an interesting book to read. I’ll add it to my reading list as I need to start reading more! This is a great review, I love that it doesn’t spoil the book!

    Em | http://www.loveemblog.com

    1. Serena says: Reply

      Thanks for commenting, hope you enjoy the book!

  14. This sounds like a interesting read exploring the relationships between the different characters and how the main character seems to settle down and become herself rather than taking on a different persona. Great review! I haven’t read anything by Sarah Dessen before, but I may add this to my reading list.

  15. Sounds really interesting, thank you for the very opportune review 🙂


  16. Anika says: Reply

    It’s been so long since I read a Sarah Dessen, my first was Just Listen and I loved it! Great review, this sounds like a good read.

    Anika | chaptersofmay.com

  17. Emily says: Reply

    Ahh I love your reviews! And this book sounds like something I would love to read!

    1. Serena says: Reply

      Glad you love my reviews! Thanks for commenting!

  18. Graham Crosby says: Reply

    Thanks for sharing. That sounds like a good one for my teenage daughter.

  19. Alex says: Reply

    This book sounds right up my street! I’m going to add it to my wish list. Thanks for sharing your thoughts!

  20. This sounds fantastic. I like books with teens as the main characters a lot x

  21. This sounds like a great book for teens! I love books that are about family relationships.

  22. Sarah Dessen is an author I have heard of, but don’t think I have read any of her pieces! This sounds like such a great book and lovely review – thank you for sharing!

  23. Britnee says: Reply

    Haven’t read any books by Sarah but after this review I will have to check out this book and some of her other books as well.

  24. This book sounds interesting & it’s always great when the protagonist is likable & relatable! I also like that the book focuses on the different forms of relationships. I’ll have to add it to my TBR!

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