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!
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.
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?