Thursday, June 16, 2011

Book Review: What Happened to Goodbye, by Sarah Dessen

What Happened toGoodbye is not a romance, but it is an enjoyable story about growing up and facing your problems instead of hiding from them.

McLean is a high school senior who has been moving around the country with her dad for the past couple of years since her parents’ divorce. She’s very unhappy with her mom, since she was the one that had an affair and left McLean’s father. She copes with her transitory existence by creating new personas at each new place, and even changes her name to match her personality. At one place, she becomes the popular cheerleader, at another she’s the involved yearbook staffer who joins every club, and so on.

Things get complicated when she moves to Jackson High, since she actually begins to make friends, and for some reason, she uses her real name. She is hesitant to become connected, since she knows another move will be in her future. She also lives closer to her mom that she ever has, and she is trying to avoid her as much as possible.

The characters in this book are what make it special. Dessen gives them such vivid personalities that it is easy to picture each character and situation. The teens are typical teens, getting into trouble and trying to find their way. McLean’s father is sweet, caring, and doing the best job he can in a difficult situation. Deb, a most unlikely friend, is a character that exists in every school. She tries so hard to be helpful and friendly that most people can’t stand her. But with time, McLean finds out just what a special person Deb is.

This book isn’t a romance, but there’s a friendship between McLean and her neighbor, Dave, that towards the end of the book develops into something more.  I could keep going on about every character, but you just need to meet them for yourself.

Part of the plot is a project that McLean and her friends get involved in to build a model of the entire town. Dessen intricately weaves the story line through the difficulties and challenges associated with the model and McLean’s struggle to come to terms with her family situation, so that it is all related. The lessons learned by building the model help McLean to see the bigger picture. It’s fascinating to watch it happen, and Dessen accomplishes this like the master she is.

I’ll add just one favorite quote (and there’s much worthy of quotation in this book):

Amazing how you could get so far from where you’d planned and yet find it was exactly where you needed to be. (p.279)

I think that sums up McLean’s story pretty well. Dessen fans need to read this, but any fan of contemporary teen stories will find this enjoyable. 

Published by Viking, May 10, 2011
Personal copy purchased
402 pages (qualifies for my 350 Page Book Challenge!)

Rating: 3.5/5 

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  1. Amazing Review! I've been reading a ton of Sarah Dessen, I'm on my fourth book by her since last week! And this one just got in at the library. I can't wait!

  2. I'm looking forward to reading this one and Sarah Dessen will be here tomorrow so even more excited to meet her.

  3. I'm a huge Sarah Dessen fan and I enjoyed this book as well. I think the Dessen writes the most amazing characters and how they react to things around them.

  4. Always on the lookout for good contemps that my students will like and Sarah Dessen's usually a big hit. Gonna have to check this one out. Thanks for the review.
    Happy Reading!
    Mary @ Book Swarm

  5. I haven't read anything by Sarah Dessen yet, but I really want to. What Happened to Goodbye sounds like a a contemporary read.


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