what happened to goodbye

Monday, December 5, 2011 |

There’s something wonderfully reassuring about a familiar author and a familiar genre. Even though you don’t know the story, you have an idea of what you’ll get. If what you expect is comfort, reading can be very rewarding (i.e. comforting). On the other hand, if it disappoints, you may feel cheated.

With Sarah Dessen and contemporary YA drama, what you see is what you’ll get – and Dessen’s latest release What Happened to Goodbye was what I wanted on my bus trip home from Thanksgiving. Download to my crackberry? Done in an instant. I had a book in my hands, and all was right with the world.

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.

Oh, McLean. You are one heck of a piece of work. Your parents are, too (three pieces of work? oh, nevermind, i’ll stop). Sarah Dessen has put together a book that delivers heaps of angst and realistic conflict, and a story about a girl finding her way, finding friends, and perhaps finding love. Amidst all that finding, though, you get a string of bad life choices, and Dessen puts McLean through so much drama that it’s a wonder she doesn’t end up crazy-face.*

McLean has been moving around the country with her dad since her parents’ messy divorce, and in each new town she tries on a different role and personality. All of this life change is starting to wear on her, and avoiding her mother isn’t getting any easier. When McLean lands in her dad’s newest town, she finally starts to find a place… but will it last, and will she let it?

Real life is hard, even (and sometimes especially) for teenagers. Dessen has a knack of showing how pressure and trouble can weigh on anyone, and how getting through tough times (i.e. suffering) often prompts growth and change. When she strikes the right vein, Dessen is gold. She writes stories that grab the reader’s emotions and sympathies and teach them something new about life, love, and empathy. Or, in the case of What Happened to Goodbye and McLean Sweet, a story that gets most of the way there and then stalls out hardcore.

In the end, this book didn’t deliver for me. It had the trademark emotional ‘oomph’ that can and will cause you to leak tears mid-paragraph, but it lacked a cohesive conclusion and emotional finality. Rough translation? It put me through a lot of crap and didn’t seem worth it after all was said and done. Kind of like a bad relationship. Ah well. Dessen will rebound with a great story next time, and I’ll be waiting.

Recommended for: die-hard fans of contemporary YA lit, especially romance and family-drama oriented stories. Also a great bet for readers who feel the pull of the beach even in the midst of winter and look forward to a book with characters that feel the same way. Do you like intense conflict in a realistic setting? Then this book may also be for you. Good luck.

*crazy-face: A term my roommate uses to describe anyone under too much stress. May be accompanied by ‘crazy eyes’ and poor coping skills.


Samual said...

I've been wanting to read this book last month, but I haven't gotten a chance to read it. Now I want to read it!! I like the cover a lot! Sarah Dessen has been one of my very favorite authors. I LOVE YA Contemporary!! I just love the emotional part of it. TEAR is good! Hehe. I'm a huge fan of YA Contemporary books that have romance and family-drama mixed in with. Great review! (I'll be hosting Forever Contemporary Reading Challenge. It's all about YA and MG Contemporary fiction.) Thank you for sharing!

Books For All Seasons

Erin W. said...

One of my fave Dessen's books. Great review.

Alison Can Read said...

Hmm...I'd like to read this one since I loved the one Sarah Dessen book I read (Just Listen). Too bad it didn't have a good emotional conclusion. I thought Just Listen did that perfectly. But I love how she does contemp romance overall.

Jenny N. said...

I've read a couple of Sarah Dessen's previous books and liked her writing so will probably pick up a copy once it comes out in paperback.

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