Tuesday, July 05, 2011

REVIEW: What Happened to Goodbye by Sarah Dessen

There's something so comforting about reading a Sarah Dessen book. I've been a huge of Sarah Dessen for awhile and I will always look forward and be excited to read her new books. I love how emotional and relateable all of her stories are and for me, What Happened to Goodbye was no disappoinment.

What Happened To Goodbye by Sarah Dessen tells the story of Mclean Sweet, and oh boy, could I relate to a lot of her problems. Just as Mclean is feeling a little bit lost and unsure of herself after the divorce of her parents, so was I growing up. I too had unresolved feelings of resentment and anger towards my mother. I lived with my single father and we moved around quite a lot and I could definitely relate to Mclean's need for reinventing herself in each new place she lives. It's a hard adjustment when everything that was safe and secure in your life changes and transforms into something new. And just as Mclean feels it best not to get too involved or let herself get too close to any other people in her life as she'll just leave anyway, I too felt the same.

Mclean's parents divorce after Mclean's mother has an affair with the new basketball coach of the local college that Mclean and her father strongly support. Together, they start this new family raising their young twins and Mclean has no idea where she fits in with it all. She doesn't trust her memories she has of her and her mother as she's growing up. Instead, she's on the road with her father who has given up his career as a chef at a restaurant and has instead become a consultant to other failing restaurants all over the country, Hell's Kitchen style.

In the four different cities the two of them have lived in the last two years, Mclean has adopted a different name and a different persona for each. Studious, athletic, dramatic - Mclean will pick aspects of a person and run with them for the length of their stay. It's very much a coping mechanism of the minimalist lifestyle they lead and to protect herself from further hurt when it's time to move along.

I felt quite emotional reading Mclean's story. Mclean's mother tries so hard to become part of her life again, but Mclean is resistant. After each major transformation of her personality, Mclean's finding it a struggle to maintain distance in this new town. She starts making friends and feels connected to others in a way that she hasn't felt in a long time. As she becomes more involved with the staff at the new restaurant her dad is helping out with and with her classmates on a project to assemble a massive model of the town, Mclean starts to realise what's important in her life and how much has been missing in the last few years. Though there's usually a large aspect of romance in Dessen's novels, it isn't quite that apparent in What Happened to Goodbye. It is there, but I don't think it needed any more prominence than it has.

Instead, it's more Mclean's journey of self-discovery, her appreciation of her family and her new friends and finding out what really matters. Sarah Dessen is always fantastic in my eyes and I couldn't help but bawl my eyes out at the complicated and realistic relationship between mother and daughter in this book. Wonderful.


  1. Sounds like an awesome read. Must read a Sarah Dessen book soon.

  2. I love Sarah Dessen's books, they are like a huge comfort blanket, and I am in the middle of reading this one. I can only imagine how emotional a read it must have been for you.
    At the moment I am not feeling a huge amount of sympathy for the mother I have to say, but I have a while to go yet.

  3. Great review! I'm definitely going to pick it up straight after I finish my current read :)

  4. Haven't read any Sarah Dessen yet, I think I'll start with this! Fab review.

  5. I'm glad I wasn't the only one that cried!!

  6. This is on my tbr list. After reading your review, I think it's moved up a lot. Great review!

  7. I want to read this, but the protagonist's name is so weird and potentially distracting, it makes me think of toothpaste.

  8. I've read some mixed reviews of this one, but I *adored* it. I really agree with you about the mother-daughter relationship. I read an interview somewhere with Sarah Dessen where she talked about how her portrayal of parents has been affected by her becoming a parent, and I could totally see that here. Also, *how* cute is the basketball-in-the-head scene?!

  9. Viv - you've not read a book by Sarah Dessen before?! Oh you must, you're missing out!

    Library Mice - Oh I don't think you're meant to have sympathy for her at the beginning... keep at it! It'll make sense as you go along :)

    Jenni - Oh it really is :)

    The Library Owl - Excellent, I hope you love it as I did :)

    Cliona - NONE? There's so much wonderful in your future.

    SJH - well, hardly surprising for ME as I cry at anything, but I cry hardest and longest at mother/daughter relationships!!

    Linda - Oh how wonderful, I hope you enjoy it :)

    Julianne - Mclean Sweet IS a very strange name, I'm with you there.


    Lauren - Have you read other reviews of it? I've only seen the ONE, but maybe I'm not very observant. LOVE the basketball-in-the-face scene. Really and truly! :)

  10. great review! I really must read my copy of Just Listen soon and then I think this one will be next on the list! :D

  11. Raimy - Yay! I'm so glad that you haven't given up on Sarah Dessen as yet - hope you enjoy Just Listen :)


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