Wednesday, June 1, 2011

(Sort of) Review - What Happened to Goodbye

Sarah Dessen
Viking Penguin Young Readers Group
For a total Dessen fangirl like myself, reviewing one of her books is difficult to say the least. Not just because she's a huge part of the reason I love YA so much or even that she's one of my favorite authors, but simply because reading one of Dessen's novels is always such a completely comfortable experience for me. It's going back to a town and characters I love so much, a place (Lakeview, Colby) that have inspired me and entertained me again and again. I love these books and wish everyone would read them; there's no way for me to say any different.

So you see, there's a huge bias here. That said, though this isn't my typical review, I want to at least mention What Happened to Goodbye for those readers who don't know what it's about or simply want to know more about it. Dessen fans are very familiar with her writing style and type of stories and her latest novel is no exception to the rule. This time around we're introduced to Mclean Sweet, named after her dad's favorite basketball coach. Since her parents' bizarre and painful divorce (her mom had an affair with a man her dad greatly admired and respected -- the new coach of his favorite team), Mclean has lived in four towns in the past two years, moving around with her dad, a restaurant consultant. At each new town she adopts a new name (any version of Elizabeth, her middle name) and with the name comes an identity.

In Lakeview she plans to be Liz. But one way or another, the new name/identity combo never really happens and she ends up Mclean -- a girl she hasn't been in years, a girl she doesn't even know how to be anymore. And Mclean meets people -- the boy next door (Dave, who I totally love) and his friends Riley and Heather, along with Deb (who I also totally love -- seriously one of my favorite of Dessen's characters ever). For the first time she has people she doesn't want to leave.

Mclean's rocky relationship with her mother is one of the best parts of the book and I loved every scene with the two of them, especially the ones in the last third of the book. This novel has been compared to The Truth About Forever by many and while this is especially true because Jason (!!!) is a character in both novels, but for me What Happened to Goodbye is more comparable to This Lullaby because of Mclean's wandering nature and reluctance to put down roots (though she's definitely more low-key than This Lullaby's Remy).

Bottom line: fans of Sarah Dessen are going to want to read this one. It's cozy and comfortable, like wearing your favorite sweater. But for those who haven't read one of her novels or aren't fans, this is a slow-moving, quiet novel and maybe not the best of hers to start with.


  1. I agree with you re: trying to review a Dessen novel as a huge Sarah Dessen fan. I had a hard time writing my review (I'm still not happy with it) because of my bias as well.

    Also, totally agree with you about this not being the Sarah Dessen novel to start with. It's much to slow for someone who doesn't have a past with Dessen.

  2. I haven't read Dessen yet. I have another one of her books, though. I'm glad you warned me about this particular one. I wouldn't want to read an author for the first time and have a poor reaction to a slow book.

  3. Clementine Bojangles
    It's crazy difficult, that's why I didn't write my typical review for this one.

    Medeia Sharif
    Oooh, what book of hers do you have? IT DOESN'T MATTER THEY'RE ALL GREAT, it's just that some (like this one) are slower than others.

  4. I have Lock & Key.