Sunday, August 7, 2011

Review: What Happened to Goodbye by Sarah Dessen


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.

Combing Sarah Dessen's trademark graceful writing, great characters, and compelling storytelling, What Happened to Goodbye is irresistible reading.


Ever since I first read "Just Listen", I've been a fan of Sarah Dessen. She writes well and her characters are always well-fleshed-out. So how does this one compare?

For the past two years, Mclean has been living with her dad who regularly travels to different places in order to fix up restaurants. With each new move, she creates a new persona, sort of as a coping mechanism to deal with the move and the fallout of her parents' bitter divorce. Their latest move to Lakeview, however, presents a problem when she finds herself making friends and feeling more and more attached to the place.

I'll admit that I might not be the best person to judge this book. When it comes to Sarah Dessen's books, my peg is, and probably always will be, "Just Listen". In that sense, "What Happened to Goodbye" just doesn't measure up.

Mclean, in parts, seemed totally real and I felt that I could relate to her. She's a former basketball freak, and growing up in a basketball-crazed country, I can definitely relate to life in a basketball-crazy town. However, there were moments too that I felt like I didn't know her that well. I'm not sure why, though, since her history was discussed quite well.

I adored Mclean's romance with Dave, though. I liked that the romance was just in the background, and that the story was mostly about exploring family ties and finding your own identity. For me, that's the strength of this book. Mclean's relationship with her mother, whether you admit it or not, is very realistic.

Like any Sarah Dessen novel, there were also some very good dramatic moments in this book and I couldn't help but tear up a few times while reading. Overall, this is a perfect summer read.

  1. The characters are mostly relate-able.
  2. Cameos by your favorite characters, places and objects from past books.
  3. If you're a basketball fanatic and/or a restaurant/food enthusiast, you'll enjoy this book.
  1. If you have a very good relationship with your mother, you might feel uncomfortable with Mclean's relationship with her mom.
  2. I wanted more restaurant moments and more Dave and Mclean moments. :P

"Once you love something, you always love it in some way. You have to. It's, like, part of you for good."

"We make such messes in this life, both accidentally and on purpose. But wiping the surface clean doesn't really make anything any neater. It just masks what is below. It's only when you really dig down deep, go underground, that you can see who you really are."


  • You're a basketball fanatic or foodie.
  • You know what it feels like to want to reinvent yourself.
  • You have a tenuous relationship with your mother/father.



Note: This post contains Amazon and Book Depository affiliate links.

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