Review - What Happened To Goodbye by Sarah Dessen

Friday 3 July 2015

Title: What Happened To Goodbye
Author: Sarah Dessen
Publisher: Puffin Books
Publication Date: 1st June 2011
Genre: Contemporary/ Young Adult
Rating: ★★★★

Mclean never lets herself get too attached.
After the scandal of her mother's affair, Mclean and her dad chose life on the road. 
But since losing her family and home, Mclean has lost herself too; she's been Eliza, then Lizbet, then Beth - changing her name as often as she changes towns.

Goodreads//Book Depository

All those clean, fresh starts had made me forget what it was like, until now, to be messy and honest and out of control’

In a nutshell: A dash of romance, family issues, and coming to terms with yourself and your past all bundled together in an adorable book.  

As a young teen, the only books I read were by Sarah Dessen. This was the first Sarah Dessen book I’ve read for years and the familiarity of Dessen's writing style made me all nostalgic! The book follows Mclean who moves from town to town with her father, inventing a new identity in each one, following the messy divorce of her parents. She has to come to terms with her past and be real with herself as well as with her new found pals.

I’ve always found Sarah Dessen’s writing style to be easy to read and enticing, the kind that you start reading and before you know it, hours have passed.  This was certainly the case with this book; I found the storyline to be quite realistic, some scenes were a little exaggerated but overall, it tackles some realistic problems such as the impact of Mclean’s parents’ divorce, which seems a relatable topic for many people. Mclean’s relationship with her parents is also a large part of this book, which is refreshing to see.

The main characters in many of Dessen’s books are usually quite passive and almost plain, in attempt to let the reader identify with the character more easily. I once watched a panel of Dessen and, from what I gathered, this is what she implied. This was largely the case for Mclean. Many of the secondary characters had distinct and specific quirks and facets to their personalities, which were slightly lacking in Mclean. However, Mclean is not a completely passive character. she does stand up to her slightly (might be an understatement) overbearing and mother and is very independent.

My favourite character in this book was undoubtedly Deb. I loved Deb’s character so much. She really encapsulated the idea that appearances can be deceiving, and is such a lovable character. In fact, I might even go as far as saying that Deb is my favourite thing about this book. She’s a really misunderstood and multifaceted character, who is unashamedly herself and genuine. I wanted more of Deb in the book!  

Dessen lightly touches on issues of acceptance and identity in a casual and palatable manner; it’s not too deep but it’s refreshing and positive nonetheless. I found this quite a character driven book. What Happened to Goodbye documents Mclean coming to terms with her identity, past, and the connections she makes in Lakeview. The restaurant setting was also really fun to read and felt like a throwback to Keeping the Moon (which I loved btw.) The romance elements in this book were quite low key but still cute and adorable and Dave is a really different and interesting character. 

One thing I found a bit bothersome in this book was the stereotyping of people with tattoos and piercings as delinquents. I think that generally, there are a lot of stereotypes surrounding tattoos and body modifications and they are very often portrayed in a very negative light. Bit of a personal issue, but as a huge fan of tattoos, it bothered me to see these negative stereotypes included, albeit not that often. But still, it bothered me.

Overall, What Happened to Goodbye was an enjoyable read and hit me with a wave of nostalgia. It’s a solid Dessen book and deals with family issues, coming to terms with your identity and past whilst bundling in a cute romance and friendships. I loved the familiarity of Dessen’s writing and Dessen manages to weave different elements of young people’s lives into Mclean’s story.  

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