Tuesday, June 19, 2012
What Happened to Goodbye, by Sarah Dessen- Review
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.
Sarah Dessen is one of those writers whose books are guaranteed good reads for me. Engrossing, enjoyable, and something I can sink my teeth into no matter what's going on. I'd grabbed What Happened to Goodbye ages ago at a signing in Toronto, and I'd been waiting for the perfect moment to dig in. When I got shingles I decided this had to be the thing I was saving this book for, because last time I treated myself to a little Sarah Dessen comfort was after my grandmother died in September, and if Dessen could get me through that then she could certainly entertain me through shingles.
I'm not sure I can totally explain what it is about Dessen's books that I enjoy so thoroughly, but since this is a review, I'm going to give it a try. Without a doubt its how she writes her characters, they're sympathetic without being weak or needy, they're complicated but not angsty, they're teenagery but on the cusp of college so generally the more mature variety, they're intelligent and interesting but still totally relate-able. In a much shorter statement, she writes great characters. But she also writes solid stories. They all boil down to discovering who you are and making it work, but with a mix of plot lines which can involve all sorts of somewhat crazy situations like meeting a pro-skate boarder, finding out your brother in-law created a mega social media site or having a father who flips restaurants for a living. It works because her stories are always about the people, the rest is just set up.
But in the end I think what I love about Dessen's books is that they have heart. People are good to one another, they make strange friendships and unlikely bonds, and things work out in the end. Maybe not perfectly, but they work, and we all need stories that end well on occasion.
What Happened to Goodbye was all of these things. McLean was another great female lead, a la Dessen, meaning she was both a fighter and a lover but not at all a pushover. The way McLean's life is simultaneously falling apart and coming back together is both cathartic and engrossing, and the love interest twist (oh Dave!) was just the right note of sweet without being cloying. The various side characters, and sub-plots were fun, and by the end of the book (as per usual) Dessen left me slightly nostalgic for a town and a group of people who don't really exist except for in the pages of her book.
Fun little bonus? There's a tiny little cross over with the first ever Dessen book I read, Along for the Ride.
An excellent add on to your summer read list, What Happened to Goodbye won't disappoint the Dessen fans out there and will be a great introduction for new fans.
What Happened to Goodbye, Sarah Dessen
Published by Viking Juvenile, May 2011
Buy What Happened to Goodbye on Amazon