Review: What Happened to Goodbye by Sarah Dessen

What Happened to Goodbye

From Penguin Group:

A new day. A new place. A new life. In the past few years, Maclean has pretended to be so many different people that she hardly remembers who she really is anymore. The adorable guy next door might be able to help her figure it out. But is she ready for it?

When Maclean’s parents get divorced in a scandal that rocks her hometown, she chooses to spend life hopping around the country with her dad rather than with her mom and her mom’s instant new family. Every few months she moves with her dad to a new town where he helps a floundering restaurant get back on its feet and she goes to a new school where she is able to be whoever she wants: cheerleader, social butterfly, drama queen. It’s easy. She doesn’t have to put down roots or make lasting relationships because she knows in a few months she’ll be gone. She’s still deciding who she wants to be after their most recent move when she messes up—she gives her real name. She’s been someone else for so long that figuring out who Maclean is is going to take some work.

I absolutely adored What Happened to Goodbye by Sarah Dessen. This was my first foray into Sarah-land (as her community of fans call her writing) and I will not pass up the chance to add more of her books to my to-read pile. Her writing is honest, funny, quirky and true to life.

I didn’t move around as a kid, I was never the new kid in school, my parents weren’t divorced. But that didn’t matter. Dessen immediately had me in Maclean’s shoes. I found myself in Maclean, commiserating with her, identifying with her, cheering her on. And that’s what was so engaging about this book: the believably of it’s characters. I wanted to be friends with Maclean and the batch of misfits she unwittingly bands together. I wanted to sit and have dinner with her dad and the staff at the Luna Blu. Every character was fleshed out and had presence. Real.

The jacket copy may lead you to believe that this book is all about Maclean’s relationship with the boy next door, Dave, and while their budding relationship is adorable it really isn’t the focus, at least not in the same way as so many other teen romances I’ve read. It’s sweet and slow-building—a refreshing change from the heavy, can’t-live-without-you YA romances lining shelves. What Happened to Goodbye is more about finding one’s place in a community. Even though the scope of the story—one girl’s life adjusting to her parents’ divorce—is technically narrow in the grand scheme of things, it felt big. Which is just as it should be. The world may not be in jeopardy but Maclean’s world has been crumbling around her for a while and watching how she navigates through it and starts to piece it back together is truly gratifying.

What Happened to Goodbye is a book with a lot of heart. It is relatable, uplifting and just plain enjoyable. I highly recommend.

♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ (4/5 hearts)

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2 thoughts on “Review: What Happened to Goodbye by Sarah Dessen

  1. I love Dessen’s books. A few weeks ago I read This Lullaby, which was the only book by her I had left to read, and I’m eager for her to publish a new one. I’m so impatient! I’m glad you enjoyed What Happened to Goodbye… it’s been so long since I read it that I barely remember what happened (no pun intended). One of my favorite things about Sarah’s books is that it’s not just about the romance- although the romance is nice and I love it. I hope you take a look at some of her other books, too! If you enjoyed this one, you’ll likely enjoy her others, too. Lovely review! 🙂

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