Friday, May 3, 2013

What Happened to Goodbye bye Sarah Dessen

TITLE: What Happened to Goodbye
AUTHOR: Sarah Dessen
PUBLISHER/YEAR: Viking Juvenile / 2011
SOURCE: Purchased

Goodreads / Author's Website

There are days blogging when I feel like I'm missing out on all the books everybody else is reading. Like I haven't always read a ton of YA and I have so much catching up to do. I confessed awhile back that I hadn't read any Gayle Forman (and then rectified it by reading like everything over the course of a week), well now I have to admit that What Happened to Goodbye is the first Sarah Dessen novel I've read. Why start with this one? Well, I finished my bus book and didn't have a new one so I stopped at a drugstore where this just happened to be on sale. It was an impulse buy that was definitely worth it.

What Happened to Goodbye focuses on Mclean Sweet following her parents' divorce. She used to live with both parents in the same town her entire life, but when her mother ends up leaving her father for the local university's basketball coach her father takes a restaurant consulting job and travels around the country. Unable to face living with her mother and new stepfather Mclean follows her father from town to town never settling in. She picks a new name and persona for herself so she never feels too attached and picks up easily whenever she needs. That all changes when she gets to Lakeview and starts to feel like herself, whoever that may be again with the help of some good friends and the boy next door.

I really enjoyed this book for a variety of reasons, but I think the main one is that I totally related to Mclean. She has some serious identity issues following her parents divorce and no healthy way to deal with them so she just tries to constantly reinvent herself to keep people at a distance. It was all just kind of sad and I felt for this girl who was clearly hurting, but had nobody to turn to. Sure she was flawed, she fights with her mother, is angry, doesn't always see reason, but her flaws were realistic and she was always trying. I love that Dessen can create a layered character like Mclean; she felt real.

Mclean's relationship with her parents was also great. It's fantastic when family plays a large role in YA novels and even though Mclean didn't have a traditional family, their impact was definitely felt. Her mother was at times oblivious, but was always trying to do what was best (even when in reality it was hurting her daughter). Her father was so caught up with his own avoidance and work, but clearly cared for Mclean. It's this kind of realistic portrayal of family dynamics that really got me. Like you could even feel the tenderness between Katherine, Mclean's mother, and her stepfather. The details just felt right.

Secondary characters played a major role in this novel, from friends like the overachiever, but kind of complex Deb to Dave the boy next door. They each had their own story and their own issues. They didn't always have the perfect reactions, but again, you could tell they cared for each other. The interactions between the group made me smile.

I also liked that there was no major drama to push the plot along. It was a layered story that relied a lot on character growth which I really appreciated. Things at the end felt a little forced. They happened too quickly and things were resolved in a way that didn't necessarily fit with the rest of the story, but at the same time I could appreciate it. It wasn't perfect, but it left me with a good feeling which was kind of nice.

I'm really glad I finally picked up a Sarah Dessen novel and won't hesitate to do so again in the future. The only problem now is that I have so many of her books to catch up on.

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