Rating: 5/5 stars
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. (Description from Goodreads)
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I have been slowly making my way through Sarah Dessen’s amazing list of publications, and realised I still hadn’t read her latest novel, ‘What Happened to Goodbye’ – being Summer and a time for kicking back with a good book, I thought what better time to read a comfort novel by one of my favourite contemporary authors? ‘What Happened to Goodbye’ was a perfect book.
Mclean Sweet has not been herself for two years – not since her parents split up and a massive custody battle finally landed her with her dad, travelling around America while he fixes up failing restaurants. I was really interested in Mclean’s coping mechanism, using her middle name – Elizabeth – to recreate herself in different ways as Eliza, Liz, Beth etc, in a new towns and new ways, leaving the old Mclean behind. But what was more interesting was watching Mclean become herself again without any conscious decision to look back. The self discovery in Sarah Dessen books always makes me happy; to see broken characters become whole again is pretty uplifting.
What I love most about Sarah Dessen books, other than the patterns and flashes of past characters and situations that make the books join together, are the relationships. The friendships in ‘What Happened to Goodbye’ were so real. The way awkward characters remained wary of new friendships or how the nerdy characters brought sci-fi references into everyday conversations. The dialogue is always so easy and flows so well. What made this book better in terms of relationships was the family involvement. A lot of contemporary novels ignore the family side of things, even when family is the reason for broken characters in the first place. But with Mclean’s issues, and the storyline itself, having a pretty strong family involvement with an ugly divorce; family cannot be ignored and I really liked the family plot in this book.
For most contemporary, and Sarah Dessen books I’ve read; a guy helps bring the girl back to reality. ‘What Happened to Goodbye’ is no different, but our guy isn’t what I expected. Dave Wade - neighbour, smart guy and model train lover (sort of) is the obvious choice for romantic love interest, but while the signs are all there, the chemistry present, an actual relationship is slow to develop and not very detailed. It was refreshing to just have a story and not be so caught up on when the characters will get together.
But it’s not all family and changing identities. There’s always a subplot – an occupation and hobby that the characters keep coming back to. For Mclean and her life, this is the restaurant world and basketball. I thought they’d both be pretty big features in the story, especially the basketball because Mclean’s history focused pretty heavily on College Basketball; but it was the life of a restaurant consultant that we see more of. I’m always interested in seeing what hobbies are going to pop up next.
Another wonderful story – another amazing comfort read. Looking forward to the next Dessen book.
(Originally Posted on Goodreads)