Published: May 10th 2011
In the past two years, Mclean Sweet has moved four times. At each stop, she assumes a new persona, but it never quite works. Whether she’s an effervescent cheerleader or an intense drama queen, nothing can permanently dispel the turmoil and rage at her mother since her parents’ divorce. Sarah Dessen’s novel about a teenager and her restaurant manager father captures the vulnerability that young people often experience after the dissolution of their family. A compelling story; strong characterization; and with a touch of romance.
cutie’s got a brown nose:
When it comes down to it, I’m a Dessen fan-girl, for sure. She just knows how to wrap me up all snug and warm in her stories. From That Summer to Along for the Ride annnnnnd all the wonderful books between, I’ve gobbled every.single.one. of them up. And while not everyone of them is my all time favey fave, they all made me tear up and feel all…. oh… Dessened (which is my new word for becoming emotionally overwhelmed with the warm fuzzes and heartache whilst reading a book. I’m a genius, I know.).
Have I gushed enough? Should I stop arse kissing and get on with this review?
say! what’s this story all about?
What Happened to Goodbye is the story of a young girl (Mclean) who’s dealing with the aftermath of her seemingly picture perfect, made-for-each-other parents’ divorce. Having chosen to follow her dad around the country as he salvages restaurants form culinary disasters, Mclean decides to reinvent herself in each new town. A new name. A new persona. A new beginning free from the heartache and pain. Free from the questions about her parents’ well publicized break-up. Free from having to think or feel or just simply be. But when she arrives at Jackson High, she finds the past catching up with her. She’s actually making friend. Actually being real with them. And she just.might. be ready to face herself.
the one where cutie tells you what she liked:
As per usual, Dessen is a master at creating characters with deep roots and complex emotional damage. Mclean is compelling, sweet, angry, self-involved, broken, fun, and, well, a classic Dessen protagonist. She’s not only relatable but assessable. And while she is not my favorite Dessen protagonist, she is a solid contender for my top five. The love interest in this novel is adorkably wonderful, smart, funny, and yet strong. He too has his own issues that keep him interesting and heart-meltingly sweet. And Ms. Dessen combines a cast of new and old characters to create a well rounded support group for Mclean.
While this book is not on par romantically with The Truth About Forever or Just Listen, I did find the romance between Mclean and her geekly knight in dented armor realistic. If I were to compare the love story to another Dessen book I’d say it was more like Lock and Key, where the family issues and the growth of the protagonist play a major role in the story and the love story (while strong and interesting) takes a back seat. I hands down adored the Easter Eggs, which featured a cameo of one of my favorite couples, a visit or two from characters of old, and a few references that made me giggle.
the one where cutie tells you what she sorta didn’t like:
If there is one complaint I have, it is that the book did seem a tad bit rushed in some areas. But only slightly so, and I was a little unsatisfied with the ending. While I understand it is important for teen girls to realize that life isn’t all about romance and that young girls need to learn to find their way without leaning on a “man”, I did think the ending was a bit awkward. Or maybe I just wanted more romance… Also, I felt the “fix” to Mclean’s problems in the end were a tad unrealistic. I’d have to give away a ton of spoilers to further explain this… sooooo maybe that’s something I shouldn’t have brought up. *shrugs*
cutie gets real real:
I think, however, the thing that most tugged at me while reading this novel was just how much I could relate to Mclean. When I was a young girl and my parents divorced was finalized, my father living on one side of the United States and I on the other, there were so many times I wished I could just break away from reality. Claim a new name. A new persona. A new life. One where I didn’t have to face the reality of my parents’ failed marriage and all the pain and heartache it brought me. Then I just didn’t know how to deal with it. And so, I simply didn’t. Not until I was old enough to look myself in the mirror and finally face it head on did I find any relief. The way that Mclean deals with her own pain in the novel seems too out of control and unrealistic, but in all honesty, it matches almost perfectly my own longing to escape when I was a teen.
From the moment I opened this book to the turning of the last page, I enjoyed every single moment I spent with Mclean. It is definitely a book I would recommend to those looking for a great summer read.
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