Book review: What Happened to Goodbye

What Happened to Goodbye
A young girl's journey to discovering that home is not just a place, but it's something that is carried with you wherever you go, no matter where you are.

What Happened to Goodbye by Sarah Dessen (Razor Bill)
So let me start out by saying that I've tried reading a Sarah Dessen novel before.

However, I remember thinking at the time, that Under Lock and Key was just not my kind of book... even though I was only a few chapters in.

I then found myself putting the book down and decided that, at that point in time, it just wasn't meant to be read.

Some books are just not now kind of books, if you know what I mean.

Anyway, I did find myself feeling rather disappointed with myself though.

You see, I've heard a lot of fantastic things about Sarah Dessen's books and having never read any of her novels, I really wanted to see what everyone else was raving about.

So I decided, if Under Lock and Key was a book that wasn't meant to be read at that particular moment, then maybe What Happened to Goodbye was.

And you know what?

It turns out that I was right (I love those kind of moments and feelings one has about a specific books, don't you?).

After a few chapters in, I fell in love with What Happened to Goodbye. You know why?

Because Sarah Dessen's writing is the kind of writing that invites you into an inner sanctuary; making you feel that same feeling of coming home from a long and arduous journey.

There's something so understated and welcoming about her writing, that it makes you feel like you're stepping into a familiar place; one that provides you with more than enough shelter after life has decided to rough you up just a little.

And that is, essentially what I've experienced while I was reading this book. And it's because of this that I know that I'll come back to her writing over and over again.

After the dreadful and highly publicised details of her mother's scandalous affair, 17-year old McLean Sweet opts to hit the road with her father; travelling with him from place to place, but never really settling down.

Constantly reinventing herself, she changes her identity wherever she goes, preferring to leave the girl she used to know behind and ready to pack up and leave at the next moment's notice.

Every place she's ever gone, she's always been a different person. From being Eliza, to Lizbet and Beth, each girl she plays is a far cry from everyone she's ever been.

So, when she and her father arrive at the next town where her dad is slated to turn a restaurant business around (just one of the reasons they travel so much), McLean, finds to her surprise, a place that feels like a new kind of home.

And all in an instant, she's McLean again. 

When she meets her next door neighbour Dave and makes friends who feel like they're the truest friends she's ever had, Mclean will have to decide whether or not she's finally done reinventing herself and whether or not, she may have found a place she could finally call home again.

What Happened to Goodbye is a book that really, really surprised me.

I went into this book, thinking it would be a light-hearted take on a girl who meets a boy who makes her feel like she can be herself again , and came out having read about all that and so much more.

Sarah Dessen has this wonderful way of drawing you into the lives of her characters in such a slow, measured and self-assured manner, that it's not even a question of if you'll love the characters, but a certainty.

In McLean, we've got a young girl who is incredibly self-sufficient and believes in only living in the moment.

With them travelling so much, and following the scandal of her mother's affair, she's highly protective towards her father and harbours a lot of angry, hurt and bitterly unresolved feelings towards her mother (who is happily married to the new man).

For all of this though, you can't help but instantly take a liking to her. In her, Sarah has created a girl with an incredibly real and relatable voice. Throughout the novel, I simply had to root for her.

I could understand her anger towards her mother and found myself sharing the same hurt and resentment towards her. I liked her for just being the character she was, even though at first, she tried to keep so many of the people in her life, at a distance.

Most of all, I felt for her because reinventing herself has always seemed to her, like the only way she could put everything behind her.

There's a poignancy to this novel that again, caught me off-guard. Because here's the thing. In getting to know Mclean, we also get to know her parents. Her father is an all-round great father, but it's her mother who we as readers get a real deep glimpse into.

Let me say this. Her mother, for the most part, is someone that we as readers, won't have a lot of sympathy for. She never explains the reasons for her affair, tries to force McLean to see her (through court threats) and doesn't understand why Mclean seems to be pushing her away.

Yet, when Mclean gets to a point where she finally acknowledges just how hard her parents' divorce have been on her, things take an interesting turn and we get to see, that perhaps her mother may not be all that bad after all.

And that's where the crux of this story lies. What happened to Goodbye is not just a story of romance, but it's about family, new beginnings and coming to terms with things in your past that you, or your family cannot change.

It's a novel about coming full circle and learning that home is not a place rooted in one place, but one wherever your heart is. And Mclean, will find that in Dave (the sweet genius next door), her new, zany friends and in her parents.

The romance in this novel definitely takes a bit of a backseat, but when it does happen, the moment is quite sweet, and for Mclean, like coming home. And normally, I'm not a fan of this slower-than-slow kind of romance, but it works perfectly in What Happened to Goodbye.

I'm so glad I read this book. I can't imagine why it took me this long to get around to reading a Sarah Dessen novel. I finally get what all the fuss is about.

Do yourselves a favour and read her. As the tagline in her book says: "Read her once and fall in love."

And that, dear readers, about sums it up.


Book Slave said…
Great review, this isn't my normal genre that I read... but I may give it a go.

Book Enslaved
Anonymous said…
I have yet to read Sarah Dessen, and I have a few of her books lined up. Your review makes me want to move her books higher on my TBR pile. Sounds like she is an amazing YA author, and sometimes YA is just what the soul needs :)
KatieBookQueen said…
Great review! I adore Sarah Dessen :)
I haven't never read Dessen, but I definitely need to rectify that. I might just start with this one! :)
GABY said…
I loved your review! I can see you really liked it....My experience with Sarah Dessen has been pleasant. I have read two of her books and liked them, but felt kind of similar to me. This one sounds a little bit different, so I'll give it an opportunity.
Jenny said…
I completely understand that feeling Tammy, sometimes you just have to be in the right mood for a book. Glad your second Dessen attempt was a fantastic experience, I still need give her a try! She's one of those authors I keep meaning to get to and then I get distracted by paranormal goodness:) Thanks for the review!

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