“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 her neighbor Dave, an academic superstar trying to be just a regular guy, can help her find out. Combining Sarah Dessen’s trademark graceful writing, great characters, and compelling storytelling, What Happened to Goodbye is irresistible reading.”
I can’t remember when I read my first Sarah Dessen book, but since then I have been following her career. Its probably been about ten years that I have been eating up her teen chick lit books. Her earlier works are great looks into the lives of teen girls dealing with all kinds of issues from abusive relationships, teen pregnancy, how to deal with grief, abandonment, and sexual abuse. Most of these issues were handled with care and wrapped in such a pretty package that they became relatable. You were these heroines, or you knew someone like them. Someone Like You, This Lullaby, Dreamland, Just Listen and The Truth About Forever. All of these books by Dessen are some of my personal favorites, they are books I can pick up anytime and read again and again. But her latest or latest to me outing did not hold a candle to the other books that made me fall in love with Dessen in the first place. What Happens To Goodbye, is lackluster in plot and most of the characters fall flat.
What Happens To Goodbye is the story of Mclean a girl who with the dissolvement of her parents marriage decides to move away with her father who works as a restaurant consultant flipping restaurants and making them profitable again. With each move Mclean reinvents herself into a new girl one who makes no real connections and has no qualms with moving on and becoming someone new. With this last move Mclean through a series of events ends up being Mclean for the first time in four years. She spends her time in Lakeview stumbling through trying to find herself again. Along the way she makes real friends for the first time in a while and ends up meeting Dave the boy next door literally. Mclean is hiding who she used to be and is dealing with familial pressure on all sides.
All of this sounds good on paper and while the plot is a little overdone I just expected more out of Dessen. Mclean comes off as a flat whiny heroine, where you don’t care either way what happens to her. Her issues don’t feel like anything more a young child crying out for attention. You go into a Dessen book knowing its aimed at teenage girls and there will be at least one or two running metaphors in the book. This works well in her other novels like Annabelle’s glass house in Just Listen and the key in Lock and Key. But in What Happened to Goodbye it is so full of cliche metaphors that I found myself rolling my eyes at most of them.
Another problem with this novel is Dave, the romantic interest. You know from the minute you meet him that Dave is the one Mclean is going to end up with. Its so obvious that you could almost skip the whole novel because in the end the girl always gets her boy. Now this is come to be expected in all of Dessen’s novels. You know from the instant the heroines meet these boys they are going to be the ones who are going to cause some kind of change in their lives. But with most of her novels the journeys to get to the happy ending are so enjoyable you can let go of the obvious plot point. She makes you fall in love with her male leads so much that you want to these guys to be your own significant other. Wes in The Truth About Forever was my first book love, he is just a regular guy with a past he was so real and true and honest. It is something I would want from a flesh and blood boy in my life. His love of imperfections was what made him special. Dexter in This Lullaby was just so full of love for life and goofy humor he felt like he could be your best friend. Dave though in this novel falls flat. I really didn’t care either way what happened to him. he didn’t feel real. He felt too perfect, there was no human story that went along with him. Like Mclean his problems seemed like caricatures of human issues that it was a little impossible to relate to him.
I guess my biggest issue with this book is that I put way too many expectations on this novel. I keep comparing it to the other books I’ve read before and I know Dessen can do more because she has done more. This book is superficial at best, most of the plot points are boring, there is no real twist here. Nothing that I couldn’t figure out from first sentence I read. I wanted more out of Mclean and Dave. I will say that in this novel there was one character I thought Dessen did well and that was Deb. I cared more about her then I did the main characters. I would love to see if Dessen would do a whole novel about her, because I would like to see her journey. I really want to know more about her and would want her to have her happy ending.
Overall this book was okay. I will say that Dessen prose is always well written and beautiful. That’s one her great strengths is the way she writes it has a way of bringing you right it. I found that still to be true, but her main characters ended up being so flat that the prose didn’t matter. I want the Sarah Dessen I fell in love with, stories about human characters not caricatures of them. What Happened to Goodbye is a good beach read and that’s about all I can say about it. Loyal fans of Dessen like me will continue to buy and read her books. But for those who are thinking of picking up one of her books for the first time. I would strongly recommend this is not the one you start with. Her other novels don’t even compare to this one. What Happened To Goodbye is not an accurate representation of the magic Dessen can create in a novel. After reading What Happened to Goodbye, all I wanted to do was to go back and reread all of the books I loved so much. Her previous works are what drives you to continue with her stories. Judging from this novel alone I would never pick up another Dessen novel again.
2.5 out of five stars I would not recommend this book.
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