This is another tough review for me. Not because this book is not memorable, but because I love Sarah Dessen and all her books, and sadly, this one was a disappointment.
But I’m getting a little ahead of myself.
What Happened to Goodbye tells the story of 17-year old Mclean, who moves from town to town with her dad and his restaurant-fixing business, trying to escape her parents’ bitter divorce. Each new town means a new Mclean, who takes on a new name and a new persona along with it. But something changes in Lakeview, as Mclean finally comes to grip with herself and her family’s bitter past.
I don’t buy a lot of books; as a student with a dwindling band account I borrow all my books from the library. Yes, it takes forever for the hot and popular books to finally make their rounds, but I do eventually get them.
I picked up What Happened to Goodbye yesterday and my stomach was all aflutter as I lied on my favourite couch in my sun-dappled family room, anticipating another fun read by one of my favourite authors. And I so I proceeded to devour it in almost one sitting.
With that being said, that doesn’t mean that the book was without problems. I did enjoy reading it, but once I was done, I realised there were quite a few things that had niggled at me during the time I was reading it.
The first thing was Mclean herself. Unlike Dessen’s other heroines, I just didn’t get Mclean. I didn’t understand her reason for her identity-crisis (which was severe) and didn’t think her voice was as engaging or interesting as it could have been. Unlike Dessen’s other characters, I didn’t find Mclean to have a lot of depth or complexity. She was just sort of bland and I couldn’t find a way to relate to her.
I felt the same with about Dave, the main guy, who also fell flat. Again, I can’t help but compare him to other Dessen heros; he had none of the depth or charm of the others. And for some reason, I don’t think he was given enough time in the story as he could have been given. He’s described as a genius kid, who’s been taking college level courses since the beginning of grade 9, which sounds like such an interesting back story, yet it wasn’t explored as much as it could have been. I was looking for more depth from him (just like with Mclean), and I didn’t get it.
A few weeks ago, I was reading a Goodreads discussion about another Sarah Dessen book and stumbled upon a discussion of how her books are always the same. I was appalled and vehemently disagreed. While I don’t agree completely, I sort of see the other side of the story now.
Sarah Dessen’s books do have a certain rhythm to them. Some may call this formulaic, but I disagree. She does have a certain setup that she goes with, and with this book, I felt like I could see all the screws and pulleys and levers behind the story; the stuff that’s supposed to be hidden and make all the parts move together seamlessly.
I could tell when certain things were about to happen, which characters were going to end up together (and which weren’t), and how it was all going to play out.
That’s not to say that I don’t love her books; I still love her and her writing style. I’m an avid reader of her blog, which is pretty funny. Some of her books that are among my favourites are: Just Listen, Lock and Key, and This Lullaby. If you haven’t read any of her stuff yet, don’t be discouraged by my review and check some of her earlier stuff out…you won’t regret it.
But for this one: 3.5/5
‘Till next time,