To be perfectly honest, I am nervous about this Bookanista review. Not because I haven't written one in a while, or because I really haven't written anything all summer. No. I'm nervous because I can't figure out how in the world to write a review of Sarah Dessen's WHAT HAPPENED TO GOODBYE.
See, Sarah Dessen is my real life hero. Seriously. Her books, and the characters that live in their pages feel like home to me. They stay with me like the truest kind of old friends, and inspire me in the way only the best stories can. How do I begin to "review" that?
Here's the thing--Sarah Dessen has set the standard for Contemporary YA. Writing a review of her book is like writing about how great chocolate is. We all know it. But the whole aim of The Bookanistas is to spread the word about books we love, and WHAT HAPPENED TO GOODBYE is most definitely one of those books, so here we go:
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.
Combining Sarah Dessen's trademark graceful writing, great characters, and compelling storytelling, What Happened to Goodbye is irresistible reading.
In WHAT HAPPENED TO GOODBYE, Sarah Dessen delivers all of the goodness I've come to expect from her novels: a relatable main character with realistic issues, well-drawn relationships, and subtle, gracefully woven themes that will resonate with everyone.
From the beginning, McLean is loveable character. She's accustomed to being new, and comfortable adopting different personas and the lives that go along with them as a way to keep any connections she makes from getting too deep. It's her defense mechanism. What she's not used to being is herself. And that self is someone who has been hurt by her parents' divorce, who has a lot of unresolved anger toward her mom, and who is fiercely loyal to and protective of her dad. She's also someone who is incredibly sympathetic, doesn't judge, and has a soft spot for underdogs. Once she's in Lakeview, being anything other than herself becomes next to impossible, and that's due to the relationships she builds there.
Relationships are everything in this story. McLean's relationship with her father is tender, heartfelt, and the sweetest one in the novel. With her mother, things are tangly and complicated, but driven by love and a bond that she can't seem to break no matter how hard she tries. And then there are the friends she makes: Deb, Riley, and Dave. Each of these characters are endearing and come with flaws of their own that allow McLean to open up and be herself around them. It's through these relationships that McLean learns to trust, to forgive, and ultimately rediscovers who she is.
I think all of have at some point wished we could step into a different life, drop all of our problems and past issues, and become someone brand new. But McLean says it best herself: "Your past is always your past. Even if you forget, it remembers you." Ultimately, it's what makes us who we are, for better or worse, warts and all. And that's a good thing.
WHAT HAPPENED TO GOODBYE ranks right up there with my other Dessen favorites, and if you're looking for a book to curl up with on this last weekend of summer, I can't recommend it enough.
Check out what the other Bookanistas are up to this week:
- LiLa Roecker travels to The Day Before
- Shannon Whitney Messenger swoons over Flyaway by Lucy Christopher – with giveaway
- Scott Tracey is overwhelmed by A Vast Field of Ordinary
- Stasia Ward Kehoe ponders the issue of plot spoilers in book reviews – with giveaway
- Shana Silver is mesmerized by Possess
- Corrine Jackson's celebration continues her “Blogiversary” with YA Authors sharing Lessons Learned
- Veronica Rossi says bravo to Daughter of Smoke and Bone