What Happened to Goodbye by Sarah Dessen, published by Puffin on 2nd June 2011
Another town. Another school. Another Mclean. Ever since her parents' bitter divorce, Mclean and her father have been fleeing their unhappy past. And Mclean's become a pro at reinventing herself with each move. But in Lakeview, Mclean finds herself putting down roots and making friends—in part, thanks to Dave, the most real person Mclean's ever met. Dave just may be falling in love with her, but can he see the person she really is? Does Mclean herself know?
I have a confession to make. I've never actually read anything by Sarah Dessen before. I have several of her books on my shelves and I've read wonderful reviews of many of them but I've just never gotten around to picking one up and reading it...until now. I'm immediately lamenting the fact that I waited so long to discover what I have a feeling may turn out to be my new favourite author!
There are many things which I've heard are characteristic of a Sarah Dessen novel. For starters, a realistic and relatable storyline. Check. Like the main character Mclean, I've often thought how perfect it would be to be able to shed one personality and create a whole new identity, enabling you to become anyone you want to be. However, as she soon begins to learn, we are who we are and our mistakes and experiences help to form us. It's impossible to try to be someone you're not and actually who you are may not be so bad after all. They're also described as having incredibly well written and quirky characters. Check. From Mclean, to new friend Deb, to boy-next-door Dave and Mclean's food obsessive father, there were so many fantastic characters to read about. I absolutely adored Deb who has so many hidden layers and really just needs someone to extend a hand of friendship to her. As she gradually opens up more about herself, the real Deb gets a chance to shine. The only thing I would have liked to have read more about, is Deb's family and her past. I felt this could have been explored in a little more depth. Lastly, I've heard that Dessen's books are ones that will tug at your heartstrings. Check. I have to admit that I did get rather teary at one point.
Basically, they have it all, which is why Sarah Dessen is such an incredibly popular author.
Dessen's tenth novel centres on Mclean Sweet, who lives with her father after her parents' divorce. Her father's job means that they're continually moving around and uprooting and each time they do Mclean adopts a new identity. She's been Beth, Eliza and Lizbeth but when she arrives in Lakeview, something tells her that it may finally be time just to try being herself. As Mclean begins to learn about who she really is and where she belongs, she also has to confront the damage done to her by her parents' divorce and contemplate putting down roots in a town where she soon has many friends and even the possibility of a romance with next-door-neighbour Dave.
Dessen writes realistic teen fiction to a tee. I loved the fact that everything about this book felt real and relatable. I particularly liked the way Mclean's relationship with her father was depicted, as I haven't read many books which focus on the father-daughter bond. Mclean has stuck by her father's side to the detriment of her relationship with her mother which has gradually fallen apart, but I enjoyed seeing the way in which she eventually does start to mend things with her mother and tear down many of the obstacles which have come between the two of them.
I also liked the fact that the friendship between Mclean and Dave was not your stereotypical teen romance. Dave's quite an unusual character but he is one of the few people who sees Mclean for who she really is and is instrumental in her overcoming many of the issues which she's dealing with.
If like me you've never read a Sarah Dessen novel before then I implore you not to wait a minute longer. Go and pick one up now! You won't regret it! And if you're already a fan of this wonderful author, then rest assured that she won't let you down. 'What Happened to Goodbye' is sure to become another firm favourite and share a spot in your Dessen collection.