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What Happened to Goodbye

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Who is the real McLean?

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.

402 pages, Hardcover

First published May 10, 2011

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Sarah Dessen

89 books45.7k followers

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 4,647 reviews
Profile Image for Mili.
83 reviews35 followers
September 14, 2011
I miss the Sarah Dessen who wrote This Lullaby and The Truth About Forever. What happened?
Profile Image for Nomes.
384 reviews376 followers
December 4, 2013
What Happened to Goodbye has no huge inciting incident or great source of tension. Instead the book quietly unfolds in layers: each time Dessen revisits a scene/sub-plot, she goes just a little bit further than the previous time ~ giving more depth and insight into her characters lives, relationships and what makes them the way they are. Ad infintum and you reach the resolution: where Dessen has begun with isolated characters she ends with a motley group of friends who have bonded and each come to some form of self-actualisation.

Dessen immerses the reader completely in her characters lives. She is the queen of exploring relationships and the subtle things that connect family's and friends. She takes her time in creating atmosphere and introducing characters with all their nuances.

There was no mistaking Dessen’s signature prose when first diving into What Happened to Goodbye. Even without her name on the cover I could easily pick her as the author. There's an instant sense of familiarity when opening up the books (from having read her previous work).

However, I have never been her biggest most-loyal fan. I anticipate her books, hoping to connect, but she is a hit and miss author for me. A few of her books are favourites of mine and perfect for a rainy-day comfort read, but others of hers have left little impact and been quickly forgotten. Fans are also split on their favourite titles so it’s hard to predict which of you will find this bumping on their favourites list and which of you will find it all a little too meh (like me).

So here’s what I enjoyed:

Mclean’s dad and the restaurant dramas. It’s chaotic and sensory and fun and those scenes were highlights for me.

The first meet cute between Mclean and Dave. (I am a fan of meet-cutes :) I also liked the 2nd and 3rd scenes with them together.

My two favourite characters were Opal (restaurant chick) and Deb (high school student enthusiast). Opal had a lot of heart and a bit of snark ~ her scenes added some energy to the book. And Deb, well, she's lovable and cringe-worthy all at the same time and completely interesting.

I like how Dessen cameos characters from her past books. I'll leave them for you to find...

Despite the parts I enjoyed, overall I was left feeling underwhelmed.

I personally prefer my books to have a bit more urgency to them (even if it is a quiet urgency).The lack of tension or driving force with any of the sub-plots resulted in me flipping the pages rather disinterestedly towards the end. If it hadn't been a "Dessen book" with some form of expectation I am not sure i would have made it past half-way.

While Mclean struggled to "find who she was" I struggled to get a feel for her. She was just a Dessen-esque 'narrator-voice'. The secondary characters certainly out-shone her.

I won't deny that my favourite parts of previous Dessen novels have been the swoon factor. And it was noticeably lacking here. I am not sure what technique Dessen was trying to employ with the romance, but there was no pull of attraction or tingly sparks between Mclean and Dave. The romantic sub-plot was largely ignored and by the time it appeared at the end it was too late for me to feel invested in it at all. (Although Dave himself was a cool enough character, he just did not work as a love interest for me).

Really, this book just did not cater to my tastes. It felt bloated with descriptions, back-story and the repeated motifs were too obvious for me. I prefer a more subtle exploration of themes.

I struggled at the beginning where too many characters were introduced in little snippets and then revisited later and it took me a while to get my head around everyone. I also feel a few characters were introduced in detail and then completely fizzled out of the story which had me wondering: why have them in there at all?(I also am not a fan of always describing what someone is wearing. Especially if they are wearing the exact same outfit every time you seen them or if they are an irrelevant by-stander).

Probably irrelevant to the rest of you but: I feel irked by Dessen’s love of The Comma. She’s a doozy for using long sentences with commas everywhere, and while grammatically correct, it really breaks the flow and completely distracts me. Same thing with her signature lines such as: he just stood there, looking at me. we stood there. we just sat there. There’s a lot of “just standing” “just sitting” and “just looking” haha. Also, she clearly loves the word “clearly “~ which she enthusiastically uses in all her books ;)
Profile Image for Vinaya.
185 reviews2,078 followers
May 26, 2011
I ♥ Sarah Dessen. That is all.

Okay, I lie. That is NOT all. How could I use only six words when the possibility of six hundred exists? My lawyer genes would go into revolt!

I really, really liked What Happened to Goodbye. In fact, it just might rank up there with my other Dessen favourites, Just Listen and The Truth about Forever.

Generally, I tend to like Dessen heroes better than Dessen heroines. It was Owen and Wes who really lit up Just Listen and The Truth About Forever for me. Surprisingly, though, in this book, I found myself really, really liking Mclean.

Mclean Sweet has moved four towns in the last two years. Her father works as a consultant for an eatery chain, and his job is to rehab restaurants that have not been performing to standards. Her parents divorced two years ago, when her mother cheated on her dad with the coach of his favourite basketball team, a double betrayal that has left Mclean angry and bitter. And unsure of her identity.

In an attempt to escape her past, and her parents' very public divorce, Mclean has taken to reinventing herself at every school she goes to. She's been Beth and Lizbeth and Eliza, but never, ever Mclean. Somehow, though, this changes when she moves to Lakeview. For some reason, despite her efforts, she can't seem to get away from her real name, and consequently, her real self. Soon she finds herself making friends, and even possibly falling seriously for a boy.

As with most Dessen novels, this one is populated by a kooky cast of adorable friends, all of whom I loved. Riley, who only seems to fall for douchebags, Heather, who has no sense of conversational appropriateness, Deb, so lonely before Mclean enters her life and Dave, the boy-genius who lives next door and makes Mclean feel strangely comfortable and secure.

The main reason this book worked so well for me, though, was Mclean. Sarah Dessen's heroines generally tend to be more passive-aggressive than pro-active. Even their rebellions are slow things, a bubbling under the cauldron that finally froths over. Mclean, however, is open about her anger and her conflict from the word go. She doesn't secretly rebel- she fights her mother with everything she's got, for the right to make her own choices. She doesn't mince any words in expressing her anger and disappointment with her mother, and she doesn't let her mom's clingy ways steamroller her. There was never any point where I wanted to shake her and scream "SAY IT ALREADY", which is a thing that happens all too often to me with Sarah Dessen's other heroines.

I also liked that this book wasn't unnecessarily angsty. My favourite part was the one where she draws the school outcast Deb into her circle of friends, giving her a social life for the first time. It felt positive and affirmatory and I was cheering her on, and really liking her.

I also liked how Mclean's relationship with her mom played out, going from anger and disappointment, to compromise and finally, to a tenuous peace. The romance, as always, was sweet and sigh-worthy. Dave is not my favourite Dessen hero, but he was adorable nonetheless. The only thing that disturbed me was the fact that he didn't fight his over-protective, over-ambitious parents, but I guess it's okay that he picked and chose his own battles.

All in all, this was an excellent read, like most of Dessen's books. But there's one thing I've come to realize, and that is that you either like Sarah Dessen's style, or you don't. If you do, the relative sameness of her books is like a comforting security blanket you can always return to. If you don't, well, you might want to give this one a miss.
Profile Image for emma.
1,822 reviews48.1k followers
April 30, 2018

Sometimes, I forget that. Even as I’ve been rereading her books this year. Sometimes, you get That Summer or Dreamland or The Truth about Forever. A disappointment.

But then! Then! Sometimes you get Just Listen. Actually...up until this point that was the only definitively fun one out of this reread so far.

UNTIL THIS POINT. Because What Happened to Goodbye is another Sarah-Dessen-at-her-best type of deal.

Summery vibe. Cute love interest. Family drama that comes to a Disney-esque happily-ever-after comforting solution. A group of friends featuring strong female friendships. And, as always, a sort of meh teenage girl protagonist who goes through a lot and comes out the other side character developed, like a factory but with emotional breakdowns and crying jags instead of mysterious machines.

A lot of the fun of Dessen books comes down to the details. Parents’ jobs; particulars of the familial drama; whether the book takes place in Dessen’s beach town or Dessen’s town town; quirks of the cast of characters who will become the protagonist’s friends; exactly how boring the love interest is (it’s always somewhat boring); whether the main character is kind, brave, or smart (those are the only options).

This one comes down pretty well. McLean’s dad is a restaurant consultant, which is SO FUN. The family drama is that McLean’s mom cheated on her dad with his hero, which is a tad too messy but still comes out all right in the end. The book is set in the non-beach town, which I usually like less but it works this time. The characters aren’t overly quirky, but they banter well, which is better. The love interest is pretty unboring, by Dessen standards. McLean is kind, which is good, because she’s sweet to characters that are sometimes laughed off by other Dessen teen girls.

Bottom line: Sarah Dessen always writes by a formula. This time, the formula works! Hurray!
Profile Image for Melannie :).
344 reviews197 followers
May 28, 2011
OHMYGOSH, *squeals*

seriously can't wait anymore,
I have been waiting for a new book by her since, what was it? 2009? I CAN'T EVEN REMEMBER

I want to read this book NOW *cries*


Profile Image for Janina.
214 reviews527 followers
October 23, 2014
I finished this book yesterday afternoon when I was sitting in the waitingroom at my doctor's office and really had nothing else to do ... which probably says enough.

Seriously, I consider myself a Sarah Dessen fan. I have read almost all of her books and enjoyed the majority of them – to various degrees. What Happened To Goodbye, however, was a huge disappointment for me. The beginning was great, the whole set-up, the restaurant setting, but then ... the whole thing just fizzled out around page 100. And it's a long way to go from page 100 to page 400. Frankly speaking, I just found the rest of the book incredibly boring. I’m finding it difficult to really tell you why, but to me, it was just lacking the usual charm and heart. Let me tell you, I don’t read Dessen’s books because they are particularly deep and yes, I know they all follow the same formula. I read them for fun. I read them because, in my opinion, not a lot of authors can capture this feeling of change and growth, combined with lovely summer vibes and a swoon-worthy guy as well as her.

But here, the things I normally love about Dessen’s books were strangely muted and didn’t really come across. Not that I didn’t like Mclean as a character – she just didn’t stand out in any particular way for me. And despite the fact that I love to ramble about Dessen’s guys (see later), the main character’s voice is what carries the book. And if I don’t really care about her, I don’t care about the book either. The next thing is the quirky group of new friends. Well, Mclean’s friends were fun in this typically quirky way, but still, nothing too special. And then, Dave was a big disappointment as the love interest. From his description, he sounded very interesting: a science genius wanting the real high school experience and therefore giving up on university classes and the like, but in execution, he was just a very flat and boring character. Call me superficial, but Dessen’s guys are often the best about her books. I loved Wes from The Truth about Forever, Eli from Along for the Ride, Owen from Just Listen and Dexter from This Lullaby, and basically, those are the books I would recommend first and that I would label lovely comfort reads. Sorry to say, but with books like this my rule is: no swooning = no fun.

All in all, if you are a Dessen fan like me, you will probably read this anyway and form your own opinion. If you are no Dessen fan, you probably don’t want to read this anyway ;). But if you haven’t read anything by her yet and are looking for a good book to start with, I wouldn’t recommend What Happened To Goodbye.
Profile Image for ♛ may.
806 reviews3,792 followers
March 21, 2017

Look whose back with another basic-3-stared-contemporary read !!

You know what kinda funny not really?? if I read this book 12 months ago, I probably would have died over how cute it was. But now as I am *cough* a veteran reader *cough* I have gone through too many contemporaries to know that this ranks as – meh.


So what do we got here?
McLean’s parents divorced a few years back and ever since, she’s been living with her father (although her mother would gladly have her). With her father, comes his spontaneous life as a restaurant consultant.

McLean has moved four towns in two years (which, let’s be real, isn’t that much). Each time she reinvents herself as someone new but this time, it miiiiight just be a little different.
*insert cliché tropes here*

Kay, basically we got the obvious. . .Unnecessary drama.

I cannot TELL you how annoyed I get with Unnecessary Drama. It’s such an overused trope.

MC: *does something totally normal and believable*
Whinny-annoying-character: oh my gosh *flips hair* I cannot BELIEVE you just did that, you’ve betrayed us all, we must shun you for the remained of the week.

Okay, okay, I mayyyy just be exaggerating that a bit, but that’s how I felt while I was reading it.

And then there’s the Irrational dumb behaviour

I was sixteen not too long ago. I did silly things sometimes. I made mistakes. Sure, that’s all great, but NEVER did I do something as irrational as these kids do. //Can’t mention the incident bc of *spoilers* - but know that it was totally and completely unnecesarry.//


Okay, okay, so I think I may be slamming this too hard, because let’s face it, I gave it 3 stars. Why you may ask? Well, because my not-so-lovely friend, Pragya, would have erased me from her life if I didn’t. :) :)

Now that's friendship goals, amirite?? :) :)

Oh yeah and the plot was unique. This was a cute book that was surprisingly captivating despite my earlier complaints. It had a good message and the romance wasn’t overbearing.

I know Sarah Dessen has grew much from these books so that’s why I’m willing to forgive these shortcomings.

Just don’t expect me to not rant about it.

“I mean, it's not surprising, really. Once you love something, you always love it in some way. You have to. It's, like, part of you for good.”

2.75 stars!!
Profile Image for Pinky.
507 reviews351 followers
October 3, 2015
“Home wasn't a set house, or a single town on a map. It was wherever the people who loved you were, whenever you were together. Not a place, but a moment, and then another, building on each other like bricks to create a solid shelter that you take with you for your entire life, wherever you may go.” ,

After Mclean's parents divorced, Mclean was on the move with her father from house to house. Needing a change, Mclean decided to change her name and personality for every school she moved to. Once time she was Eliza, then she was Lizbet and later Beth. For every name, there is a different character with different characteristics. One of the names represented a smart and organized girl while the other one is a popular and cool kid. Mclean moves another time and when she does, for some reason, she feels comfortable. Instead of going with another name, Mclean decided to go with her own name because it just slipped out. She doesn't know who she is anymore and doesn't know her real self. To make it even worse, Mclean has to deal with her mother who is constantly bothering her. Will Mclean find out who she really is, or make up another character and move again?

“Your past is always your past. Even if you forget it, it remembers you.”

I really enjoyed this book, I found Mclean really easy to relate to and she was always funny. This book felt so real in so many different levels. Mclean had her flaws and that's what made her a more realistic character. I understood her feelings and it felt so good to read and agree with almost everything the character says. Sarah Dessen, how do you make such amazing books with the best lessons? I am glad I read this book after Along for the Ride because the stories connected and we got to see one of the characters from Along for the Ride in this book. I love when stories connect, it makes the book even more realistic than it already is.

“Accepting all the good and bad about someone. It's a great thing to aspire to. The hard part is actually doing it.”

The characters were the best part about this book, I loved almost everybody! Dave is so hilarious and I loved the basketball scenes. The way he met Mclean was so different and funny, he is so weird but you still love him! Mclean is so easy to relate to but is very confused about her life. Riley is such a nice and supporting friend and I wish she was here in our world. Deb might be the character that goes through the exact same thing that I go through, I really like her and how Mclean helped her out. Heather was really funny too and I really liked how she said everything she thinks, without thinking about other people's feelings. Opal was another hilarious character and although she can be a mess at times, she was still one of the best characters. Mclean's dad is easy going and I like how we get to see his side as a boss and his side as a dad. They are both completely different from each other but I really loved reading about it. I didn't like Mclean's mother much, but maybe it is because of how Mclean saw her. I liked her a little bit more in the end, but she still annoyed me so much.

“It wasn't about being happy or unhappy. I just didn't want to be me anymore.”

Another aspect that I loved about this story is the comedy. After a serious conversation or sad moment, you get a really funny scene. I recommend that you read this when you are alone because if you are caught laughing while reading, people will assume you are going crazy. (That's what happened to me.) Anyway, I felt like all the characters had a side that was hilarious and they were only showing it when they were comfortable. It was really interesting to see how all the characters bonded and became closer to each other. It makes the story more real and believable and I really wish that I got a little more.

“It was like when you ripped a piece of paper into two: no matter how you tried, the seams never fit exactly right again.”

I highly recommend this book to those who are in the middle of a huge reading slump, this will definitely take you out of it. I also recommend this to those who read Sarah Dessen's book because this book is amazing and I know you will love it! I also recommend this to people who haven't read a single Sarah Dessen book (where have you been?) Anyway, read this book! Trust me, it's really good and you won't regret it.

“All those clean, fresh starts had made me forget what it was like, until now, to be messy and honest and out of control. To be real.”
Profile Image for Cara.
279 reviews704 followers
August 27, 2016
Does Sarah Dessen still have the awesome stuff? Oh yeah. No doubt or question about it.

This time around we're gonna get to follow the story of a girl named Mclean. She comes from parents that go through a tabloid worthy divorce. Going against the norm Mclean decides to stay with her dad, and up to this point has been through four moves with him. Four different girls for each move. But this fourth move is going to be distinctly different because for the first time in long while she is going to be herself, if she can even figure out who that is exactly.

The premise intrigued me a lot. I grew up as a military kid that moved around and I always did contemplate starting with a new slate. Be a different person; maybe present myself differently because the impression of who I am isn't set. I never did because it's hard to be someone you're not, just as Mclean figures out.

I felt the chaos and love that goes into restaurants. I caught the excitement of watching a basketball game (I live in place where college basketball is followed like a religion, and she got the feel of it just right). I got mad at Mclean’s mom but then understood her. I got to see how to start something big even if it seems impossible. I learned even a small change, one moment can make the difference. But most importantly I know why it’s important to find a place to call home. To find the people who will be home for you.

I wasn't sure why some people were expressing that they didn't fall in love with Dave. Dave is so... unique and sweet in his own way. I think because the relationship arc is different for Mclean and Dave that people couldn't connect with him the same way they did with the other leading guys. But he is a great guy, no disputing that. My top character choice for this book is Deb. Deb is fantastic. She is more than meets the eye and she isn't ashamed to be herself. Gotta love a character like that.

Dessen fans will read the book but I urge people who haven't to try one of her books. She really is (in my opinion) the best young adult realistic author out today. She captures the female teenage voice and presents it in a way that is relatable to people. Though not my favorite book I still stayed up late at night to finish and rooted for Mclean to find her normal and fully embrace the people who get who the real her is.

Side note:While I was reading this, this song popped into my head. I was learning how to play it on the guitar and it feels like it fits the story. It's kind of the flip of what could have happen if Mclean had decided to keep running away from herself.
Profile Image for Aj the Ravenous Reader.
1,025 reviews1,045 followers
November 18, 2020
Sarah Dessen's books never get old. There's good reason she's one of the queens of YA contemporaries because she sure does know how to write about young adult lives with genuineness. I have read almost all of her books and even though there are a few I honestly didn't like, I always give the author a chance to redeem herself and she's often successful the next time I pick another of her books.

What Happened to Goodbye is a good read for me, right up there with This Lullaby and Lock and Key although not quite as good as Just Listen but it's definitely in my top five Dessen reads. I really liked McLean's character and her unique adolescent experience. Her current self-exploration is very realistic and I really liked the friends she made despite her reluctance in making real connections. The all-around Deb is probably my favorite though. I love the little surprises she reveals about herself day by day. But McLean herself is also one memorable and sympathetic heroine. I like how responsible and mature she is when it comes to taking care of her dad but at the same time, I like that she can also be childish and selfish when dealing with her mom whom she blames for the wreckage of their family.

This is definitely one of the author’s better works, an enjoyable, entertaining, and meaningful YA contemporary about loss, forgiveness, moving on, letting go, establishing new relationships, acceptance and being brave enough to take the many risks of falling for someone.
Profile Image for Arlene.
1,156 reviews641 followers
September 16, 2011
Must read for Sarah Dessen fans.

My deep like for What Happened to Goodbye comes down to one thing... the protag McLean Sweet. I liked her for lots of reasons and not just because I can relate to her determination to not look down until she identifies a constellation or two when looking up at a starry sky, or because like McLean I’ve never been one to just put myself out there on day one. Also it’s not just because we both have a name you’ve got to live up it, yeah some days it’s not all sweet and lovely. :/ When it comes down to it, it was McLean’s philosophy on people and life. Plain and simple. She hit home for me in so many ways that at the end of the day, I could relate on so many levels and that’s what made her a compelling character in my eyes.

McLean and her dad have moved from town to town for the past few years. There was a messy, public divorce along with a gut wrenching betrayal that led McLean’s dad to close his restaurant and take a consulting job that has them packing their suitcases about every six months. McLean doesn’t mind. She loves being on the road with her father and changing her identity at every stop, but all that takes a turn when they come to Luna Blue. There she meets some great friends and becomes part of a community where hiding behind someone she’s not is no longer an option.

The majority of this story revolves around McLean’s strained relationship with her mom. There was a heated moment in the book where she tells her mom to just “own it”... own the fact that their mother/daughter relationship is fractured because her mom did something pretty shitty. McLean owed her nothing because if you screw up, down or inside out, you can’t just expect an apology to fix everything that’s wrong. Life just isn’t that way. Actions have consequences, and more so selfish actions destroy relationships. When this scene was unraveling before my eyes, I was so much on McLean’s side that I felt myself rooting for her all the way.

Funny thing with books; a character can do or say one small thing to claim your allegiance and that’s exactly what happened here.

This book is made especially for Sarah Dessen’s true fans. With her you’re not going to get a rushed story, but rather a slow and steady development of a situation. Dessen doesn’t play the love triangle game and most importantly you won’t come across a guy and girl that have a chance meeting with tireless declarations of love, but rather a girl that has so much crap going on in her life that the last thing she wants or expects is a guy that’s going to sweep her off her feet and spew love sonnets. So when she meets “the one,” he’s the guy that’s there for her, that challenges her to be who she really is and not hide behind false pretences, the guy that’s there when you need him… and when the clouds and cobwebs are lifted, he’s the one that she sees as her 2am. ;) Beautiful and real! Now that’s what I call awesomesause. Give me more...

Profile Image for ❦ jazmin.
512 reviews732 followers
July 31, 2021
“Home wasn't a set house, or a single town on a map. It was wherever the people who loved you were, whenever you were together. Not a place, but a moment, and then another, building on each other like bricks to create a solid shelter that you take with you for your entire life, wherever you may go.”

What Happened to Goodbye was the fifth book in my Sarah Dessen binge read and once again, I’ve read another book that was neither my favourite nor least favourite. And although I did enjoy it a lot, I think this book had a lot of wasted potential.

⇢The Plot
I’ve discovered that I really enjoy books where the main character is involved at some sort of company or restaurant that makes food, because there’s rarely a dull moment. I loved the whole idea behind Mclean’s father’s job and Luna Blu, and the crew working at the restaurant were such great characters.

As for the main conflicts in this book, they were surprisingly light. Even though the main character did struggle with moving and her identity this book was definitely lighter than the others I’ve read which was a nice reprieve in some ways and a little bit less interesting in others. Overall, I wish that Mclean’s issues with her mom had been explored a bit more, as well as her relationship with her stepfather because we basically saw them interact once and it wasn’t even in person.

⇢Mclean and Dave
Mclean was a really interesting main character, and Dave… was not. I found Mclean relatable and fun even if she wasn’t the most unique protagonist, and I think the way she was written really suited this novel.

Dave on the other hand… Well, he certainly lived up to his name because just like it, he wasn’t very interesting. (I’m sorry if your name is Dave lol.) He’s one of the biggest examples of wasted potential present in the book because he could have been such a cool character had his passions and home life been discussed but they just weren’t. It was mentioned time and time again that he was smart but basically nothing was given beyond that.

And as a couple, well there wasn’t anything special. They had barely any chemistry, and they just needed to have more scenes together to convince me of their relationship.

“You asked me to go out with you. I know you probably changed your mind. But you should know, the answer was yes. It's always been yes when it comes to you.”

⇢The Side Characters
And now we’ve reached the other case of wasted potential, Opal and Gus. They did end up being a couple but they had so much potential to become a great couple so much earlier and in a much better way that I was just left disappointed.

. ⋅ ˚̣- : ✧ : – ⭒ ❦ ⭒ – : ✧ : -˚̣⋅ .

Profile Image for Deacon Tom F.
1,764 reviews132 followers
February 21, 2021
A Teenager's Journey

“What Happened to Goodbye” by Sarah Dessen is a very well written exploration of a teen’s life.

The characters are well developed and come across as strong, and charming.

The plot was not hollow or perfectly predictable. The issues were complex and interesting. Most compelling was how the author was using a main character, “Mclean” who "changed" her identity 3 times in coming to terms with who she really was.

What results is a brilliantly layered book with strong storytelling and that I truly enjoyed.

I connected with character because I went to 3 schools in 3 consecutive years and felt lost. So, her loneliness was real to me.

A fine book that I recommend to all.
Profile Image for Ash.
86 reviews9 followers
June 16, 2011
Great, now I have to wait another billions years (okay, probably more like 2) for another Sarah Dessen book. Get cracking Dessen! Really though, the reason why so many people love her books are because she just gets it. She deals with problems that not only teenagers but anyone can relate to in some way.

Quick Overview: Another move for Mclean just means another persona. After her parents’ divorce Mclean and her father move around as he works as a restaurant consultant. Two years and four schools later Mclean and her father are in Lakeview. Mclean thinks this is just another move, another school, and another girl. This time is different though because despite her plans Mclean finds that she’s making real friends and being…herself. Whoever that is.

Was there really any doubt that Dessen would deliver? Rhetorical question. I was kind of surprised by how much I liked Mclean. She was openly angry with her mother (rightly so I might add),no matter how much her mother pushes to be a part of her life again. I had a real understanding of Mclean. I understood why she was angry and why she did things. It almost felt I was the one who had been betrayed, and later as she comes to realizations and understandings I did too. More than anything though, I liked that Mclean was a good person. I loved how this book was as much about Mclean as it was about her family.

And of course you can’t NOT mention the secondary characters! Both of Mclean’s parents play a big role in the book and you get a genuine sense of what kind of people they are. What I found strange was that I actually didn’t like some of the secondary characters, like Riley and Heather. Although they are both typical Dessen characters they just didn’t do it for me. I found myself liking much less important characters like the endearingly stupid Leo. And holy guacamole (and I do like me some guacamole)!!! She put Jason in again! Like some other fans I wanted to see a happy ending for Jason or at least a progression of sorts. It’s not an ending, but it’s really interesting to see what happens with him and I’m immensely happy she put him in again. Weird and sensitive Deb though, by far, was my absolute favorite. Right from the first moment she’s introduced I wanted her to be a significant part of the book. And of course the guy, Dave. He’s different from Dessen’s other guys because he’s not an obvious dreamboat, or “cool”. In fact he’s kind of a dork. He’s quirky, weird, and a lot more vulnerable. Completely hilarious and a genius he’s already one of my favorites. They both teach Mclean that sometimes the hardest thing to do is have the courage to be yourself.

I felt I could particularly relate to Mclean because through high school I moved around and just like her I wasn’t sure if I really belonged anywhere because I didn’t have a place to call home. Just like her I learned that home isn’t a place but a feeling you have with people who care about you. Mostly though this book is about finding what it means to have a true sense of self. So to finally wrap this up, a 4.5 because I loved reading this, warts and all :D.
Profile Image for Thomas.
1,456 reviews8,553 followers
May 23, 2011
What Happened to Goodbye is another hit from the queen of young-adult realistic fiction, Sarah Dessen. As with all of her books, readers can expect a moving story filled with cleverly drawn characters and the perfect touch of romance.

In her tenth novel, Dessen details the story of Mclean Sweet - also known as Liz Sweet, Beth Sweet, etc. After her parents' divorce she travels from town to town with her dad, assuming a new identity each time. Things are different at Lakeview, though. Mclean may just try to be herself, if she can find who that is before it's too late.

People consistently comment on Dessen's formulaic writing style. I have to disagree - this talented lady could write a book about a girl who reads instruction manuals and watches paint dry for a living. Her writing is that good. It sucks you in and forces you to flip the pages until you've read the whole novel. Not only is it addicting, but it's neat and welcoming, like a gift that you can't help but come back to every now and then.

With every book I've read by Sarah Dessen there are certain details and quirks that I adore. The characters' names, like Opal and Riley. The model community town that brings individuals from the story together. I even enjoyed the basketball references, which clearly says something.

And lastly, Deb! She was such a cute little ray of sunshine (or in some cases, a frenetic tornado of neatness). I hope she makes a cameo appearance in a future work by Dessen. Characters from her past novels appeared in What Happened to Goodbye, but I won't spoil who they are. Let's just say, one of them has changed a lot.

4.5 - not my favorite from Sarah Dessen, but a darn good read. The Truth About Forever and Just Listen remain as the two books I would recommend right away to a newcomer of her novels, but What Happened to Goodbye offers a solid story that shouldn't be missed by Dessen fans.

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Profile Image for Brianne.
124 reviews1 follower
June 15, 2011
I love Sarah Dessen. Her earlier books were hit and miss for me, but I've loved everything she's written since The Truth About Forever.

Except, unfortunately, What Happened to Goodbye.

It's not a bad book. Dessen's prose, as always, is solid, with a few brilliant lines that made me put the book down to think. The problem was those lines were not the only reason I put the book down.

I've always found Dessen's books to have slow starts. From past experience, I know if I push through the beginning and get settled into the book's world, I'll be hooked in no time. So, I pushed through, but I still felt like I was settling into the world come the last chapter.

Not much happens. Between the restaurant scenes, the party, and Mclean meeting Dave, the beginning arguably has the most exciting scenes in the book. The plot dragged, the romance dragged, and the climax was very, well, anti-climatic. Beyond Mclean running away, there was no real fall-out to her friends discovering her past identities. It's beyond me why no one got mad at her. On that note, the only people Mclean ever fights with are her parents. Riley's overprotective of Dave, and despite what Mclean's told her about not wanting a relationship, she doesn't get mad when Mclean and Dave start to get closer. While Deb may not be the type to get mad, there's no tension when Mclean essentially ditches her. Dave's never mad, or even annoyed, at her, nor is she ever mad at him. There's one scene where Dave apologizes for something, and I couldn't for the life of me figure out what he was apologizing for. There's very little tension, and combined with a slow plot, it was hard for this book to hold my interest.

The biggest problem, though, was Mclean herself. I understand how she can reinvent her persona from town to town, but there has to be something about her character that remains constant. Even if the point of the book is for her to find herself, there still needs to be a three-dimensional character there for her to grow into, to have her coming-of-age moment. I didn't know enough about her to care about her, or even root for her romance with Dave. In fact, I wanted to read Riley's story of Dave and Ellis more than anything. I would've been happy to read Opal or Jason's story as well.

I also found this book to be a little dizzying in the sense that I didn't always know where I was or when it was after a scene transitioned (and sometimes I didn't even realize there was a transition.) There was a point where I was convinced Mclean was in two places at once. I'll be the first to admit that this could be because I didn't pay enough attention, but if that's the case, it was because I was bored, and that's a problem in itself.

Ultimately, the restaurant scenes, secondary characters, and prose saved this novel, but I'm still disappointed.
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
Profile Image for Margaret Stohl.
Author 112 books5,996 followers
June 17, 2011
So I automatically read every Sarah Dessen, who is super good at being Sarah Dessen. The guy will be quirky and loveable. A family will somehow be destroyed and put back together. The food service industry will likely appear, as will the beach. Knowing that these things will happen is like knowing that macaroni and cheese will not let me down in a time of need. At least, it never has yet...
Profile Image for kaylaaaaaaaaaa kaylaaaaaaaaaa.
Author 1 book111 followers
July 18, 2018
This was a quick easy contemporary that was very sweet, the problem is I don't find Sarah Dessen books memorable like next week I won't even renember the protagonist or her love interests name.
Profile Image for Jay G.
1,229 reviews464 followers
May 18, 2017
After her parents divorce, Maclean Sweet has found herself moving constantly. She has been in 4 different towns in the past 2 years. Using a different name at every new school she attends, Maclean reinvents herself after each move. So, when she arrives in Lakeview, and goes to pick a new identity, she is surprised when she chooses Maclean. Now, making new friends and falling for a boy, Maclean is learning to accept herself and learn to not run away when things get real.

Dave is such a sweetheart! I really enjoyed Opal and Deb as characters. Riley and Heather were also great! Maclean however, fell short for me. I found her to be dull and boring.... Maclean's Dad made me laugh but her mom drove me insane at times. One thing I love about Sarah Dessen books is that she includes characters from her other books into her new work and I love finding them in the story!

As a basketball player, I loved the basketball concept in the book - BUT - when the basketball net is constantly called a basketball goal it made me cringe so hard....

I found the pacing of this book to be a bit slow for my liking and it took a very long time for things to actually happen. I liked how Maclean and her mother's relationship developed in the story and how they learned to compromise and accept each other in the end.

Overall, the book was just average, not one that will stick with me for years to come.
Profile Image for  ღ suus ღ.
157 reviews12 followers
October 17, 2016
Mclean verhuisd met haar vader naar Lakeview. Ze is het gewend om i.v.m. haar vaders werk steeds te verhuizen naar een andere plaats en dus ook naar een nieuwe school e.d.

Iedere keer bepaald ze voor zichzelf ook weer een nieuwe identiteit en zorgt ze ervoor dat ze niet te veel aan mensen 'hecht'. Maar in Lakeview gaat het toch net iets anders waar ze een vriendenclubje opbouwt en gewoon zichzelf is. |

Tegelijkertijd worstelt Mclean met de relatie met haar moeder. Ze neemt haar de scheiding van haar ouders erg kwalijk en heeft dan ook besloten niet bij haar, haar nieuwe man en hun peutertweeling te wonen maar met haar vader mee te reizen.

Sarah Dessen heeft zo'n fijne schrijfstijl dat ik echt verslingerd ben aan haar boeken.
Profile Image for Zoë.
328 reviews66.2k followers
May 3, 2014
Not my favorite Sarah Dessen book, but I enjoyed it! I didn't feel satisfied by the ending and I wanted a little more romance between Dave and Mclean, but there was good character development throughout.
Profile Image for Justine.
449 reviews53 followers
July 12, 2015
I love Sarah Dessen more and more with every book.
This might be my new second favorite book by her.
I loved the story.
I love that the family is always the top spot on her books. The love part only comes second.
Sarah Dessen, you are my queen!
17 reviews7 followers
Want to read
August 1, 2010
Finally! I've been waiting for her to write a new book since along for the ride came out!!
Profile Image for Alyssa.
366 reviews284 followers
August 17, 2011
Disappointment. In the Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary of 2004, the verb “disappoint” is defined as such: to fail to fulfill the expectation or hope of –

I don’t know what exactly went wrong with this book. Maybe Dessen’s becoming lazy – her last three books have left me mourning after her better novels – or maybe she’s just running out of “ever-powerful” things to talk about. Whatever it is that made this book lackluster in the eyes of a dear fan, it’s got to be put to bed here and now. I can’t watch another one of her stories swivel down the drain like this one did, especially knowing that Dessen does contain the talent to write a beautiful book. Let’s hope her series of mediocrity ends here.

Mclean plays a game of dancing personas – in each town and school that she transfers into with her father, the restaurant fixer-upper, she changes every little thing about her. She’s been the drama queen, the perky cheerleader, the student-body rep. She left the Real Mclean behind with her betraying mother, and up until when the father and daughter move to Lakeview, she doesn’t ever see Real Mclean breaking free from her memories. Lakeview, though, seems to be a magical town because the people who see the true Mclean, somehow, convince her that maybe it's time to make a home.

This book is so freaking long, and so freaking boring, I actually had to convince myself to keep reading. As a fan, I was primarily excited that there was more Dessen to go around, but once I got past the 90 page mark, I was ready for this book to end. One of the main issues with WHTG lies in the pacing – nothing exciting happened in this book, and since there was no tension, it became dull and tedious. The beginning took forever to set into place – actually, I felt like we were always at the beginning – and basically, this book is just Mclean is building her personality back and avoiding phone calls from her mother. I would have been able to deal with this, too, if this characterization had been done well – don’t be fooled into thinking this is a character study, guys, because it certainly is not - but unfortunately, Dessen didn't strike out of the park with this one.

I didn’t like Mclean. She was too uninteresting, and she just didn’t bring anything to the table. In the YA world where there is such a variety of character-driven novels, leads have to bring something to the table in order to be memorable. Like the protagonist from Along for the Ride, Mclean’s name is forgettable, as well are the other characters. Dave, the love interest in WHTG, had the potential to be another one of Dessen’s fantastic characters, and yet, he too was just average, and not in the good way, either. The only one who caught my eye was Deb because of her interesting experiences and pasts, and if Dessen had stopped to flesh her out (info-dumping and recalling memories isn’t fleshing out a character) then maybe I wouldn’t have had to sludge through this book.

The Truth about Forever was hopeful and motivating and moving. This Lullaby was fun and cynical and real. Just Listen was inspirational and sweet and gorgeous. Someone Like You was tear-wrenching and light-shining and truthful. What Happened to Goodbye was cheesy. It was so, so, so cheesy.

So much had happened that morning. Yet it was this image, this moment, that I kept going back to hours later, after we’d made it safely to the walkway and gone our separate ways to classes. How it felt to have the world moving beneath me, a hand gripping mine, knowing if I fell, at least I wouldn’t do it alone. Pg 238 of What Happened to Goodbye

Really, gag me with a stick. I love Sarah Dessen’s writing – she can place wise advice in strategic places, she can write lyrically and realistically, and she can evoke emotional reactions – but some of the phrases in this book were just too much. The paragraph above isn’t the worst, but it is part of one of the silliest scenes I’ve ever read.

Still, I like that Dessen, above everything and all my complaints, was able to discuss the object of having a home. Although I bored of it quickly, I can appreciate the metaphor of Mclean building her town in a set – which basically is meant to symbolize Mclean building a place that she could call home. I thought that Dessen, with her little metaphoric creations sprinkled here and there, was clever and made us look for the main message of her novel, even if the overall product wasn't exactly what I was hoping for.

Maybe I’m tired of her mold, I don’t know. Girl has mommy issues, girl has a certain psychological/emotional misunderstanding, girl meets boy, girl creates a quirky! group of friends, girl has big dramatic climax scene (which doesn't work when you don't provide any tension, alas the ending of this book was crap), girl works it out mommy issues and psychological/emotional misunderstandings and girl gets boy – there’s only so many books like this you can take.

I'm disappointed, and seriously, Dessen, if another one of your books comes out reading like your last three, I'm afraid you'll be wondering what happened to goodbye.

Audience: 12+
Rating: 2.5/5
Recommend?: If this is going to be your first Dessen read, pick up one of her older novels first. If you’re a fan, though, read it. It has messages underneath all of the hazy plotting and characters, the messages that Dessen so beautifully weaves into her story definitely what you should be looking out for.
Profile Image for Marieke | Marieke's Books.
545 reviews117 followers
May 5, 2018
Wat een heerlijk boek om lekker in het zonnetje te lezen! Ik was het boek begonnen op mijn telefoon, maar besloot na 50 bladzijden het fysieke boek bij de bieb te halen. Toen ik die eenmaal had, vloog ik door het boek heen. Dat leest zoveel makkelijker dan op mijn telefoon.

Uitgebreidere recensie komt maandag op mijn blog :)
Profile Image for C.P. Cabaniss.
Author 4 books95 followers
May 22, 2017
This is my twelfth Dessen novel. In the last two years I have read all of her published works and am now waiting for book thirteen.

But back to this one. I really enjoyed this overall. It was understandable why Mclean reacted the way she did to her parents' divorce. I had a hard time liking the mother at all, but she did grow on me a little.

All of the friends that Mclean and her dad make in Lakeview are great. Deb is my favorite. She does some odd things that really remind me of myself. I like Dave for the same reasons; I see myself in his character. Riley, Heather, and Ellis were each fun additions, though I wasn't sure about them at first. Opal was excellent.

And then there's Jason. He gets his own paragraph because I would like to see more of him. He was a jerk in The Truth About Forever and Along for the Ride, but he seems to have grown so much here. I would really like a novel where he's our main guy. Please Sarah? Can you give me that? I know you could make it great.

This isn't my favorite Dessen novel, but it was really good. It's quite well balanced and it, along with some of her other recent books, shows how much she has grown as a writer.

The basketball rivalry was fun to see from a distance. Very North Carolina in tone there. And the restaurant was a nice touch.
Profile Image for Odette Brethouwer.
1,396 reviews235 followers
December 15, 2017
Oh, wat was dit weer een heerlijke Sarah Dessen!

Ja, sommige dingen aan het plot zijn voorspelbaar - qua uitkomst dan, de weg naartoe is niet supervoorspelbaar.

Maar wat ik zo mooi vind aan haar boeken, is dat er altijd wel grotere onderwerpen zijn die ze er heel subtiel en goed in verweven heeft. Het hoofdpersonage in dit boek zit nog best wel met de scheiding van haar ouders en haar relatie met haar vader en met haar moeder en hoe ze met bepaalde dingen om moet of wilt gaan en alle struggles die daarbij horen. Maar dit heeft geen boventoon in het verhaal, het is gewoon erg goed in het grotere geheel verwerkt.

Wat wel belangrijk is in dit verhaal, is het laten zien van je ware gezicht, en geen masker voorhouden. Want hoe echt zijn de banden die je dan met andere mensen krijgt? Hierdoor echt een boek voor liefhebbers van Brieven aan de duisternis. Of, als je deze Dessen al gelezen hebt maar dat boek niet, dan raad ik je die dus aan!

Een goede contemporary met warme feels en veel inhoud. I love this.
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