Nomes's Reviews > What Happened to Goodbye

What Happened to Goodbye by Sarah Dessen
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it was ok
bookshelves: 2011, i-thought-i-would-love-this-but, not-for-me

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 ;)
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Reading Progress

May 1, 2011 – Shelved
May 2, 2011 – Started Reading
May 3, 2011 –
page 134
33.33% "nothing's really happened yet..."
May 3, 2011 – Shelved as: 2011
May 3, 2011 – Shelved as: i-thought-i-would-love-this-but
May 3, 2011 –
page 324
80.6% "getting this far has felt like an effort :/"
May 3, 2011 – Finished Reading
June 30, 2011 – Shelved as: not-for-me

Comments Showing 1-42 of 42 (42 new)

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message 1: by Nic (new) - added it

Nic Very interested in your thoughts on this one. Happy reading :)


Nomes thanks nic

for some reason i like her books even though they can be terribly slow and have a lot of back story ~ and follow a predictable formula... but usually have a guy worth swooning over.

hopefully i will review it straight away. i have a bundle of reviews to write but am so lazy lately...


message 3: by Jessica (new) - added it

Jessica Ooooh, happy reading, Nomes! I'm very much looking forward to hearing your thoughts on this one!


Nomes thanks jessica! I hope it turns out to be awesome :) I love some of hers but am ambivalent about others...


Tina Ahh I can't wait for my copy of this one to arrive. Can't wait to hear what you think. :)


Nomes thanks tina :) i will try and review it asap after finishing :D


message 7: by Jessica (new) - added it

Jessica Nomes wrote: "thanks jessica! I hope it turns out to be awesome :) I love some of hers but am ambivalent about others..."

Same here, Nomes!


message 8: by Abbey (new) - added it

Abbey I cant wait to read your review for this one. Im not a fan of Sarah Dessen she takes way too long to start to story and the romance isn't as sweet as some of my other favourite books. good luck though! i'm halfway through 'Along for the ride' and have stopped because its a bit slow for me.


Nomes Hey Abbey ~ this one is more similar to Along for the Ride by Sarah Dessen than some of her earlier favourites. So far, no romance (I am a third into it). I think this one will be more about friends and family stuff... so far I cannot imagine myself going over 3 stars (unless it suddenly gets incredibly awesome. which, it doesn't seem like it will ;)


message 10: by Jessica (new) - added it

Jessica *pouts*


message 11: by ~Tina~ (new)

~Tina~ I need to read more of her books. But I think there was only one I liked so far:(
Hope this ones good. Happy reading!


Cass -  Words on Paper Hm. That's not good...


Nomes thanks guys.

@ Cass ~ it's not bad ~ it's prob perfect for the hard-core dessen fans :) i am liking it (hence why i am guessing i will give it 3 stars :)


message 14: by Saskia (new) - added it

Saskia Oh dear, I've never read a full on Dessen novel (I've read a novella), maybe I won't like it...
Interested to see what you think though.


Audrey hehe, as a hardcore dessen worshipper, i adored this one, though I will admit it's not her best :p


message 16: by Nic (new) - added it

Nic Argh suxs! Oh well. I am not a huge fan and have read two of her books and rated them both 3 stars. I still need to read The truth about Forever. But I think I will keep this off my list.


Milly Oh wow, a 2? That bad? I've liked a majority of her books. Maybe raising her kids have depleted some of her writing magic! She sounds exhausted oftentimes in her tweets.


message 18: by Jessica (new) - added it

Jessica Ah crap...


message 19: by Aleeeeeza (new) - added it

Aleeeeeza 2 stars. wow.


message 20: by Aleeeeeza (new) - added it

Aleeeeeza 2 stars. wow.


Nomes i know. i know. i'm not saying it's a 2 star book, per se, but I honestly did not enjoy it enough to give it a 3 star rating. (3 stars meaning 'i liked it') ~ i didn't really like it and if it was just some random book i had picked up i don't think i would have even finished it ~ but b/c it was sarah dessen i made myself read it to the end really hoping it would work for me.

i plan to write my review today sometime.


Good Golly Miss Holly Oh, I would've totally jumped at the chance of trading this one but I've already ordered it off the Book Depo. Disappointed you didn't like it, it's one of my most anticipated for the year :S


Nomes i have written my review three times and it is still not right. i must finalise it today. i am finding it so hard to write with trying to separate my own boredom/disappointment with what i think Dessen must have been trying to do :/

i am interested to see what other think of this one once it has a wider readership.

Did you really really love it Alexa? sigh... maybe i am getting old and jaded, haha. but i felt like nothing really happened and was also disappointed with the dave relationship (or lack of)


Jess - The Tales Compendium i'm writing my review at the moment Nomes and am also having trouble :S


Arlene Oh boo I was looking forward to this one. Sorry you didn't care for it. I might hold off for a long while now.


Nomes @ Jess. OH MY GOSH. I have fiddled and tweaked with my review for a week now. And I still don't like it but I have to move on with my life, haha. It was hard b/c I really didn't enjoy it much but I didn't want to write the book off completely. And then once I got started it was like I was writing an essay and wanted to discuss everything (ie: the whole mother daughter relationship that bothered me ~ in the end I didn't even mention it because I was getting so overwhelmed by it all)

basically, it just felt like this book "just happened"

@ Arlene: I am really looking forward to some more reviews of this one. Personally, it is my least fave Dessen so far (I have read 8 of her books). very blah for me :( but others may enjoy it? it will no doubt be a best seller...


Nomes LOL @ re-writing the book! I thought it was a little cluttered with so many characters ~ so definitely agreeing that if Jason was the love interest that would have been brilliant.

I thought it lacked any real romance anyway ~ which is a shame as I think that is part of what Dessen does best :(

I am so psyched for the new Elizabeth Scott! I've seen some only okay-ish reviews but for some reason I always seem to love her stuff anyway :)


message 28: by Tina (new) - rated it 3 stars

Tina I like this review. :) I agree -- I love Dessen because of the swoon factor, but the only Dessen books I really REALLY love are TTAF and This Lullaby. The rest were just okay with me. Still can't wait for this one, though. :) I get the ebook tomorrow!

You know what Dessen should do next? A book with a male main character. That should be interesting. I hear John Green will have a female main character in his next novel, Dessen should do the same thing just to shake things up. :)


Nomes Thanks tina

If i had read this review by someone else it would still not keep me away from it. there is something strangely pulling me towards her books even though they are often not really my thing.

I hope you enjoy it and I'll be looking to see what you think!

I think her doing a male protag would be awesome ~ although it may be a little out of her comfort zone :)


message 30: by Janina (last edited May 09, 2011 12:56AM) (new) - rated it 2 stars

Janina Ahh, well. I pre-ordered this in a pre-order haze a few weeks ago ;). Otherwise, I would now maybe wait and see if I should read it at all. I am a fan, but I prefer those books of hers that do have the swoon factor, lol. The family issue ones tend to bore me a little.


Nomes I would have pre-ordered this too. honestly ~ I think other people will like it. But I have just been reading so many better books tailored to my tastes (since joining goodreads) that this really stood out as not being for me.

I hope you like it :D


message 32: by Fred (new) - rated it 5 stars

Fred Harsh.


Magenta Periwinkle Wow. Your review of the book summed up everything I would ever want to say about the book.


message 34: by J.D. (new)

J.D. Field Awesome review. Really thoughtful.


Aly (Fantasy4eva) I think I need to re -read some of her books. I read Just Listen when I was around 14. I adored it. I read two more shortly after and was sadly disappointed. Ever since I have avoided them like the plague. Annoyed how every book seemed to have a similar routine and plot. Characters seemed bland, and not much was going on. I considered giving this one a go but the reviews apart from the BIG Dessen fans which are not reliable since they are biased have been quite negative. I need to find out once and for all if I still feel this way, and that's only going to happen after I give them a re -read. *gulps*


Lauren Lee which two ones did you read after?? I read this lullaby and loved it which got me into Dessen, but i was extremely dissapointed with her first four(that summer, someone like you, keeping the moon, and dreamland) if thats the case try her last five. shes improved a lot from her early days in my opinion


Nomes i have read all of hers but one. my fave four are:

This Lullaby by Sarah Dessen The Truth About Forever by Sarah Dessen Lock and Key by Sarah Dessen Just Listen by Sarah Dessen

but I am not a die hard fan (obviously, as you can tell from my review. some people make me feel like it is a crime to say a negative thing about a Dessen book, haha) :)

good luck finding another fave dessen Aly! Let me know how you go... :D


Cassidy I completely! Completely! Agree with what you said about the whole relationship part between Mclean and Dave. I couldn't of have said it better my self!

Don't get me wrong I am a HUGE Dessen fan but this one....it just didn't work.


message 39: by Sherryl (new)

Sherryl Clark I have to agree - this one was way too slow. But mostly I just didn't connect with Mclean. I went back and looked at the first three chapters again, and there is hardly anything in there about her, just the people and action around her. So not the same emotional connections as, say, Ruby in Lock and Key.


Kristin I agree with everything you say. I certainly did lack "tension" and while I liked the fact the plot seemed realistic and not the stereotypical hyped up YA fiction, it seemed a bit too ordinary for me.


Leigh I used to a really big fan of Sarah Dessen and I still like some of her books. But this one was a pretty big disappointment for me as well.


message 42: by b.l. (new) - rated it 4 stars

b.l. i love when she cameos characters as well :)


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