Sarah Dessen Provides A Perfect Adolescent Lit Read!

BlogHer Review

Do we ever grow up and grow out of trying to figure out who we are? Sarah Dessen's What Happened to Goodbye lets us relive our high school memories -- those conflicted days and years spent trying to figure out our places in the world and how we best fit into them.

“The name I’d chosen, the girl I’d decided to be here, was poised on the tip of my tongue. But in that place, at that moment, something happened. Like that quick trip below the surface had changed not only the trajectory of my life here, but maybe me, as well.”

In this work of adolescent fiction, Dessen does a fantastic job of portraying Mclean, the complex female lead, who is trying to find her own voice by trying on a new identity in each new place she moves with her dad who is a restaurant consultant. She quickly finds that in her new home in Lakewood, the façade will have to drop and she’s going to have to try being herself for once. The bulk of the story is Mclean stretching and growing her new self and finally finding that comfortable spot where she fits into her world. Dave, her love interest who has some problems of his own, has a pivotal role in helping her find that place.

However, this story isn’t one that focuses on puppy love. It takes a more realistic and mature approach on how relationships in our lives can help form who we are as people. Mclean’s divorced parents, her new friends at school, the people in her dad’s restaurant, and Dave all influence who she sees herself being. Her relationships with the people around her all transform and change as does her idea of who she is. Dessen does a great job of creating dynamic characters who all grow and change throughout the course of the story and mirror the changes Mclean goes through as she searches for her true identity. I also really enjoyed how she used the restaurant, Luna Blu, as a metaphor for the changes all the characters experience in the story. Dessen’s real life experience in the restaurant world brings a definite authenticity to the plot line and adds extra depth to the story.

Some adolescent fiction tends to be racy and try to entice by existing on the edge of what most parents might think is acceptable for their children to read. However, this book addresses the heavy topics of family relationships and identity without pushing any boundaries that might be considered acceptable for adolescent lit. This book is a perfect read for any teen or pre-teen girl or anyone looking for insight into how the teenage mind works.

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