What Happened to Goodbye: A Sweet Take on Teenage Relationships

BlogHer Review

Sarah Dessen’s latest, What Happened to Goodbye, is an interesting study in relationships, their permanence and the impact of those relationships.

Mclean Sweet, the protagonist, has had a rough couple of years. Her parents went through a messy and public divorce, and she now moves around the country with her father revamping failing restaurants. They have moved four times in the last two years.

With each move, Mclean recreates herself. She becomes a popular cheerleader as Eliza. Drama queen Lizbet comes next. She moves onto Beth the ultimate joiner with the next relocation. Her plan to become Liz, the slightly wild child with their latest move, is derailed by her neighbor Dave on her first night in town.

The new personas are understandable -- they make moves easier, and after watching the implosion of her parents’ marriage, she’s nervous about getting too attached. McLean is so focused on not getting too close that she doesn’t even say goodbye when she and her father relocate -- hence the name of the novel.

Dessen makes Mclean sympathetic, yet infuriating -- very much a teenager. The relationships she forges at school are realistic, and the drama that she creates is absorbing.

The bonds that the real Mclean forms with her new group of friends strengthen while they build a model replica of their town. McLean spends so much of her free time building something tangible and permanent, that she realizes the importance of being real and really getting to know others.

What Happened to Goodbye is a touching, engrossing read. I didn’t want to put it down, and while the ending wasn’t too, too pat, it was satisfying.

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