Sarah Dessen As My Postpartum Doula

BlogHer Review
What Happened to Goodbye showed up in my mailbox during my second week of recovery from giving birth to a surrogate baby, and was a welcome distraction from the loud call of my messy house. Sarah Dessen's world pulled me in, and encouraged me to sit down and take it easy during my postpartum period with 17 year-old Mclean Sweet and her friends.

Two years ago, Mclean left town with her father. He was divorcing her mother and jumping from one restaurant consulting position to another; Mclean was divorcing herself, developing a new fake persona in each town. Using variations on her middle name, Eliza, Lizbet, and Beth each had a stereotypical personality that kept everyone at arm's length. But when she and her father arrive in Lakeview, life starts happening to Mclean before she can decide who to be. Instead, she begins to find out who she has become.

Dessen writes honestly, if a little pointedly (a Deep and Meaningful Phrase ends each chapter and section of the book). Even though I've got a decade of life experience on Mclean, I really identified with her struggles to find herself. I also identified with her father's plight, her mother's angst, and the adolescent awkwardness of her friends. Mclean's world was a comfortable place to curl up and lose myself for half an hour several times a day, and even after 400 pages (but only three days), I was sad to put that world away.

To be fair, though, my sadness may have had something to do with the incredibly sudden ending. As I felt the right hand side of my open book getting thinner and thinner while approaching the ending, I remember wondering how on earth Dessen was going to wrap everything up neatly in such a short space. The answer was that she didn't, really. The ending, while sufficient, was rushed, and I felt cheated out of the richness that filled the earlier chapters. I guess 400 pages is already too much for this sort of book?

However, I guess that's a backhanded criticism and the fact that I didn't want to leave speaks to how much I enjoyed the world Dessen created, and the depth and realism of her characters. What Happened to Goodbye is a paradoxically relaxing journey back to the struggles of finding yourself for older readers, and for the intended young audience, it's undoubtedly a place to find someone who really "gets it."


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