What Happened to Goodbye is Both Heartbreaking and Heartwarming
By Kami Lewis Levin on June 25, 2011
Ahhh, teen angst. I'm not sure if it's because I work with high school kids or if it's because my teen own teen angst continues to live strong, but I simply can't enough enough young adult fiction. I'd take it intravenously if I could. This month, I read What Happened to Goodbye, by Sarah Dessen for the BlogHer Book Club.
I couldn't put it down.
What Happened to Goodbye is about a 17 year old girl named Mclean whose identity was seriously shaken after her parents ugly divorce. She was propelled from nice, normal family to the daughter of a single dad in the food biz, constantly bouncing from town to town and while her dad attempts to reinvent sub par restaurants, Mclean attempts to reinvent herself. Over and over and over again.
After changing her persona several times, she and her dad end up in a town, time, and place where she accidentally rediscovers herself. And she realizes that while starting fresh all the time makes the going away easier, ultimately, what's easiest, is to not go away.
Mclean is a teen of today. She has a cell phone. She texts. She IMs. She uses Ume.com, the fictional equivalent of Facebook. And it's ultimately this technology that reveals her many selves to the community she's built, in the town she feels most herself in. It's fascinating. As a girl who came of age during a time when cell phones looked like bricks and there was no world-wide web, I can't imagine what a life online must be to kids like Mclean: a tool of constant reinvention. All you needs to do is to create a new profile and you're a whole new person.
But reinvention, like lying, can become exhausting. And riddled with holes. And confusion. And emptiness.
What Happened to Goodbye charts Mclean's journey from messed up kid from a broken home to a woman-child who finally gets how to truly connect with people, and how important that connection is.
It's a very quick read, it's heartbreaking and heartwarming, and, of it's course sweetly romantic. It is YA after all. Mclean is a protagonist I rooted for from the start and I really enjoyed watching her struggle and grow over the course of the novel. Dessen deftly creates clear relationships between her characters and lovable voices. I give it a thumbs up for sure.
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