Finding Oneself in What Happened to Goodbye
In What Happened to Goodbye by Sarah Dessen, Mclean Sweet faces the typical teenage angst in discovering who she really is. After her mother's affair and her parents' very public divorce, Mclean chooses to leave her hometown and her identity behind to move with her father. His job as a restaurant consultant takes them to several towns in a matter of a few years and gives Mclean the opportunity to reinvent herself with each new city.
Mclean becomes the popular girl, a cheerleader, then a drama queen in the theater group, then the girl everyone knew, student council, newspaper writer, volunteer; changing her name with each new place, all to hide from her past hurts. The moves are easy, one persona is exchanged for a new one with no attachments and not baggage. Mclean and her father's move takes them to Lakeview, and here, circumstances lead to Mclean revealing some of her true self then she has before, and realizing that she can't just leave everything behind.
In What Happened to Goodbye, Dessen touches on the core of the teenage identity crisis. What could happen, who could you be, if you could just leave it all behind and start again. In theory, Mclean lives the fantasy life that many teens dream of. Don't like who you are, who your friends are, what other people think of you? In a few months, you can try again, reinvent yourself, be a new person and see if you like that one.
But, in the end, Mclean learns the lesson that most of us learned in our growing up years -- in the long run, the only person worth being is yourself. And the journey to discover who she really is, while resonating with the intended teen audience, is one most adults can remember all too well.