What Happened to Goodbye: A Good, Light Read

BlogHer Review

Sarah Dessen is an engaging writer with a talent for creating interesting characters. However, in her young adult novel, What Happened to Goodbye, Ms. Dessen falls short of her promise.

The author sets us up to expect an interesting read. She has created an arresting young character, Mclean, and she has placed her in interesting, as well as challenging circumstances.

As the story opens, we learn that Mclean is a teenager coping with the aftermath of her parents divorce. The break-up of her family was not only personally painful, but known to everyone in her community. Her father escapes from the hurt by taking a job requiring frequent moves. Mclean goes along with him, and she is at once his companion in flight, his daughter, and his domestic and emotional support.

Teens explore various aspects of their personality in their search to understand who they really are. This quest for identity is heightened in Mclean's case as her sense of self and sense of security have been shattered. The various moves give her a chance to try out her alter-egos, and she takes this to an extreme. The question presented in What Happened to Goodbye is whether she will be able to integrate her current persona with her true nature. Similarly, we wonder how she will handle the challenge of developing new friendships based on truth, as well as resolving old hurts.

So far, so good. This hook for the story line is certainly a creative one, and Ms. Dessen's writing draws the reader in. Unfortunately, the story calls for a deeper treatment of its themes, yet the book skims along the surface.

Once you pass the age of 21, it's hard to write dialogue that sounds as if its coming from the mouths of teens. This is somewhat true of the conversations in What Happened to Goodbye. There is something about them that doesn't ring quite true.

One device Ms. Dessen employs to try to make the dialogue seem more "real" is to use mild cursing. Teens today do hear every profanity known to mankind, but I prefer well written young adult fiction that uses cleaner and more creatively expressive speech.

Who doesn't enjoy a good beach read now and again? I imagine that What Happened to Goodbye was meant to be light. If that is what you are looking for, you won't be disappointed in What Happened to Goodbye. Even though the novel works on that level, I was left with the haunting feeling that it could have been more.



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