Say Hello to Summer with What Happened to Goodbye
When I think summer reading I tend to think fun, light, easy-reading. Throw in some drama and maybe a little romance and we could find sunny perfection on paper. My brain doesn't long for deep topics or life altering content. But, that doesn't mean I don't want a good story with great characters that pull me in.
Sarah Dessen's young adult novel, What Happened to Goodbye, was a great way to get started on a summer of reading. From the moment you meet teenage Mclean and her dad over lunch at the Luna Blu you start to get a clear picture of who they are. Mclean is the new girl in town. Actually, since her parents ugly divorce, Mclean is the new girl in a new town for the fourth time in two years. While some teenagers would fight the constant moving and change... Mclean seems to welcome it and takes advantage of the situation in order to try to recreate herself (or, at least, pretend she's someone else).
But, this time in this town seems different. Without really meaning to, Mclean suddenly finds herself as "herself"... and she's not too sure she's comfortable with it... or if she even remembers who she really is. She finds herself making connections when she didn't plan to. And, she suddenly finds herself dealing with reality.
As Mclean was figuring out who she was and where her life was going I found myself really connecting with her. She was such a real teenager. I loved how I could visualize exactly what she was seeing as she made her way through the halls of her 4th new high school. As she picked out and described the cliques as she maneuvered her way to new class rooms it totally brought me back to my own high school... and made me wonder what it would be like to be able to walk into a new place and possibly just reinvent myself. The whole concept is intriguing. The story, and Mclean's life, definitely pulled me in.
I have to say that the ending of this story left me with mixed feelings. Without spoiling it I guess I could just say on one hand I felt like it was the perfect ending... a clean ending all wrapped up in a pretty box. On the other hand I DID do a lot of "well, I REALLY wish such-and-such had happened" or "yeah... I don't think so-and-so REALLY would have done that" or "if ONLY it had gone in this other direction." But, in the end, it's a young adult novel with a young adult ending.
While What Happened to Goodbye was my first Sarah Dessen novel I already had a number of her books on my "to read" list (including This Lullaby which was already on my Kindle). Since reading this book I'm really looking forward continuing with more of her writing. I imagine Sarah Dessen is going to accompany me on more than one vacation this summer.