I Wish What Happened To Goodbye Was Around When I Was A Teen
With the recent Wall Street Journal article "Darkness too Visible", young adult fiction has been in the news more than ever as of late. While I do believe that there is certainly a place for the "darkness" that some YA novels contain, I can also remember being a teen reading YA novels and often thinking, "My life is so not like this"' Perhaps I was a bit of a bookworm, but my teenage years were largely spent studying obsessively for AP exams and writing college essays -- I simply couldn't relate to the lives of most of the YA characters that I read about, from their hardships to the depths of which they seemed to fall in love. I enjoyed reading about a world that was completely different than my own, but sometimes I also wished to happen across a character that I imagined would be my best friend in real life. Happily, Sarah Dessen's What Happened to Goodbye gave me just that.
Indeed, it was the character development that won me over and impressed me -- Dessen created quirky characters with substance and wit, who I loved reading about. Even the minor characters like Riley's parents were developed so thoroughly that I felt an attachment to them and wanted to be invited to their home for dinner. I could see a bit of my bookwormish teenage self in Deb, who seemed to be an expert on everything from heavy metal to model cities.
And yet, as in real life, none of the characters were without their flaws. They all had their own individual "stuff" to deal with -- not being sure of who you are, not feeling like you fit in with your peers, earning back the trust of your parents after being caught at a party, and the divorce of your parents. What teenager doesn't deal with one or all of those issues? I loved that none of the characters were perfect, because ultimately, that's what made them real. They became people that I could imagine as friends. Friends who I love, flaws and all.
I've not read any of Dessen's other novels so I'm not sure whether or not this is a fair assessment, but I had always thought of Dessen's books as teenage love stories. However, this novel seemed to be much more about self-discovery, friendships, and family dynamics than about teenage love, which I was pleasantly surprised about, because again, sometimes I have a hard time relating to the intense love stories in YA novels.
Overall, I really enjoyed What Happened to Goodbye, and wish that it would have been on the shelves when I was a teen.