What Happened to Goodbye: YA Fiction in the Real World
I’ve been reading a lot of YA fiction lately, but most of it has been sci-fi/dystopian/life-in-a-future-world fiction. I wasn’t sure I’d appreciate YA without the sensational aspects of corrupt governments or genetically enhanced humans. I needn’t have worried -- Sarah Dessen's What Happened to Goodbye was a great read about normal high school students facing normal problems in the current world. It kept me engaged and interested to the end, even without a post-apocalyptic setting.
Mclean’s parents have gone through a very public divorce, and when her father has the opportunity to move out of state to pursue a job opportunity, she goes with him. Their moves from town to town allow her to become a new person each time -- a preppy scholar in one town, a popular cheerleader in another. Knowing that another move was most likely around the corner, she never lets herself to become too attached, or really to ever be herself. But it also means that she never truly faces her problems, and changing wardrobes and nicknames will only hide them in the short term.
I could absolutely identify with Mclean’s desire to become a new person to avoid her problems. Who hasn’t wished they could become another person to avoid a problem or situation that you just don’t want to handle? I can’t be alone in that, right? Granted, denial and avoidance will only get you so far, and you need to take a deep breath and confront your problem. Which is what Mclean eventually does.
I also have to give a huge thumbs up to the fact that the story didn’t have boy troubles as a central theme. There were no love triangles, no “will he ask me to prom” dilemmas, which I always assumed filled the pages of most current YA fiction. To read about a teenage girl who didn’t have dating as the center of her world was a relief. It means that this book won’t sell “Team This Guy” merchandise, but I think that’s a good thing.
Bottom line: Great book for teenagers and adults alike. Really glad I read it, and that I found a whole new genre of YA fiction to explore.