Author: Sarah Dessen
Publisher: Penguin Young Readers Group
Release Date: May 10, 2011
Number of Pages: 402
Source of Book: Bought the hardcover because of the author
Author's Website: http://sarahdessen.com
Who is the real McLean?
Since her parents' bitter divorce, McLean and her dad, a restaurant consultant, have been on the move-four towns in two years. Estranged from her mother and her mother's new family, McLean has followed her dad in leaving the unhappy past behind. And each new place gives her a chance to try out a new persona: from cheerleader to drama diva. But now, for the first time, McLean discovers a desire to stay in one place and just be herself, whoever that is. Perhaps Dave, the guy next door, can help her find out.
Combining Sarah Dessen's trademark graceful writing, great characters, and compelling storytelling, What Happened to Goodbye is irresistible reading.
*************************I can't believe it took me this long to get to one, but this is the first Sarah Dessen book I've read! The reason I didn't start before now is because my students were devouring her books already, so I didn't feel like I needed to read them to promote them to my students. I can see why my girls love her books so much, and I should have started before now; however, it was the premise of this one that really made me decide to finally pick one up for myself.
Dessen's writing takes me back to high school - it's really great contemporary realistic fiction. It felt honest and real and like I could have been living in this town and been friends with these people. I liked this particular book especially because of the dad and his relationship with his daughter. It was interesting to see the side of a divorce where the daughter wants to stay with the dad. It was also intriguing because of the dad's job - as someone who comes in and rehabs failing restaurants (it reminded me of that show, Bar Rescue). I found it really interesting to see some of the behind-the-scenes of the restaurant business.
McLean is a fascinating character who is trying to figure out her real self as she deals with the divorce of her parents while she's in her final year of high school. Because she is with her dad she has a unique situation because he has to move a couple times a year for his job. McLean is able to keep transforming herself with each move, but it is actually a way of hiding from figuring out who she really is/wants to be. She's also a really good/kind-hearted person overall; although, she is struggling with her anger at her mother of her cheating and causing the divorce. McLean does a lot of observing of others and includes those who might be outcasts - and that is a quality I think more people should have because as she finds out, you never know how great that person might turn out to be. I would be happy to have my students read McLean's story and want to emulate her character.
This story is very multilayered with themes about family, divorce, friendship, small towns, and the desire to figure out one's true self and direction in life. The multiple subplots at play are integrated so well into the overall storyline that they just feel like they have to be there to make a complete story. It's one of the things I liked most about Dessen's style of writing - it all flows together but creates a story that is much deeper because it is addressing so many aspects of life, not just the main plot point as some books do. My favorite subplot was related to McLean's inclusion of a supporting character who no one else has given a chance. I was easily able to get lost in the world Dessen created, and her style of writing didn't pull me out of the story at all, it just flowed easily.
WHAT HAPPENED TO GOODBYE is one I will be hand-selling in my classroom for sure. I will definitely be reading more Sarah Dessen books, and encouraging my students to as well!