What Happened To Goodbye Is About Choices

What Happened to Goodbye by Sarah Dessen isn’t so much about goodbyes as about choices. Mclean Sweet’s life is all about choices -- who to live with after her parents get divorced, what to call herself, whether or not to forgive her mother for the betrayal that tore her family apart, and what to do about the fascinating boy next door who seems intent on being more than friends. How do we choose who we are and can you really choose to be someone you’re not?

As far as young adult books go, What Happened to Goodbye is refreshingly realistic. No Gilmore-Girls-style ultra-fast banter or obscure pop culture references (although I have to admit I felt like Old McOlderson every time the characters talked about using their cell phones at school -- Isn’t that FROWNED UPON or something?), just real people having real conversations. Teenagers get grounded, get busted, drive crappy cars, work in coffee shops. Despite Mclean’s nomadic lifestyle thanks to her father’s job she still does homework, dodges conversations with her mom and has her share of awkward moments. Simply, I liked her and her friends.

I also found myself sympathizing with Katherine, Mclean’s mother, even though I originally wanted to write her off as Life Ruining Selfish Jerkface No. 1. Making mistakes and learning to live with them might be a theme in the book but COME ON, LADY. Cheating on your husband and then breaking up your family is just about the worst mistake I can imagine, especially as a mother. But then again, as a mother I can understand how much it must hurt to be pushed away again and again by your daughter, when all you want is a relationship.

Two TEENY TINY complaints: do people really call basketball nets “basketball goals”? (What do you know, Google says yes although I’ve never heard it before) and second, I wish Dessen had finished the part of the story about the abandoned hotel in Mclean’s back yard. It seemed like a fascinating detail to include but I was disappointed she never expanded.

In the end, What Happened to Goodbye was a satisfying summer read with the kind of happy -- yet plausible -- ending that won’t make you shout at your book.

Where to Buy What Happened to Goodbye

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