Now, I thought. Now is when I introduce myself as Liz Sweet, clear this whole thing up. […] But for some reason, standing there, I couldn’t. Because despite my best efforts otherwise, Mclean already had a story here. […] She was not the same Mclean I’d been for the first fourteen years of my life. But she was Mclean. And not even a new name could change that, now.
So, in case it’s not obvious from the breakout quote there, Mclean Sweet (the main character in What Happened to Goodbye by Sarah Dessen) likes to change her name with every new town she moves to. Not only her name, but her persona. And she has moved A LOT in the past two years because her mom does something super scandalous that makes Mclean (a) want to flee and (b) want to try being someone different.
What I Liked
– I love Dessen’s writing style. She manages to be reflective and immediate all at once. Even though she writes with that sort of adult distance, the book still reads like an authentic teen experience. At times, though, I did feel as though Mclean sounded too grown-up, but the character is world weary, so it works.
– I actually liked the love interest. He isn’t damaged or broken, and it’s refreshing, especially after the last few. Also, he’s smart! I love smart characters.
– Speaking of smart, oh my gosh, I love Deb so much. I wish she were the star of her own book. DEB. I love you.
– All of the characters are great, really. I liked Mclean a lot. I thought she really epitomized the trauma of divorce and how confusing it can be. Also, there’s this great bit where she’s trying to remain loyal to her dad because he was the one wronged, and he tells her that it’s okay for her to want to spend time with her mom. Just…great stuff all around there.
– In fact, I enjoyed the relationship between Mclean and her dad as well as the complicated nature of Mclean’s relationship with her mom. We are talking season one and season two levels of Gilmore Girls writing here with the framework of complicated parent-child relationships. (If you haven’t seen the first two seasons of Gilmore Girls, I recommend you check it out.) That whole air of wanting things to be better than they are, but understanding that they can’t be and also understanding the frustration/desire that comes from all sides? Man. That is some good stuff. And Dessen delivers it here in spades.
– The setting is great. Between the beach and the restaurant, each place has its own feel and energy.
– It also amuses me that the kids in the past couple of books have been the same age as Dessen’s daughter. First, the couple planning the pregnancy. Then, the screaming baby. Now, the toddlers. Kindergarten or preschool next, I’m guessing.
What I Didn’t Like
– There was not enough Deb. Did I mention I love her? I love her.
In conclusion: This is a great read with great characters and an A+ conflict.
Support Your Local Library: 23/30; YA Reading Challenge: 15/20