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 her neighbor Dave, an academic superstar trying to be just a regular guy, can help her find out. Combining Sarah Dessen's trademark graceful writing, great characters, and compelling storytelling, What Happened to Goodbye is irresistible reading.
Sarah Dessen is young adult author royalty with numerous awards and a best-selling streak. She is known for creating authentic characters in various family predicaments and on journeys of self-discovery. What Happened to Goodbye follows this formula while managing to be fresh and moving.
Dessen’s newest teen protagonist, Mclean, is ready to start over yet again. After her parents’ messy divorce, she chose to live with her father who has a consulting job for failing restaurants. For two years, she’s moved every few months, becoming a new person in every new town. When she arrives in Lakeview (a familiar town for Dessen fans), she must decide who she wants to be and how she’s going to handle her estranged mother.
New narrator Meredith Hagner, a former soap opera star, performs the book like a conversation and nails the dialogue with convincing teen inflections and fast pace. While Hagner’s rapid fire dialogue works well, her fast performance of the expository narration makes it hard to follow and enjoy Dessen’s sharp writing. In the latter half of the novel, she settles into a better rhythm and gives a strong performance.
Sarah Dessen consistently captures the angst of high school and family dynamics. Usually there’s a romance angle, and What Happens to Goodbye has Mclean dancing around a perceptive and smart boy next door, Dave Wade. Some Dessen devotees might be disappointed that there’s less of a love story in this book than some of her previous novels. There is more emphasis on other secondary characters though, an interesting assortment of teens with their own challenges.
What Happened to Goodbye is a great choice for female young adult readers, both avid and reluctant. It’s an engaging and satisfying listen, perfect for road trips and book groups. Meredith Hagner has a promising start as a narrator and Dessen adds to her excellent body of work. Julie MacDonald
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