“…In the dimness, the model looked surreal… It reminded me of the way cities and towns look when you are flying at night. You can’t make out much. But the places where people have come together, and stayed, are collections of tiny lights, breaking up the darkness.”
What Happened to Goodbye is the story of a girl. Mclean Sweet. Whose family and life fell apart when her mother had an affair. Since then she has been constantly on the move, constantly changing herself in every town she lives in. But (slightly predictably) this town, these friends and this boy. They will be different.
This novel is about change- a theme that can be found in many books about adolescence. Change that can control and how to deal with the change that you can’t control. How to hold on to your own identity when you are constantly changing everything around you.
This is one of those teen girl/easy read books. It can be, as I have experienced, very hard to find one of these books that are actually worthy of your time as they can be trashy or predictable. But I can promise you Sarah Dessen’s books aren’t quite like that. They may be aimed at young teen girls but I was never bored.
At the heart of the novel are a series of relationships. Mclean and the gorgeous boy next door- Dave, Mclean’s father, her newly found friends, her alienated mother and step-father. But most importantly; Mclean’s relationship with herself. It may sound rather cringe-worthy but Dessen tackles the issue in an impressively un-embarassing, not too predictable ‘find yourself’ way.
There is a really sweet moment nearing the end of the novel which involves the model community that Mclean and her friends have been responsible for building throughout the book. I’m not going to give it away but if there was just one thing that made the whole novel worth reading, it was that moment. I melted.
At no point does the writing overshadow the story or vice versa. Each is perfectly suited to the other- a seamless combination of a witty yet solemn, original and simple blend of good writing and a good story.
The only thing missing for me was Mclean’s Mother’s explanation of why she had an affair. This is something Mclean regularly dwells on and it is this detail that changed Mclean’s life initially. Sarah Dessen normally ties up most details by the end of the novel so I was surprised that this one was left unresolved.
For those who may have read Dessen’s previous novels, there were also subtle mentions of her other characters. I spotted Jason from The Truth About Forever lurking around and even Annabel and Owen from Just Listen were included in a scene, like extras in a film. It made me smile.
4/5 I’ve read all of Sarah Dessen’s previous novels so I can honestly say that this is one of her best. If you liked The Truth About Forever or Just Listen, or if you’re just looking for a lovely little quick read- you’ll love this.