Book review: 'What Happened to Goodbye' is compelling drama

By Melissa DeMoux

For the Deseret News

Published: Saturday, May 7 2011 3:00 p.m. MDT

“WHAY HAPPENED TO GOODBYE?” by Sarah Dessen, Viking, $19.99, 402 (f)

New York Times bestselling author Sarah Dessen creates a compelling drama in her newest book, “What Happened to Goodbye.”

In this novel, Dessen tells the story of McLean Sweet, a high school senior whose world has been shattered by her parents' muddy — and very public — divorce. Due to her father’s consulting job, McLean launches into a tag-team life, moving to four different towns in two years.

In each new city, McLean designs a new persona. She takes on a different name and picks a personality to match. From drama mama to perky cheerleader and everything in between, McLean isn’t sure who she really is anymore, and that is just how she wants things.

After yet another move, this time to Lakeview, McLean surprises herself by accidentally starting school as herself — just McLean. Despite her protective walls, she inadvertently makes friends with a quirky but lovable group of characters. Her accidental friends pepper her life with care and kindness, helping her to face tough decisions and her true identity.

For the first time since the divorce, McLean is tempted to put down roots and just be real. But is she ready to let her true self shine through? Is she willing to risk the hurt when she has to pack up and leave again?

The story is simple but emotionally powerful. Dessen is known for her love stories, and this tale does include a blossoming romance, but this book centers more on McLean’s troubled relationship with her mother. Balancing her bitter resentment with her aching need for mothering, McLean is faced with heartbreaking confusion and difficult choices.

This book is a quick read, even at 400 pages long. The characters are endearing and engaging. Readers will be drawn into the beauty and angst that drives the book. This is the story of good people trying to do the best they can to figure out their lives.

Parents should know there are some references to underage drinking and smoking in the book, however they don’t dominate the story. “What Happened to Goodbye” is a fascinating read that is sure to resonate with readers.

IF YOU GO ...

What: Sarah Dessen book signing

When: Friday, May 13, 7 p.m.

Where: The King’s English Bookshop, 1511 S. 1500 East, Salt Lake City

Web: kingsenglish.com

Melissa DeMoux is a stay-at-home mother of six young children who lives in West Valley City, Utah. You can email her at mddemoux@gmail.com or follow her adventures in motherhood at demouxfamily.blogspot.com.

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