I wanted a good book—realistic, but one in which characters could work out their problems. Some good writing. So I picked up Sarah Dessen because I knew she’d deliver.
In What Happened to Goodbye, McLean, now in her senior year, has been on the move with her dad for a couple of years. This following a really ugly divorce after her mother admitted that she was having an affair and in fact, was pregnant, as it ends up, with twins. To make matters worse, her mom’s new husband (and father of the twins) is the coach of the Defriese University basketball team. McLean is named after the previous coach and her dad is a rabid fan. Or was, until his wife left him for the new coach and for the scandal that ensued.
McLean’s dad is a restaurant consultant. He works for a company that buys restaurants and reinvents them, creating profitable businesses. He has to move after each restaurant is fixed. McLean moves with him, reinventing herself at each new school—she changes her name and becomes a cheerleader in one place, a goth girl in another. Yet when the two arrive in Lakeview, McLean makes friends and realizes that she cares about others, especially her super-smart nerdy next-door neighbor, Dave.
Though as a child McLean always had great times with her mom when her dad was working night and day trying to make his own restaurant profitable, and though she is told that her parents’ breakup was both their faults, she can’t forgive her mom and doesn’t want to be around her or her new family. By not complying with the legal terms of custody, she frustrates her mom, who consistently tries to reconnect with her and is willing to involve lawyers to get what she wants.
Though Dessen makes some weird writing choices in the last quarter of the book, giving outcomes of scenes and then giving the details of the scene (thus foregoing some of the suspense), I loved the characters and how they interact with one another. I love how McLean has to come to terms with her new life, with her mother, and with her new friends.
It was fun watching a character work out serious problems in a way that’s not perfect—things can’t be perfect—but in a way that’s positive. Because I liked McLean and wanted a good future for her. I think you will, too.