Book Review: What Happened to Goodbye by Sarah Dessen

What Happened to Goodbye by Sarah Dessen is the charming story of high school senior, Mclean. Mclean’s life was her family, her family’s restaurant, and basketball… until their restaurant went under. Then, her mother cheated on her father with his favorite basketball team’s coach, and got pregnant. With twins. Needless to say, her parents suffered a bitter divorce.

Disgusted with her mother– who now has the audacity to act as if nothing’s the matter, and even fight for custody of Mclean– Mclean chooses to follow her dad and his new restaurant consulting job. But Gus Sweet’s new job requires constant moving, every several months. No problem; Mclean takes it as an opportunity to totally reinvent herself in all her new towns and schools. But now in Lakeview, her attempts at creating another alter-ego are thwarted.

Mclean tries to avoid establishing attachments, because she knows at anytime her father’s job may relocate them. But somehow, new friends are finding her: from Opal, the tattooed, retro-punk manager of Gus’s new restaurant; to Heather and Riley, the cool girls, yet something of misfits themselves; to Deb, the type-A personality “spaz,” who also happens to have a good heart and a surprising interest in metal music. And then, of course, there’s Dave, the long-haired boy genius who lives next-door. Despite her efforts to be standoffish, Mclean can’t help but begin to fall in love with Lakeview, her classmates at Jackson High, and the colorful staff at her father’s latest restaurant. But causing turbulence behind the scenes is Mclean’s mother. Guilt-ridden on her father’s behalf, but wanting to avoid another custody battle, Mclean endures awkward dinners and basketball games with her new step-dad and toddler-age half-siblings, and a mother whom she hardly recognizes anymore.

I loved reading about Mclean’s friends and their own stories. I also enjoyed the scenes with the restaurant staff. Even Mclean’s mother, whom you can’t help but both pity and hate, is an interesting and sympathetic character. Mclean’s lovable, handsome workaholic father is someone I missed as soon as the book ended. But the true heart of the story are Mclean’s friends – in particular, her budding relationship with the kind and mysterious Dave. This novel had heart and soul, and I would recommend it.

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