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Saturday, May 05, 2012

Book #12 of 2012: What Happened to Goodbye

I just finished my 12th book of the year: What Happened to Goodbye by Sarah Dessen.  I had previously read her That Summer and This Lullaby.  She writes young adult fiction of the "chick lit" genre.  All of the books that I've read by her could also be described as "coming of age" stories, as the main character is always going through a large transition.

This book was no exception.  17-year-old Mclean Sweet has been on the move for two years, ever since her parents got divorced.  She and her restaurant-consultant father have lived in four towns in two years.... which also means four different high schools for Mclean, and consequently, four completely different personallitites.  Since her parents split up, Mclean just isn't sure who she is, and she has developed a different persona in each town.... mostly to keep wiping the slate clean, forgetting her painful past.  She's been Eliza the popular cheerleader, Lizbet the drama queen, and Beth the student council good-girl.  But when she and her dad land in Lakeview (the setting of most of Dessen's books), she can't seem to figure out who to be.  Without meaning to, she shifts back into Mclean and actually starts to develop some real relationships, both with the kids at her school and the staff of her dad's failing restaurant.

The blurb on the back of my copy of the book (borrowed from my friend Andrea) reads: "Another town, another school, another role to play--even Mclean doesn't know who she is anymore.  But maybe Dave can help her find out..."  I actually thought that this was a serious oversimplification of the book.  While her friendship (and the possibility of something more?) with her neighbor Dave does help her to grow and re-form her identity, she also develops real friendships with the unlikely combination of Heather, Riley, Ellis, and Deb (who I found to be particularly interesting and wish had been developed further).

At its core, though, the story centers around Mclean's parents' divorce, her attempts to reconcile her present life to her childhood memories, and the current complicated state of her relationships with her parents.  I thought the book would focus on anecdotes of each of her personalities; instead, it demonstrated a longing for a simpler time.

While this book was more than the simple teenage love story that the cover seemed to indicate, it was also a lot lighter than the other books I've read lately.  I do love Sarah Dessen and plan to read more of her this year, and her stories of complicated family relationships always tug at my hearstrings.  Thumbs up for a lighter but still bittersweet read.

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