Saturday, April 16, 2011

Book Review: What Happened to Goodbye by Sarah Dessen

Release Date: May 10, 2011
(I got my ARC from the RT Convention.)
Published by: Viking (imprint of Penguin)

What Happened to Goodbye by Sarah Dessen

Another town?  Another new school?

Mclean really doesn't mind.  In fact, she welcomes the chance to try on a new persona.  Ever since her parents' bitter divorce, she and her father have been on the move, leaving the unhappy past behind them.  And each move has brought a fresh opportunity for Mclean to reinvent herself.  Perky rahrah girl.  Drama mama.  All-round joiner.

But here in Lakeview, for the first time she's putting down roots, making friends, and just trying to be someone she hasn't been in a long time: herself.  Dave has something to do with it.  He's the most real person Mclean's ever met, and he thinks he's falling in love with the real Mclean.  Mclean doesn't even know who that is anymore, but she wants to find out--before it's time to move on again.

Perceptive, touching, surprising, Sarah Dessen's eagerly awaited new novel creates a world her legions of fans will not want to leave.

First off, let me just say that I'm not a serial fan of Sarah Dessen, but I have read and enjoyed The Truth about Forever from her.  I also liked this book, though not quite as much as The Truth about Forever.

Ten Likes/Dislikes:

1. (+) The Protagonist - I've lived in the same place for my whole life, but despite that--despite the fact that I can't exactly identify with Mclean's struggles--I can still sympathize with her.  She's caring, protective, strong but vulnerable.  I loved being with her as she figured out who she really was and dropped the personas she had adopted in the past.
2. (+) The Rest of the Characters - Even though it's essentially Mclean's story, Sarah Dessen still created a cast of characters who also capture your attention.  Dave, Riley, Opal, Mclean's parents, Heather, Jason, even Tracey--they all had a story to tell.  Great character development.
3. (+) The Romance - Ah, Dave.  You caught my heart too... I don't even really need to say much about this--it's in the synopsis.  Dave is real and honest and allows Mclean to be herself when everything else around her is chaotic.  It's natural to root for their relationship, and the tension is done well too.
4. (+) The Writing - Sarah Dessen's writing is easy to read while packing a punch, particularly at the end of each scene.  Then, it becomes poetic in the way it explores the emotional conflicts--No home, no control, and no idea where I was, only where I might be going or Like I, too, had been tunneling, digging, and had only just now come up for air.  Both descriptions reflect Mclean's struggles.  Beautiful.
5. (+) Emotional Conflict - As I hinted at the protagonist section, the emotional conflict was done really well.  (Based on this and The Truth about Forever) I can say that if there's anything you can expect from a Sarah Dessen novel, it's an emotional roller coaster that stays touching throughout the ride.  I particularly enjoyed what she does with "Ume.com" and "the 2 a.m. friend."
6. (+) Perfect Length - I debated about this for a while, but I decided my issue was that I'm a romance junkie and would have liked more action between Mclean and Dave.  Disregarding that, I think the way the book was written meant that the characters were developed really well, the emotional conflict resolved, and the romance introduced... aka it was the perfect length for everything to work out well :).  The novel felt complete.
7. (--) Pacing - That being said, I thought the pacing was a bit slow at times. (...though I've noticed that I'm kind of picky about this in books I really like.)
8. (+) Basketball/Restaurant World - Loved it all!  I played basketball for a very long before I quit, and I could understand losing something you once loved like that... Yet, it means much more for Mclean (than that); Sarah Dessen uses this and her father's restaurant job to really characterize the characters (the rush and not thinking about the present until it hits them full on, etc.)
9. (+) The Humor - Even though the novel centers around Mclean's identity crisis, there's still plenty of humor, and that comes from having such awesome characters.  Deb and her acronyms (STOW, POW, etc.) and the SEXXY mirror/love triangle deal, Dave falling flat on his back after getting whammed by the basketball, etc.; it was nice to have these and other moments in the midst of Mclean's struggles.
10. (+/-) The Cover - While I like the image of her standing on top of her suitcase, I'm not sure what the deal with the pink curtains and white bedspread is.  I think the designers could have done a better job with that selection... like maybe a basketball court or something fading in the background to represent running away from her past?  Or maybe just a plain white background so as to not distract from the suitcase... But then again, I noticed most of the covers for her novels are simple so I could be reading too much into it.

Yay!  Sarah Dessen created another novel for all of us to enjoy :).

If you'd like to read this book, check out the giveaway!

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