What Happened to Goodbye by Sarah Dessen is one of those books that I picked up solely because I loved the author. I’ve been reading Dessen books for a long time, having fallen across her novels early in my youth and had the pleasure of falling in love with one after the other. Of course, there have been some misses as far as her books go, certain ones that just weren’t as entertaining or whose characters I didn’t feel a connection to. What Happened to Goodbye is one that I had initially written off as good, but forgettable. And reasonably so as I really didn’t remember all that much about it when I picked it up for a reread this past month.
It was a bit terrifying to see how much of a connection I now feel to McLean, how relatable I felt her experiences and her life were to my own feelings. See, the first time I’d ever read this book, my parents were very much—in my mind, at least—happy together. Things have changed since then and honestly reading What Happened to Goodbye this time around was somewhat jarring. Mclean’s story begins with a divorce, her mother having cheated on her father and thus deciding to leave him for another man. Naturally, Mclean develops a strained relationship with her mom and her own way of coping with the changes as she moves from school to school with her father as a result of the new job he’s taken on after the divorce.
It’s not a story I ever thought I’d feel connected to.
Overall, the book generally isn’t one I was ever very in love with and that hasn’t really changed over the years. The love interest isn’t as quirky or lovable as many of Dessen’s others. The plot, while dull before, hits a little to hard to home now. I don’t really love any of the characters. And besides that, the novel has somewhat of a side focus on basketball and I am one hundred percent not a sports fan unless we’re talking about soccer (the real and not disgusting football, thank you very much). I think ultimately this book was never one that I’d enjoy much, though I can certainly see its appeal to others.
It reads like many of Dessen’s books, following a coming of age story for a girl struggling with something and ending with some sort of connection to a love interest. I love Dessen for her work, the predictability that you can expect from them, and the nuances that she brings to each one. And while I deeply enjoy many of her stories and will be reading them once again at some point in my future, this is the last time I’ll be reading What Happened to Goodbye. It’s a good book, but it’s not one I love.