What Happened to Goodbye

What Happened to Goodbye
Sarah Dessen
Penguin, 2011

Summer is never truly ‘Summer’ for me until I read a Sarah Dessen novel. This is a reading philosophy I shall be exploring in a future post, so for now just know: Sarah Dessen = Summer. This is why I am always so very excited when a new Dessen novel is published, and why I was giddy beyond belief when I found out a new novel was coming out this summer. I’ve been counting the days between when I found out about it back in the fall, and when I got my hands on it a few weeks ago. What Happened to Goodbye … the title is arresting, the cover is intriguing, and – the most important point: It. Is. A. New. Dessen. Novel. Okay, so maybe I’m sounding a little fangirly, but anyone who has read – and been touched by – a Sarah Dessen novel will understand what I’m saying here. Okay, enough of the prelude, let’s talk about the book!

McLean has spent the last two years of her life in motion, running from whatever ghosts might come from the past to haunt her if she stops. She and her father have been physically moving around the country, but McLean’s ‘journey’ is more than that – she recreates herself in every new town. Until she arrives in Lakeview, and a surprising boy interrupts her ‘creating’ and she finds herself as simply ‘McLean.’ This surprising boy – Dave – and the equally surprising friends she finds herself surrounded by, gently force McLean to rediscover who she really is. To find the real McLean, and give her a chance. It’s hard, it’s messy, and McLean fights it like there’s no tomorrow. It’s what she needs though, and probably, somewhere deep inside, what she wants. Nothing ever comes easy, and nobody can go through life without making mistakes – and McLean definitely makes some. But that adds to the realism and charm of the story. One of the things I love about Dessen novels is how human her characters are: they have moments of incredible blind-stupidity, they have their scars and their ghosts. They’re just like you and me. McLean could be one of many girls who see their family dissolve and have to come to terms with their new reality, and decide if they are the same or different.

What Happened to Goodbye is funny, thoughtful, pure Dessen goodness. Everything readers have come to expect is delivered, complete with an adorable new hero (Dave may actually rival Wes for my favorite Dessen boy now, hard as that is to believe!). It’s a story that caught me up and I couldn’t put down until it was finished, and it also made me think. Think about the different masks we were, the different versions of ourselves we show the world. I liked McLean, I could relate to her and I was happy she actually grew out of the place she started from. Definitely a new favorite summer read.

Book provided by my local library.


  1. I have got to read a Sarah Dessen novel! Everyone is always raving about her!

  2. Totally agree that it's not summer until I have a new Dessen in my hands. I've been reading her books since my teen years and will never give her up! Glad to hear this one was worth a read and has an adorable male lead . . . can't get enough of those guys. :) Great review!