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Sarah Dessen's "What Happened to Goodbye"

Sarah Dessen’s tenth novel does not disappoint. What Happened to Goodbye follows Mclean Sweet, a senior in high school, through her struggles with trying to find herself. Her once stable home was turned upside down when her parents divorced after her mom fell for the college basketball coach, and gave birth to twins shortly after. Mclean now follows her father, a restaurant consultant who fixes up or shuts down failing restaurants, from town to town, state to state, as his job is always moving.

When Mclean and her father started moving around, Mclean took the opportunity to reinvent herself as a new person with a new name and attitude in each place. When Mclean and her father finally ended up in Lakeview though, that new image was never created, and Mclean was finally Mclean again. In the other cities and towns, Mclean made friends that were disposable. When she moved, she never said goodbye or kept up with them. But in Lakeview, the friends that she made were ones that, in the end, she didn’t know if she would be able to leave.

Mclean’s past comes to light with these new friends when they find her past ume.com pages (facebook.com in our world), and realize that she has had a different identity in each of the different places she has been. Then Mclean figures out the news. Her father is going to be closing down the restaurant in Lakeview, and moving to Hawaii for a new job. This turns Mclean’s world upside down, because of the connections she has made with her new friends.

The ultimate turning point in What Happened to Goodbye came when Mclean’s mother invited her to go to Colby, a quaint little beach town, with her and her twin step-siblings. This house, unlike what Mclean is used to, is a mansion sitting on the ocean. Growing up, Mclean was used to staying in a musty, dank hotel that no one knew about or wanted to stay at. While at this house, Mclean feels as if her mother is living another life completely separate from who she used to be, and after hearing her mother talk of how things aren’t as she thought they would be, Mclean flees to the hotel that she came to love to get away from it all.

Here, Mclean realizes that she needs to accept who she has become post-divorce, and allow life to take its course as it is supposed to. She rids herself of her “other lives” baggage, and becomes the Mclean that she was always supposed to be.

For any person who is coming-of-age or just trying to find themselves in life, this book will show you that even though this is a fiction world, losing yourself, and who you thought you wanted to be happens everywhere. Let life guide you as it is supposed to, and enjoy the ride.

 

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