Sarah Dessen has been a main staple in young adult literature for more than ten years. Before the supernatural, fantasy, and dystopian books all came into play, most teenage girls had their hands on a Sarah Dessen novel. Throughout all the years, Dessen had remained a very popular author. Last month, I went to one of her book signings and was very surprised to see how packed the bookstore was. Women (and some guys) of all ages gathered around to hear her speak about her latest book, What Happened to Goodbye. After a month of watching the book sit on my desk, I finally decided to give it a read. It’s been a long time since I read a Sarah Dessen book (Probably like 7-8 years? Yup, that long.) So I was curious to see how my older (hopefully a lot more mature) self would react to Dessen. Overall, the experience was more positive than negative.
What Happened to Goodbye is about a girl named Mclean, who is constantly on the move. Her father is a restaurant consultant/ fixer-upper. His job requires him to jump from place to place, and since Mclean chose to live her father after her parents’ terrible divorce, she obligingly follows along. In the previous places she lived, Mclean always took on a new persona, one time a popular cheerleader, another time a drama club queen, etc. However, once Mclean arrives in Lakeview she isn’t able to get past just being herself. As she starts to form genuine friendships, she starts to understand more about her life and herself.
Dessen is a great character writer. Mclean is a fully formed and interesting character. It is easy to become empathic towards her, especially when dealing with her rocky relationship with her mother. Also, I can always count on Dessen to bring a string of great side characters, all balancing off Mclean well. It’s because of her characters that teenagers keep coming back to her books. It’s hard not to like them, and they almost make you want a sequel.
Almost, being the key word. While Dessen writes great characters, her plot structure is the same as her other books. I can honestly say how each of novels will end without reading them. This is what stops her books from being great. Yes, Dessen has tackled a lot of issues and brought real teenage voices, but the stories are still awfully predictable. I’m not sure if it’s something intended, like a “Sarah Dessen book” has a signature structure. I guess in the end, it doesn’t matter because girls are still grabbing her books off the shelves.
Although predictable plots somewhat peeve me, I still had an enjoyable experience reading What Happened to Goodbye. Maybe because it had been so long since I’ve read her books, that it seemed fresh in my mind. I do recommend it as a summer read though. Just kick back, relax, and enjoy this one.
Check out pictures from the Sarah Dessen book signing on our Facebook Page.
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