Cover of What Happened to Goodbye, with a girl in jeans standing on top of a yellow suitcase oozing out clothes

About the Book

Title: What Happened to Goodbye
Published: 2011
Swoonworthy Scale: 5

Cover Story: Body Bag It
BFF Charm: Yay!
Talky Talk: Straight Up Dessen
Bonus Factors: Tasty Business, Deb, Miniature Models, Dessen Easter Eggs
Relationship Status: Like Family

Cover Story: Body Bag It

Not only is this girl missing her head like a normal Dessen cover model, she’s missing her entire upper half. SOMEONE CALL CSI OR BONES OR SOMETHING. I seriously cannot wait until this designer’s contract expires so we can get some cover art worthy of the rich content inside. Also? What kind of example is this setting for the teenagers of America who are trying to pack a suitcase?

The Deal:

If you’ve ever moved to a new town, you know how hard it can be to make friends and figure out that even though Skidz may have been SUPER cool at your old school, they’re actually just baggy and ridiculous-looking at your new school. Damn you, tricky sixth grade fashion! Anyhoo, not only has Mclean (yes, that’s her name, and yes, it’s weird, but there IS a reason for it, so no need to dial the YA police) experienced the challenge of this transition numerous times, she’s actually gotten good at it. Like, almost too good. Ever since her mom cheated on her father and they got divorced, Mclean’s been traveling around the country with her dad, who has a job fixing failing restaurants. In each town, she picks a new identity, from preppy club joiner to totally artsy thespian, because being someone else is easier than figuring out what it really means to be Mclean.

And then she arrives in Lakeview and finds that, in spite of her best efforts, she has to be herself. While her dad is busy finding and correcting the weaknesses of the restaurant Luna Blu, Mclean begins her own form of rebuilding. Aided by some new friends and an adorable genius named Dave, she must wrestle with all of her past selves in order to discover the one true self that’s been there all along.

BFF Charm: Yay!

Yay BFF Charm

One day, I’m going to refuse to give my BFF charm to a Dessen heroine, and you guys will totally freak. And that day will be April Fool’s, because PSYCHE! It’s impossible not to love her main characters, even ones like Mclean who can’t seem to handle emotions. I admit, it’s a little weird that she’s slapped on other personalities with the ease of Sydney Bristow, but I also see it as a defense mechanism. I mean, how else could she deal with attending four schools in two years? She’s a survivor, and I admire the way she takes care of her dad, who’s too busy to really be much of a father figure. They’re more like partners in crime, always on the run from the past. I would be happy to give Mclean a safe place to be herself, and even if she decided not to take me up on it, maybe she’d still invite me over to the restaurant for a free meal because I LOVE FREE DINNER.

Swoonworthy Scale: 5

It’s true that this rating is a little lower than your average Dessen novel. And while I certainly missed some of the sa-woon, Mclean’s story isn’t really about romance, and I respect that. But before you start to panic and reach for your well-worn copy of The Truth About Forever, know that Dave, Mclean’s neighbor, is pretty dang cute. He’s a certified genius with reeeeeeally overprotective parents who just wants a normal life, and his attempts to reach out to Mclean embody those qualities with a brilliant awkwardness. There’s one gesture in particular (don’t worry, I won’t spoil it) that occurs near the end of the book that really, REALLY got me. Dave may not be an MLD, but he’s definitely a keeper.

Talky Talk: Straight Up Dessen

What more can I add to my previous raves about Sarah Dessen’s beautifully simple, quiet style? Her dialogue continues to be natural, her characters real, her pauses thoughtful. Her habit of wrapping up each passage with a reflection stood out more to me in this book, and I don’t know if that’s because, as a swimfan, I’m hyper aware of her style, or because she employed that technique more frequently. Either way, this book, like all of her others, is well-paced and engaging, which unfortunately means it was over far too quickly.

Bonus Factor: Tasty Business

A burger, beer, and bucket of fries on a plate.

If all future YA books somehow got stranded in one setting, and one setting only, I would want it to be a restaurant. Because who cares about exotic cities and sci-fi dystopias when you can read all about tasty business being consumed? Seriously, I would have LOVED growing up in a restaurant like Mclean did. I would also be a thousand pounds fatter because the “Just Say No” program in elementary school didn’t cover free fried pickles, which is what they serve as a complimentary appetizer at Luna Blu. Do you hear that, non-fictional restaurants? FREE WATER IS NOT ENOUGH.

Bonus Factor: Deb

Reese Witherspoon as Tracy Flick in ELECTION

Dessen is a master at creating quirky, insanely lovable supporting characters, and Deb is definitely the gem of this book. She’s organized and extra like Tracy Flick, but instead of harboring a mean streak, she collects a variety of hobbies, including playing drums in a thrash metal band. A champion of acronyms, Deb is an endearing, mystifying package of contradictions, and I wish we’d gotten the chance to know her better. Here’s hoping she makes an EEA (Easter egg appearance) in DNB (Dessen’s next book)!

Bonus Factor: Miniature Models

TINY THINGS ARE THE CUTEST!!! And Sarah Dessen is obvs aware of this fact of nature, because she has Mclean and her friends working on a miniature model of the entire town of Lakeview. What’s weird is that some of the characters act like it’s this huge burden that instead of doing boring history homework or studying for an AP test, they have to put together tiny people and tiny houses and tiny trees! Hello, they are SO LUCKY. Esp. if tiny food is involved. OMG TINY FOOD!

Bonus Factor: Dessen Easter Eggs

Wooden sign for Lakeview surrounded by trees and plants

I love how Dessen weaves characters and places from her various books together, because it’s like running into old friends and getting a tiny peak and where they’ve ended up. There’s some great eggs in this book, but one in particular took me by surprise, and I can’t wait to hear what y’all think about it…

Relationship Status: Like Family

Even though I just met this book, I feel like we’ve known each other for ages. Hanging out together is incredibly comfortable and nice, whether we’re talking a mile a minute or sitting in companionable silence. This book knows exactly when I need a laugh or a smile, and I’m always happy when it’s around. In fact, I’d gladly replace one of my relatives just to give this book a spot at the family dinner table.

FTC Full Disclosure: I received my ARC from Penguin. I received neither money nor cocktails for writing this review (dammit!). 

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Sarah lives in Austin, and believes there is no such thing as a guilty pleasure, which is part of why she started FYA in 2009. Growing up, she thought she was a Mary Anne, but she's finally starting to accept the fact that she's actually a Kristy.