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Sarah Dessen

missing imageWhat Happened to Goodbye is the tenth novel published by bestselling young adult novelist Sarah Dessen, a former teacher at the University of North Carolina. Two of her novels, That Summer (1996) and Someone Like You (1998), were adapted into the 2003 film How to Deal starring Mandy Moore.

The Story: After her parents' acrimonious divorce, high school student Mclean Sweet opts to live with her father, a consultant who travels from town to town overhauling failing restaurants. With each move--four in the last three years--Mclean has taken a new name and invented a new personality, playing a game of who's who with herself and the world around her. But Lakeside is different. Mclean suddenly finds herself trying to be Mclean, but she's not entirely sure who that is anymore. She makes friends--including the cute boy next door--and begins to discover what she's been missing. But the threat of another move looms over her, and her new life hangs in the balance.
Viking Juvenile. 402 pages. $19.99. ISBN: 9780670012947

Atlanta YA Lit Examiner 4 of 5 Stars
"Mclean is a typical teen with typical identity issues, parent problems and, of course, romance roadblocks. Additionally, Dessen is able to present a realistic teen scene without the ‘parent alerts' that seem to fill so many teen novels today--no drugs, sex, alcohol, etc.--while maintaining a real sense of the hardships that are teen life." Mechele R. Dillard

Los Angeles Times 4 of 5 Stars
"Dessen takes a refreshing, hormone-free higher road that stays focused on Mclean's emotional growth, while incorporating details that remain true to modern adolescence. ... Her expository writing is poised, her dialogue authentic, her characters relatable, her story relevant." Susan Carpenter

Seventeen 4 of 5 Stars
"You'll love it if you have read and re-read any (or all) of Dessen's books. If you're having any pangs of ‘I-don't-know-who-I-am,' Mclean's journey might feel both familiar and inspiring to you." Rachel Lutz

Youth Services Corner 4 of 5 Stars
"Sarah Dessen has perfected the contemporary realistic YA novel and her latest entry yet again hits all of the right marks. She fluidly integrates narratives about family, friendship, and romance into a coherent story that never feels bloated."

Y.A. Reads 3.5 of 5 Stars
"It's clear she's finally forming her true identity and re-learning a lot about herself, but I can't help feeling like I didn't get a really strong sense of her personality." Kiona

Critical Summary

Dessen's realistic, down-to-earth novels are noticeably devoid of the characters and storylines that populate much YA fiction today. Not only are her vivid characters human--no vampires, werewolves, or wizards to be found--but Dessen also steers clear of clichés (mean girls, sex-crazed jocks) and lurid melodrama (alcohol, drugs, sex, and violence.) Instead, she focuses on relevant issues that real teens face every day: divorce, heartache, alienation, healing, and self-acceptance. And these she explores with sympathetic candor and humor. Y.A. Reads lamented its inability to get a real sense of Mclean as an individual, but it still pronounced her "likable" and "relatable". Overall, Goodbye is "enjoyable from start to finish and won't disappoint longtime fans or new readers" (Youth Services Corner).