What Happened To Goodbye, by Sarah Dessen
Genres: Young Adult, Contemporary, Romance
We make such messes in this life, both accidentally and on purpose. But wiping the surface clean doesn’t really make anything any neater. It just masks what is below. It’s only when you really dig down deep, go underground, that you can see who you really are.
I was having a bit of a crisis.
The other day, I kid you not, I started—and stopped—three books in the same hour. Three. None of them were pulling me in, and it was getting me worried that I was entering a reading slump. Reading slumps are my living hell.
So I reached out for the one author I knew wouldn’t let me down. And, sure enough, she didn’t.
One of my goals in life is to read every one of Sarah Dessen’s books. She was there for me in sixth grade after I’d finished Harry Potter and I had no idea what to do with myself anymore. She’s created her own little pocket of universe, with recurring characters and places in every one, and everything feels so familiar to me that opening up one of her novels is like greeting a long-lost friend.
I’m over halfway through that list of her books, and I can’t wait to finish it.
Mclean’s story is all about change. Her dad is a restaurant consultant, and she’s constantly traveling with him, moving from place to place. In every town, she changes herself, from her name to her appearance, too scared to be herself anymore. When she arrives in Lakeview, she expects the same thing—but her plans start to fall through, and she ends up as Mclean again, even though she doesn’t know who that is.
Anyone who has read one of Sarah Dessen’s books before is familiar with how she writes. It’s like a second language. Her writing flows, and it wraps around the story, her characters, and makes them shockingly real. There’s this indescribable spark that makes it so easy to follow along with the characters’ long, aimless conversations.
“When I was a kid, I was crazy for miniatures.”
“Miniatures?” I asked.
“You know, dollhouses and such. I especially loved historical stuff. Tiny re-creations of Revolutionary War cottages, Victorian orphanages. That kind of thing.”
“Orphanages?” Dave said.
“Sure.” She blinked. “What? Anyone can have a dollhouse. I was more creative with my play.”
“Dave was, too,” I told her. “He was into model trains.”
“It was not trains,” Dave said, annoyed. “It was war-staging, and very serious.”
“Oh, I loved war staging!” Deb told him. “That’s how I ended up with all my orphans.”
I just looked at both of them. “What kind of childhood did you people have?”
Her books never fail to make me smile. They’re uplifting, because underneath is an important message: about yourself, about your family and those you care about. Sarah Dessen reaches matters closest to the heart, and she gets there with stories so relatable, you can’t help but picture yourself in them. I had this experience when I read Saint Anything last year, which remains my favorite of her books. If you’re ever searching for a heartfelt contemporary that will bring you comfort, Sarah Dessen is your woman.