Goodreads Summary: "Who is the real McLean?
Since her parents' bitter divorce, McLean and her dad, a restaurant consultant, have been on the move-four towns in two years. Estranged from her mother and her mother's new family, McLean has followed her dad in leaving the unhappy past behind. And each new place gives her a chance to try out a new persona: from cheerleader to drama diva. But now, for the first time, McLean discovers a desire to stay in one place and just be herself, whoever that is. Perhaps Dave, the guy next door, can help her find out.
Combining Sarah Dessen's trademark graceful writing, great characters, and compelling storytelling, What Happened to Goodbye is irresistible reading."
At some point in their life everyone wishes they could be someone else, that they could reinvent themselves or that they could have a do-over. Some of us are even lucky enough, or perhaps unlucky enough, to get one in one way or another. I know when I was on vacation I used to reinvent myself all the time when we'd actually go someplace different; it was always easier to proceed with confidence when you knew you weren't going to be stuck with these people for the rest of your life, they were just tourists. You could be anyone to them and they wouldn't know the difference. This is how McLean lives. Moving around all over the country with her father she gets the opportunity to become someone different at each stop, to try on a different persona, a new mask, to be someone other than whom she was before. [Again, Sarah Dessen characterizes something that all of her readers can relate to and shows us why exactly we have to be careful what we wish for.]
Don't get me wrong, I really liked Dave. He's smart, sweet, and still so boy-genius awkward. But at the same time he didn't really strike me as a Dessen Boy, he just doesn't have that stand out appeal. When I think of Sarah Dessen I think of boys like Dexter, Wes and Owen. These are boys that exemplify ideal to me, yet ideal in a reachable standard. Basically perfect. While Dave is a sweet boy and perfect for McLean in a lot of ways, he's easily forgotten too. He gets lost in the crowd. In fact until I scooped this one up for a reread I wasn't even recalling his name, just random glimpses of his persona. Very unusual for a Sarah Dessen boy.
But its okay. Because What Happened to Goodbye isn't about McLean finding the perfect boy, its not pure romance. Yeah, Dave helps her out but this is McLean's story about coming to terms with McLean and who exactly that is. And how she fits in to her unusual family, if she even fits in. This is a story of learning to be okay with who you are, facing those demons, facing your past and embracing them. The other characters? They're sounding boards, they're caring friends that force McLean to really think about who she is and how she got there. They help her but they don't define her.
Perhaps more so than any of her other books What Happened to Goodbye is a coming of age story, or really more of a coming to terms story. Of facing the music. Of accepting who you are. Of letting people in. Of being a family. What Happened to Goodbye has romance, and it has its funny points, but at its heart it is a story of accepting yourself and becoming part of a family.