Saturday, May 28, 2011

OOps! She Did it Again!

What Happened to Goodbye
Bless you, Sarah Dessen. I read a lot of paranormal, science fiction, etc., but sometimes I need something of this world. Something without werewolves, faeries, vampires, or fallen angels. Sometimes I need real people with real problems. Something without centuries old vendettas or grudges between Greek, Roman, or Norse Gods and Goddesses. And certainly, sometimes I just need a sweet story, full of love, mistakes, life, and people. Real people. People people. And when I feel this urge, I know Sarah Dessen is waiting for me like a best friend after a catastrophe. She always makes me feel all warm and fuzzy inside, and What Happened to Goodbye is no exception!

Mclean is the daughter of a basketball fanatic. A Defriese U basketball fanatic to be entirely accurate. Her parents lives consisted of running their restaurant and their favorite team's stats. When the longtime coach retired, a new, younger coach takes over... both the team and Mclean's life. Her mother eventually leaves her father for the new coach, sending Mclean's life into a tailspin. Now she lives with her father, but where they live is constantly changing.

After the divorce he accepted a job traveling to different restaurants and bringing them back to life. This means Mclean Elizabeth Sweet gets to reinvent herself every few months. She has been Liz, Eliza, Beth, Lizbet... everyone except Mclean. But something happens in this new town. In Lakeview, she accidentally lets Mclean out of the box and can't seem to put her away. She makes an odd group of misfit friends, meets a boy she can't quite peg (which is intriguing), and even begins to like the people at the restaurant her father is supposed to either save or abandon. When things start to fall apart and her father is preparing to move on again, Mclean realizes she has been hiding from who she really is since the divorce. Can Mclean really become Mclean again? If she becomes who she once was, will all the pain and betrayal come back too?

I like this story, because it really examines the consequences of divorce. I happen to be the child of two happily married parents, but that isn't terribly common these days. In fact, I am never surprised to hear a student's parents are in the process of or already divorced. But even with the high divorce rate in this country, the act of a kids parents splitting up is still traumatizing. Sometimes I think we even trivialize it if we aren't in the middle of it, and that just makes me sad. What we forget is how many kids are out there who are suffering from divorce and how that affects them in every aspect of their life. This book really shows how one young woman, despite two parents who love her deeply, can be damaged by their separation. It doesn't beat around the bush, or soften the blow; instead it just gives you a peak at her life, for good or for bad. You won't be able to forget Mclean or what has happened to her.

As is typical of Dessen, this book has very clean language and scenarios. Dessen doesn't need harsh language or adult situations to make you feel for her characters. All she needs is the Dessen touch to help you get to know them. This book would be good for any young woman or young man (although probably more likely a young woman), middle school through high school, depending on the reading level. I think it might be particularly helpful for any child who has recently gone through a parents' divorce and is still feeling the consequences of the divorce. Sometimes, kids just need to know there is someone else out there who has been through the same tough times and come out on the other end just fine.

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