Review: What happened to Goodbye by Sarah Dessen

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.

First, I must admit that this was my first Sarah Dessen book (gasp!)  Although one of the most well -known contemporary YA authors out there, I just haven’t been pushed to pick up one of her works (until now).  I really needed an audiobook for a long drive and I happened to come across What Happened to Goodbye.  The audiobook itself was narrated wonderfullyMeredith Hagner by Meredith Hagner. She nailed the ‘teen voice’ bang on (especially Heather).

The storyline itself was OK.  The very character driven book focused largely on McLean’s relationship with her parents and the aftermath of her parent’s divorce.  Since the storyline is slow and steady, some parts did drag on.  However, since the characters were so well developed, it was easy to feel for them as well.  I felt McLean’s anger toward her mother, and her protectiveness over her father.  Yet, I did not really feel the whole romance connection between McLean and Dave.  There was not enough focus and exploration of this relationship to really convince me.

I enjoyed the restaurant aspect. It reminded me of being in an episode of ‘kitchen nightmares’ minus the terrifying Gordon Ramsey.  I used to work at a restaurant so the descriptive kitchen scenes transported me right into the chaos of dinner rush.  I could almost taste the fried pickles!

Overall, this contemporary book deals with some sensitive issues that many teens can identify with, including identity and family issues.  See more praise for this charming book below.

“Readers can count on Dessen; she’s a pro at creating characters caught at a nexus of change, who have broken relationships and who need to make decisions.” (Kirkus Reviews )

“Dessen’s prose is clean and focused, the characters are developed and real, and the plot is believable. Mclean’s journey through the healing process after her parents’ divorce provides bibliotherapy for any teen dealing with family issues, and the secondary plot of tentative steps toward trust and friendship is beautiful. This is a must-have for any young adult collection.” (VOYA )

 

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Notes from the Blender by Brendan Halpin & Trish Cook

Summary from Goodreads-

Declan loves death metal–particularly from Finland. And video games–violent ones. And internet porn–any kind, really. He goes to school with Neilly Foster and spends most of his classroom time wondering what it might be like to know her, to talk to her, maybe even to graze against her sweater in the hallway. Neilly is an accomplished gymnast, naturally beautiful, and a constant presence at all the best parties (to hich Declan is never invited). She’s the queen of cool, the princess of poker face, and her rule is uncontested– or it was until today, when she’s dumped by her boyfriend, betrayed by her former BFF Lulu, and then informed she’s getting a new brother–of the freaky fellow classmate variety. Declan’s dad is marrying Neilly’s mom. Soon. Which means they’ll be moving in together.
 
Just as the title suggests, Notes from a Blender has a ton of elements
mixed into one contemporary story about two angry and confused teenagers learning the meaning of family. Mix up a little bit of heartbreak, a touch of grief, two tablespoons of divorce, one cup of homosexuality, with a pinch of bullying and you get one touching, relatable, humorous story.
 
For me, the best thing about the book was the male/female author
collaboration of Halpin/Cook. Readers are clearly able to tell the difference between the two distinguished voices. I loved the alternating points of view, changing from chapter to chapter that show each side of simultaneous events happening throughout the story.
 
Having both female/male points of view will appeal to both female and male readers. Males will be able to relate to the awkward and hormonal Declan. Although Declan is painfully honest about his inner feelings, I really didn’t care to hear about his frequent boners, masturbation, love of porn and sexual thoughts. Too much information! Girls will relate to the beautiful, popular Neilly. Although she is sometimes shallow and self-centered, she falls for the wrong guy and is betrayed by her best friend. For all the unexpected surprises thrown at her, she continually demonstrates how strong and loyal she is.
 
Declan and Neilly together are an interesting duo. Despite their differences, they quickly take to each other, becoming friends and in
turn, help each other grow and change. While this is all nice and great, I would expect a blended family to experience a little more difficulty. Yes, both kids had anger toward their parents, but I would expect a little hostility toward their new step-siblings as well. There was none in this case, and that’s why I’m not so sure this family blending is realistic.
 
Another aspect I found unrealistic, was that almost every character
expresses their disgust with anyone who drinks. Since Declan’s mom was killed by a drunk driver, I can understand why he disagrees with drinking, but why is Neilly so against the idea? For trying to be edgy and in-the-know with teens, you would think that the authors wouldn’t try to be overly preachy about not drinking. I felt the subject was pushed too hard.

Overall, a solid 3.5/5.

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