McLean’s old life was normal, back before her mother left her father for another man. But after their sticky divorce, her dad, eager to get away, took a Gordon Ramsay-style job reorganizing failing restaurants that necessitated a long-distance move every few months. Against her mother’s wishes, McLean went with him. In three years she’s gone to four high schools in four suburbs, and each time she’s used a new name and adopted a different personality to go with it. But now they’ve landed in Lakeview, and thanks to the charming characters at the restaurant and the smart, quirky boy next door, this temporary home feels like a real one.
Readers will root for the likable McLean as she meets people and softens her defenses. As a narrator she’s authoritative and self-aware, sounding almost like a movie voice-over—not surprising, maybe, since Dessen’s first two books were made into the movie How to Deal. A nice subplot that has McLean and her friends building a model of their town gives her the opportunity to make poetic insights about community, family and home. Dessen’s confident style makes What Happened to Goodbye a smooth and entertaining read.
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.
Here readers meet Mclean, who has been living a nomadic existence with her divorced father for the past two years, reinventing herself every time they move for his job (a restaurant fixer). For some reason, this town is different. She finds herself moving through the world again as Mclean—not Eliza, Lisbeth or Beth—and making friends, almost reluctantly. She's been avoiding her mother diligently, as it was her affair with the coach of the college-basketball program Mclean and her dad lived for that broke the family up. As she becomes closer with friends and the cute boy next door, she also finds herself involved in a project—assembling an intricate three-dimensional model of the town—sited in an unused room above the restaurant her father is trying to turn around. It doesn't take a keen literary eye to see that Mclean is literally building a community, both in the physical model and the emotional network she finds in her new friends. She's an entirely likable narrator, guiding readers through her story expertly, always consciously a beat behind them.
Even though Mclean's path is clear from the get-go, readers will enjoy every minute they spend with her. (Fiction. 12 & up)Copyright Kirkus 2011 Kirkus/BPI Communications.All rights reserved.
Dessen's 10th novel is another smoothly written journey of self-discovery. Mclean Sweet, named for "the all-time winningest basketball coach of Defriese University," has moved four times in two years, following her father's job as a restaurant consultant. Each time she moves she reinvents herself, not so much to try on a new identity but to rid herself of the original one--only daughter of a couple whose divorce was an awful, public scandal. It becomes clear that although Defriese basketball was her father's obsession, Mclean's idol was her mother, and Mclean's lasting anger adds an emotional punch to a long narrative that doesn't otherwise have much of an arc. It will delight Dessen's passionate fans that Mclean and her father have landed in Lakeview (capital of Dessenland) and that the action ricochets between there and familiar (fictional) beach towns. As Mclean figures out how to make peace with her mother, she relies on friends made at both school and at the restaurant her father is trying to save. Dessen delivers another cast of authentic, likable characters, struggling to make sense of the world. Ages 12-up. (May)[Page ]. Copyright 2010 PWxyz LLC
Gr 7 Up--Mclean Sweet, 17, has moved four times in the last three years. Surviving the scandalous breakup of her parents' marriage, she chooses to live with her father, a restaurant fixer who is assigned to a new project every few months. Although her mother, remarried and with three-year-old twins, tries regularly to reconnect with her, McLean is angry and resentful and will hardly have a conversation with her. In each town, she takes on a different name (some version of Elizabeth) and persona, and keeps personal relationships at arm's length. Now, in Lakeview, McLean is making friends in spite of herself. She is befriended by her neighbor and his close-knit group of buddies, and her resistance to making real and lasting connections starts to dissolve. Working together on an intricate model of the community is a not-so-subtle metaphor for Mclean building an emotional community for herself. When it's time for her dad to move on, she must decide where she will live for the final few months before heading off to college. Her ability to come to terms with the concessions and compromises people make in every meaningful relationship allows her to accept her fate as her dad is sent to another job and her mom moves (back) into her heart. These characters are real and interesting and the story line unrolls smoothly and with purpose. There's a slight lack of tension, however, that keeps it from being truly compelling. Still, Dessen's fans will be happy to devour this latest offering and will surely be able to relate to one of several engaging and evolving teenagers that populate the novel.--Karen Elliott, Grafton High School, WI[Page 114]. (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.