Whatever Happened to Goodbye

cover image for Whatever Happened to GoodbyeDessen, Sarah. (2011) Whatever Happened to Goodbye. New York, NY: Viking

Plot Summary:

McLean doesn’t mind moving yet again, she’s used to it by now.  She looks forward to reinventing herself yet again, creating a persona to match her mood, knowing that she can be someone else in another few months or a year.  But when MacLean starts putting down roots – and falling in love – she suddenly realizes that she’s not sure who she is anymore.

Critical Evaluation:

An utterly enjoyable read full of small moments rather than big events, Whatever Happened to Goodbye demonstrates all the characteristics that have made Dessen’s work a staple of any young adult collection.  The focus on handling change, human frailty, forgiving adults for being human, and being ready to take risks should appeal and speak to many teens. The ending was perhaps a bit too neat, not in that everything worked out in the end but that everything was resolved in a timely manner, leaving the story at merely good and not great.

Reader’s Annotation:

McLean doesn’t mind moving yet again, she’s used to it by now.  What she isn’t so sure about it staying in one place and putting down roots.

Author Information:






Realistic Fiction

Booktalking Ideas:

I’d start by asking listeners to imagine who they would be if they could reinvent themselves and then launch into the setup for the book.

Reading Level/Target Age:

4th grade/15-19

Possible Controversy:

Sad as it is that normal teen mistakes can make a book controversial, but MacLean runs away and several of the kids meet because they have to do community service and that might suggest endorsement to some parents.  Generally though, it’s a sweet book and probably won’t be challenged.

Reasons for Choosing this Title:

How in the world did it come to pass that I had not read anything by Dessen before this? I do not know, but that’s fixed now. And I will likely be reading more soon.


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