What Happened to Goodbye is the tenth of Sarah Dessen's novels about teenagers relating to parents, finding themselves, and falling in love. They all inhabit the same universe where they cross paths at the beach in Colby, eat at the Last Chance diner, and log on to Ume.com. Sticking to her typical formula, Dessen adds Mclean Sweet to this world.
After Mclean's parents' divorce, she and her father move around the country while he consults on restaurants. The pair thrive on reinvention, with Mclean choosing a new identity (and nickname) in each new town. When they land at the Luna Blu restaurant, suddenly Mclean finds herself unwillingly putting down roots by making quirky friends, getting involved in a community project, and (of course) meeting a cute boy.
The secondary characters in this novel interested me far more than Mclean and her embattled parents. Nearly all of them seemed to have more depth and fascinating backstories. I applaud Dessen for the friendship between Dave, Mclean's love interest, and Riley, another girl in the circle. Platonic friendship is rarely explored in YA novels and is such a rich source of material. By far, my favorite character was Deb, who was layered with so many surprising traits. I would love for a novel about her, but I doubt SD will do that because Deb is far too normal a name!
Sarah Dessen is a pro at what she does, but What Happened to Goodbye felt more like a 'paint by numbers' Dessen book than the real thing. I would love for her to write a novel with a male main character, a collection of short stories, or do something else that mixes things up for the reader and challenges her as a writer.