What Happened to Goodbye by Sarah Dessen (NY: Viking, 2011).
Mclean Sweet welcomes the change that a new town and new school bring her, and this is her fourth town and school in two years! She enjoys trying on different personality types--cheerleader, prep, drama junkie--using a different variation of her middle name in every town. Ever since her parents' divorce, Mclean has felt disrupted, so the moves help her avoid her own feelings and assume those of whoever she's reinvented herself as. She particularly wants to avoid her mother, whom she not only blames for the divorce, but sort of envies for having reinvented herself.
Now, though, in Lakeview, Mclean's kind of been trapped into being herself. Maybe it's the guy next door, Dave, who is himself so genuine and trusting, or maybe it's that she likes the people she's been meeting. Whatever it is, she finds herself not only making friends but getting involved in ways she hasn't in her previous towns. And that includes dealing with her feelings about the divorce and her mother's role.
Mclean is a wonderful, realistic character, definitely not a type, and Dessen casts her into a position with which many readers will identify--honest self-discovery. Mclean has channeled a lot of anger over the divorce onto her mother, and their interactions add a lot of interest to the plot. Mclean's father, though, clearly has his own issues, and those become clearer as Mclean rethinks her position. The restaurant setting, especially the restructuring imposed by Mclean's father, informs the plot significantly, as does the civic project of creating a scale model of the town in which Mclean finds herself involved. Mclean's developing relationships with Dave and other people underlie the novel's attention to the importance of forming ties--instead of always avoiding or severing them, as Mclean has opted for in the past.
Superb novel, highly recommended for ages 13 & up.
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