After my Sarah Dessen mega-post, I did manage to get my hands on the last three Sarah Dessen books I was missing. Most of what I’ve said about Dessen before still applies, so this will be a short-ish post on all three books, with blurbs and stars, really.
It’s been so long since Auden slept at night. Ever since her parents’ divorce—or since the fighting started. Now she has the chance to spend a carefree summer with her dad and his new family in the charming beach town where they live.
A job in a clothes boutique introduces Auden to the world of girls: their talk, their friendship, their crushes. She missed out on all that, too busy being the perfect daughter to her demanding mother. Then she meets Eli, an intriguing loner and a fellow insomniac who becomes her guide to the nocturnal world of the town. Together they embark on parallel quests: for Auden, to experience the carefree teenage life she’s been denied; for Eli, to come to terms with the guilt he feels for the death of a friend.
In her signature pitch-perfect style, Sarah Dessen explores the hearts of two lonely people learning to connect.
This book is set in Colby, the beach town which was the setting of Keeping the Moon, and has throwbacks to the characters and places we saw in that. Auden is a high-maintenance, perfect, pretty dislikeable girl who’s ‘not like other girls’ and I was all poised to hate her from the off. Dessen, however, has a way of making even the most judgemental girls seem humanised and get under their skin in a way that makes me love them. I loved Auden and I really, really liked Eli – I think he might’ve been my favourite character of any Dessen book – and the journey they went on together. This book did, to a degree, follow Dessen’s normal character arc – girl heads toward redemption during the summer until, near the end, something goes wrong, and then it’s all fixed at the climax of the book but, to be honest, I don’t care. I really enjoyed this book, and didn’t find it formulaic at all.
Who is the real McLean?
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.
Combining Sarah Dessen’s trademark graceful writing, great characters, and compelling storytelling, What Happened to Goodbye is irresistible reading.
What Happend to Goodbye is back in Lakeview, home of most of Dessen’s books, and it’s a quiet, unassuming sort of book. McLean is on her fourth school in two years, and has taken on a new persona in each of them so far. But in Lakeview, something happens, and she suddenly starts to be McLean again. Making new friends and finding a guy all come together as she finds who the true McLean is and starts to get past her parents’ divorce – it all sounds wonderful, but this one didn’t sit as well with me as lots of others. There was nothing really happening in the book, just a gentle sort of exploration of self, which was fine by me, until it all went wrong at the end. Things blew up really fast, and settled down again equally fast in a way which I thought was pretty damned unrealistic – it soured a book which I was quite enjoying up until then.
Luke is the perfect boyfriend: handsome, kind, fun. He and Emaline have been together all through high school in Colby, the beach town where they both grew up. But now, in the summer before college, Emaline wonders if perfect is good enough.
Enter Theo, a super-ambitious outsider, a New Yorker assisting on a documentary film about a reclusive local artist. Theo’s sophisticated, exciting, and, best of all, he thinks Emaline is much too smart for Colby.
Emaline’s mostly-absentee father, too, thinks Emaline should have a bigger life, and he’s convinced that an Ivy League education is the only route to realizing her potential. Emaline is attracted to the bright future that Theo and her father promise. But she also clings to the deep roots of her loving mother, stepfather, and sisters. Can she ignore the pull of the happily familiar world of Colby?
Emaline wants the moon and more, but how can she balance where she comes from with where she’s going?
Sarah Dessen’s devoted fans will welcome this story of romance, yearning, and, finally, empowerment. It could only happen in the summer.
Knowing this was my last Sarah Dessen book for a while (until she publishes again, what?!), I was prepared to give extra stars to this one for the sake of it. As it turns out, though, I didn’t need to. This book was enough of a departure from Dessen’s normal relationship arc that I found myself enjoying it for its own sake and not just because I wanted to enjoy it – Emaline’s relationship with Luke, with her dad, her brother, her sisters, her mom, her friends, and Theo, all enthralled me – I think this is one of Dessen’s best books, a perfect example of a gentle summer read about a girl finding herself and enjoying life along the way.