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.