What Happened to Goodbye

Book review by
Darienne Stewart, Common Sense Media
What Happened to Goodbye Book Poster Image
Popular with kids
Thoughtful look at teen finding self after parents' divorce.

Parents say

age 13+
Based on 1 review

Kids say

age 12+
Based on 13 reviews

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Educational Value

Teens who read this book may be interesed in the author's other YA novels, several of which are reviewed on this site. Parents can use the questions in the "What to Talk About" section to encourage more discussion.

Positive Messages

Honesty and sincerity help Mclean break down some of the walls she’d built around herself and connect with people authentically. She realizes that while she can pretend she can go it alone, it’s through connecting with other people -- family and friends -- that she feels at home in the world. As her relationships deepen, she realizes how people can be much more complex and surprising than they first seem.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Mclean, though a bit of an emotional mess, is a very capable teen. She runs the household and handles much of the logistics during each move because her dad is so busy. She resists peer pressure and reaches out to Deb, introducing her to a growing circle of friends who appreciate her quirkiness and strengths.  


This story is about a family torn apart by a parental affair. There are a few references to people making out, including a parent, and some very mild kissing scenes.


Mild curse words and occasional coarse language, including a car dubbed “Super S--tty.”

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Alcohol use is treated very casually. One boy, arrested when caught drinking beer, is pitied by his friends for his parents’ strict response.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that this story is about a family torn apart by an affair. The heroine’s parents divorced after her mother began an affair with a well-known basketball coach, resulting in a very public scandal. The teens have a very casual attitude toward drinking alcohol. One boy is under close supervision by his parents after getting arrested for drinking at a party, and his friends contend his parents’ response is draconian. The capable protagonist Mclean has problems but she realizes that connecting with other people -- family and friends -- makes her feel at home in the world. As her relationships deepen, she realizes how people can be much more complex and surprising than they first seem.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Adult Written byvictorianmermaid August 6, 2015

It's a pretty good book

This novel is a good way to introduce your children into the real world. It has a good romance feel, but also deals with some real world issues like moving, fin... Continue reading
Kid, 12 years old March 29, 2013

A Great Read!

This book is a very good book, but I suggest that kids wait to read it until they are teens, or if they are mature pre-teens. This book is one of my favorites... Continue reading
Teen, 15 years old Written byMillyMolly December 28, 2011

Really good book

First Sarah Dessen book of hers that I have read, can't wait to read the next :) Very sweet story, and also finds herself again along the way.

What's the story?

Mclean and her dad set up house in a new town every few months, rootless and adrift in the wake of her mother’s affair with the coach of their favorite basketball team. While her mother starts a new life with a wealthy husband and two babies, Mclean struggles to find her own path. She feels protective of her father, pulled and pushed by her mother, and wary of feeling tied down by anyone as college gets closer and closer. With each move, she adopts a new persona: cheerleader, student organizer, drama kid -- until she arrives in Lakeview, where she finds herself making friends who really matter to her. As Mclean begins to lower her defenses, she starts to rediscover herself.

Is it any good?

Older tween readers will appreciate the authentic voice and realistic characters in this rambling but touching story. There’s much for them to connect with, including out-of-touch parents distracted by their own drama who leave their daughter to stumble along more or less on her own. This is familiar territory for Sarah Dessen, who again skillfully taps into the emotional life of teens. The characters are both eccentric and familiar, defying easy stereotypes. The storytelling is sometimes convoluted -- Dessen often skips backward and forward in the narrative, drawing unnecessary circles -- but on the whole it’s a well-told character study with a strong supporting cast.  

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about what drew them to this book. Have you read Sarah Dessen's other novels? If so, how does this one compare? Why do you think her work resonates so well with teen audiences?

  • Also, this book portrays alcohol use by teens as a minor, normal, no-big-deal issue. Do you think that's accurate, and a way of giving the story some authenticity? Is YA media at all responsible for shaping teen behavior?

Book details

  • Author: Sarah Dessen
  • Genre: Coming of Age
  • Book type: Fiction
  • Publisher: Viking
  • Publication date: May 10, 2011
  • Publisher's recommended age(s): 12 - 17
  • Number of pages: 402
  • Last updated: July 13, 2017

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