Posts tagged ‘sarahdessen’

August 12th, 2011

What Happened to Goodbye by Sarah Dessen; Review

by Madeleine Rex

Title: What Happened to Goodbye

Author: Sarah Dessen

Published: May 10th, 2011

Number of Pages: 402

Rating: 3/5


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.

Combing Sarah Dessen’s trademark graceful writing, great characters, and compelling storytelling, What Happened to Goodbye is irresistible reading. [From Goodreads]


Your past is always your past. Even if you forget it, it remembers you


If someone were to walk up to me and ask if I’d read a book by Sarah Dessen, I’d probably say, “Of course! I love her!”, but if I really consider it, I have to admit that I don’t love all of her books. Some of them, no matter how built-up they seem to be by her adoring fans, fall flat with me. They seem to be ghosts of books of hers that I like more, and I can’t help but feel that the storylines, characters, setting, etc. are getting kind of… stale.

Now, I don’t want to judge her next book prematurely. It could blow my mind – I hope it does – but this one certainly didn’t. What Happened to Goodbye is sweet. It’s nice. It’s sort of like a chick flick you go to see in theaters simply because you could use a little formulaic happily-ever-after in your life. Sometimes, you’re surprised by the wittiness, the characters, or – let me just say it – the wardrobe, and you decide to purchase that movie later. What Happened to Goodbye simply lacked that spice, that oomph to make it stand out.

McLean is likable, and I found her way of coping with her past (and present) intriguing. I know that I couldn’t shed my own character so swiftly and zip myself into the suit of someone else. I wish that we had learned more about her previous personalities and that they played a larger role in her development. The fact that she was changing herself was crucial, but I feel like an opportunity was missed to deepen her character. It would have been so much more interesting if Dessen had taken the time to make all the different McLeans matter. However, I wasn’t too caught up on this as I read and managed to enjoy the story just the same.

Dessen’s books tend to involve 1) Romance, 2) Family drama, and 3) The food business. Whether it be catering, renovating struggling restaurants (as in this book), or simply visits to a Waffle House. I love this aspect. Incorporating food always makes things better, does it not? I also appreciate the insight into jobs and businesses I likely will never be a part of on my own. I feel like an insider – like I’m getting a VIP sneak-peek behind the scenes.

The secondary characters in the novel are the main reason I didn’t enjoy this book as much as I did some of Dessen’s other novels (particularly The Truth About Forever, which remains my favorite). They seemed like shadows of characters in her other books (and the love interest is no exception, sadly). Perhaps she threw in a few quirks, a tattoo here, a dark past there, but their personalities were a bit too familiar. Ironically, one of the only characters to stand out to me has been in past books of Dessen’s – Jason. He’s taken quite a turn in his life, and I believe it’s done him wonders. I would love to run into him in future books and see what drastic changes he’s made, or how he’s settled. Either one would intrigue me, as he’s changed so much already.

I appreciate the fact that Sarah Dessen chooses to deal with some common issues. Divorce is, sadly, an incredibly common problem. Sometimes, it is for the best and the family manages to thrive afterwards. However, in McLean’s case, the divorce has thrown her life for a spin. There’s one passage in which she talks about this that rang true to me in an unexpected way (and also made me appreciate the wholeness of my own family):

But in the real world, you couldnt really just split a family down the middle, mom on one side, dad the other, with the child equally divided between. It was like when you ripped a piece of paper into two: no matter how you tried, the seams never fit exactly right again. It was what you couldn’t see, those tiniest of pieces, that were lost in the severing, and their absence kept everything from being complete.

Isn’t it gorgeous? And heart-wrenching at the same time? It’s thoughts like that in Sarah Dessen’s novels that keep me coming back for more, even when the book is a little lackluster in my eyes. She manages to encompass issues that rack peoples’ souls in one, dense paragraph.

Unfortunately, What Happened to Goodbye did not astound me or keep me turning pages wildly, but I appreciate it nonetheless for the profound or sweet moments scattered through it and would recommend it to the people who, when asked if they’ve read one of Dessen’s books, reply, “Of course! I love her!”

July 8th, 2011

Characters I’d Name My Sons After

by Madeleine Rex

The second installment in baby name posts! As I said before in my previous post, Characters I’d Name My Daughters After, I stole this idea from Audrey over at holes In My brain (a blog you should definitely read even if you don’t care what we want to name our children).

Characters I’d Name My Sons After:

Walter Blythe from the Anne of Green Gables series. Yet again another Anne character I actually intend to name a child after. I know Walter might not appear to be the most… attractive name to begin with, but read the books. Read the books and love them. Walter Blythe is someone I have a particular connection to – I love him so much. I can’t say more without revealing his fate, but he’s absolutely, unarguably inspiring.

Jem is also one of Anne Shirley’s sons. I’m not planning on naming a child after him because that would be overkill, but I love the name. It’s short for James, obviously, but the nickname is so endearing. He’s a brave, silly, and fantastic little boy who grows into an even more valiant and impressive young man.

Henry from Miranda Kenneally’s upcoming Catching Jordan. I love Henry. He’s beautiful with all his flaws and quirks. He’s the sort of character that immediately feels like a best friend you would love to have in real life, and sometimes it kills me that these fantastic characters can never love me back. Henry’s a gem folks, and I can’t wait for you all to have the opportunity to read Catching Jordan!

Wes from The Truth About Forever by Sarah Dessen (Review). The Truth About Forever was the first Dessen book I read, and I can assure you that Wes makes that book. Even amidst the terribly fun cast of the book, he stands out as the sort of boy any girl would be thrilled to have. I think he prompted me to say sa-wooon for the first time in my life. Need I say anything more?

Linden from Wither by Lauren DeStefano (Review). This name is so odd and beautiful at the same time. Plus, there are these mysterious undertones to it in my ears due to the mysterious nature of his character. I never know what to think of him, but I do know that I’m inclined to like him. You all need to read it and tell me what you think!

August 9th, 2010

Along for the Ride by Sarah Dessen; Review

by Madeleine Rex

Title: Along for the Ride

Author: Sarah Dessen

Published: June 16th, 2009 by Penguin Group

Number of Pages: 400

Rating: 4/5


“You know,” I said, “just because you’re a girl doesn’t mean you have to wear pink.”

“No,” Leah agreed, “but you don’t have to dress like a truck driver, either.”

“She doesn’t look like a truck driver,” I said.

Leah cocked her head to the side. “You’re right. She looks like a farmer. Or maybe a construction worker.”

“Because she’s not in pink?”

“She’s a baby,” Maggie told me. “Babies wear pastels.”

“Says who?” I asked. Esther opened her mouth to answer, but before she could I said, “Society. The same society, I might add, that dictates that little girls should always be sugar and spice and everything nice, which encourages them to not be assertive. And that, in turn, then leads to low self-esteem, which can lead to eating disorders and increased tolerance and acceptance of domestic, sexual, and substance abuse.”

They all looked at me. “You get all that,” Leah said after a moment, “from a pink Onesie?”


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. [From Goodreads]


We all know how I feel about Sarah Dessen. I love her writing, character development, etcetera. For the most part, I genuinely enjoy her books. The first one I read, however, has been my favorite (The Truth About Forever Review), and the two I read between this one and then have been slightly disappointing, due to unpleasant main characters, among other things. Along for the Ride, however, I liked much more, and it’s definitely taking the number two slot on my Dessen list. (And can you believe I’ve read four Sarah Dessen books in a month? This is ridiculous.)

I think the reason I enjoyed this book a lot more was the main character, but another key factor was the love story. This is quite important, seeing that the plots of Dessen’s books revolve around love stories (though I think they’re really about character growth at their core). I’ve had problems with the simple, quick ways people have fallen for the other person in This Lullaby and Lock and Key. I’m not saying they were head-over-heels in love right away. The characters would never allow it. No, my problem was that I didn’t see enough of the development of the relationship. There wasn’t enough conversation. There’s plenty of that in Along for the Ride (as there is in The Truth About Forever), and I believe that exponentially increased the fun-level of the book. You really, really got to know the characters through their back and forth, and you listened/watched as the relationships were built.

Auden was a lot more likable from the start. She wasn’t making incredibly stupid decisions, though she wasn’t making all the right ones she could have been. Her problems were of the social sort. She was a fairly cold character, far too logical. There comes a time when relying on your heart is acceptable – better – than the alternative. We’re given feelings and instincts for a purpose, and though we should listen and follow them within reason, I think it’s inherent that we learn that there’s a very happy little medium between coldly logical and thoughtless and flighty. I’m ranting…

Anyway, Auden was certainly rude and a prejudiced to begin with, but she wasn’t outright mean. She simply didn’t try to be nice. It’s a selfish way to be, but you know what’s great? She has a whole book to grow out of it. Her voice and attitude were clear. One thing about her original mindset that bothered me was that she didn’t like friendly people. There is something ethically wrong with that. I can’t respect, or really even comprehend, a disliking of people that are kind. When people make an effort like that, whether they’re shallow or brilliant or whatever, it’s their right to be treated well and for their kindness to be received with gratefulness. This could easily just be a pet peeve of mine, but I simply can’t understand how someone could not respect someone who makes the effort to be friendly by default. (Ranting again. I truly think I’m finished now.)

By the end of the book, however, people changed, despite Auden’s old belief that this was impossible.

The writing is just as smooth and marvelously invisible as ever. I love it when you can completely lose yourself in the image, as opposed to the words. When an author can paint a picture with such impeccable detail that you can taste/smell/feel/hear/see precisely what the character does. You can live the story. This allows you to feel closer to both the characters and the world because instead of being an onlooker, you’re a part of it.

Eli is certainly a character with depth, and I wish I could dig inside his head (in a non-gory, blood-free, no-permanent-damage-done kind of way). I love it when there’s a character that’s well developed and wonderfully portrayed that you still want to learn more about. Auden and Eli’s after-hours (but quite innocent, for the most part) activities were tons of fun, and I found comparing the childhoods of Eli and Auden quite interesting.

The parental relationships in this book were tenuous. Heidi (stepmom) was wonderful – no wicked stepmothers here, but Auden’s real parents were, um, handfuls. Her mother is someone you certainly shouldn’t judge prematurely (I did), but even so, her attitude and condescension were certainly uncalled for and incredibly rude. She’s not very likable, but she’s someone I learned to understand and feel for. Auden’s father, on the other hand… well, I thought he was rather selfish and immature and a pain-in-the-butt throughout the book. There comes a time when people are supposed to learn that relationships – and life in general – involves copious amounts of give and take. Effort. He’s prepubescent, in this particular area.

Overall, I really, really liked the book. It did fall victim to the “oh-my-gosh-they’ll-never-be-together-it’s-the-end-of-the-world” issue in the middle epidemic, but to a lesser degree, and it recovered from its illness swiftly. I’m certainly going to recommend it (especially to fans of Dessen’s books), and I’m very happy to say that it will make you feel good, thoughtful (what, you couldn’t tell this book made me think?), and satisfied.