Tag: Sarah Dessen

What Happened to Goodbye by Sarah Dessen

What Happened to Goodbye by Sarah DessenWhat Happened to Goodbye by Sarah Dessen
Published by Viking Children's on May 10th 2011
Genres: YA, Romance
Pages: 402
Source: Borrowed: ebook
Goodreads
three-stars

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 her neighbor Dave, an academic superstar trying to be just a regular guy, can help her find out

I read this for Romance Book Bingo 2017: Guy/Girl Next Door square.

Though I really did enjoy 2 out of the 3 Dessen books I reviewed yesterday, this one fell very short. It has classic Dessen moments (or what I consider classic). However, the flow of this book was pretty bad. It took me a while to get through it, and I am not going to lie, I started skimming a bit last night because I was seriously bored the whole time. I think the main issue was that I was not engaged with Mclean’s love interest (Dave) at all. He was just odd and lacking in so many ways. I actually did like Mclean’s father a lot, but her mother was problematic for me through the whole book. I feel like there was a side plot or something that should have been included to explain her perspective more. But honestly, she acted childish throughout and I ended up disliking her until pretty much the end. The secondary characters unfortunately really don’t shine at all in this one, and in her other books “Saint Anything” and “The Truth About Forever” I found the the secondary characters to be very developed.

The main character is Mclean. She is starting her senior year and dealing with being the new girl in town again. We quickly find out that Mclean lives with her father, whose job as a consultant for a huge restaurant corporation means that he is constantly moving around in order to fix or recommend closure for some restaurants. Mclean and her father have come to Lakeview, and she hopes they will stay long enough for her to enjoy her senior year. The biggest pain in Mclean’s life though, is that she feels lost and doesn’t know who she is anymore after her parents divorce. And we readers find out that this was a highly contentious divorce due to the fact that Mclean’s mother cheated on her father (with a man that her and her father saw as a hero) and quickly got pregnant. I don’t really know what to say about Mclean though. She definitely gets food and her and her father have a close relationship. But I never felt like I got what made her tick really. She’s obviously still upset by her mother tearing their family apart. And we know that Mclean chose and fought to stay with her father though her mother is angry about that. They have a blow up fight about halfway through the book, though Mclean is forced to capitulate to her mother or risk dealing with another court case to decide custody.

Secondary characters just felt too one dimensional for me to get an opinion on. Mclean’s dad at times seemed super wonderful, and then he would turn and be uncompromising. I don’t know if that was Dessen’s way of trying to show a bit of maybe what caused Mclean’s mother to cheat or not. Since the character of Mclean didn’t seem to mind I just didn’t know how I was supposed to feel as a reader.

Mclean’s mother was terrible. I really hate to read about cheating in romance novels anyway, but the woman acting like a spoiled brat through the whole book with her 180 in the end didn’t feel believable at all. You get that Mclean feels distant from her mother because it feels like she has created a whole new life and she wants her daughter there as well. But, she also doesn’t want to own what she did. And there was some sub-text there that Mclean’s mother and stepfather had some weirdness going on. Since Dessen doesn’t revisit characters in her books that I know of right now, this just ended up making the reading feel more muddled. I honestly didn’t get that Mclean’s mother loved her, she just wanted her in her new life and wanted things to be like they were. Obviously that can’t happen, hey you cheat, people tend to have feelings about it.

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And since the situation with the cheating and subsequent divorce was so messy, you think that Mclean’s mom would have some shame about it, but not at all. Eh. I don’t know what to say, you don’t want to be totally hard and not forgive, but I also would have dug a grave and put my husband in it (alive) if I found out that he cheated on me and was all laters baby I have an amazing new life.

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Yeah, I hate this phrase so much now.

Note: I am not married, do not be concerned for this mythical husband. I repeat, I am not married.

Other characters like Opal and Dave just read like cliches to me the whole way through. I honestly didn’t even get why Mclean was even talking to Dave at all or bringing him with her when she goes to watch a basketball game with her mother (something that the family used to love to do together) since he was honestly just the boy that lived next door to her and her dad.

Usually Dessen’s books have a more meaty plot to me. This one just flailed a bit too much for me. I also think Dessen rushed things a bit in the beginning of the book and then slowed down way too much. The flow was all over the place and the time periods kept jumping back and forth too much.

By the time we get to the ending, I had a sense of whiplash and we had some hastily thrown together information regarding where everyone was now (and happily I might add) that once again didn’t feel realistic.  Everything just didn’t fit. And since I thought wet noodles are more romantic than Dave and Mclean were supposed to be, her whole well maybe one day I will just follow him around thing just gave me a hard pause.

three-stars

The Truth About Forever by Sarah Dessen

The Truth About Forever by Sarah DessenThe Truth About Forever by Sarah Dessen
Published by Speak on May 11th 2004
Genres: YA, Romance
Pages: 398
Source: Borrowed: ebook
Goodreads
five-stars

In The Truth About Forever, when asked how she is coping with her father's death, invariably seventeen year old Macy Queen's answer is "fine," when nothing could be further from the truth. In actuality, she is drowning in grief while maintaining a flawless façade of good grades and unblemished behavior. Though she feels lost when her boyfriend heads to "Brain Camp" for the summer, she finds herself a job with the quirky Wish Catering crew, and meets "sa-woon"-worthy Wes, whose chaotic lifestyle is in direct opposition to her own.

As the two share their stories over the summer, Macy realizes she can no longer keep her feelings on ice. Though it feels like her future ended with her dad's death, Macy's learns that forever is all about beginnings.

This one hit all of the high marks for me. I think that Dessen takes a really good look at grief and how hard it is to bounce back from a death. We have several teens in this book that had tragic things occur and I loved the different reactions by all of them. And I thought the ending, while showing how one can move on, didn’t just slap a bow on things either.

Macy Queen is dealing with the death of her father. Her favorite person in the world dies before the start of this novel. Readers find out that Macy and her dad loved to go running together, and one day when she decided to sleep in rather than go with him, she finds him later on the ground having CPR administered to him. That moment and others haunts Macy. I maybe teared up a lot while reading this book. Probably because it hit close to home for me. Something similar happened to me in college with coming home to find ambulances surrounding my home and finding paramedics working on my father. My brother was upstairs hiding, and I was hit with the thought that my father was dead. You don’t understand a world in which you exist and your parents no longer do. It feels just as backwards to us as it does to parents when they have to bury a child.

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So believe me I got the character of Macy. You go from being in a fog and okay again so many times you don’t know what to do with yourself. Macy who is dating the most terrible person ever named Jason (seriously he is the literature version of Ted Cruz) is doing what she can be to be perfect for her mom and Jason. She finds herself opening up a bit though when she gets interested in the catering family that comes to one of her mother’s house selling events. Macy becomes intrigued by them and finds herself working for the catering crew because she finds them so loud and also just alive. The owner of the catering company, Delia made me laugh a lot.   But I also loved brothers Bert and Wes (Delia’s nephews) and sisters Kristy and Monica. There’s a running gag that Monica doesn’t really talk just mmmms and when she speaks in complete sentences at the end of the book I maybe fell over laughing my butt off.

All of the secondary characters felt very real to me. I get why Macy pulled away from her friends at school and quit the track team. You are just in self-protection mode there for a while. And we get to see how Macy’s sister and her mother deal with their grief as well. What I thought was great though is that as Macy meets Kristy and Wes and becomes close to them, she starts to realize that other people have their own private griefs too, but they keep moving forward. I loved that part of it, because believe me for about two years I had my head up my ass regarding what a pain in the butt I was to my friends who kept reaching out.

Once again Dessen nails the dialogue with teens and adults. I didn’t have an issue with flow in this one. I would say make sure you have a box of tissues nearby though. The scenes with Macy trying to hide her dad’s stuff from her mother’s trash purge, and her dream of trying to catch up to him had me sniffling.

Once again the book takes place in the town of Lakeview. I am wondering why this is not considered a series though? Lakeview in this one was a bit more interesting. We get to see Macy who is definitely on the right side of the tracks dealing with the stress caused by her mother who is trying to build up the community around them with designer townhouses. It felt a little more in sync with the world I was introduced to in “Lock and Key” and I enjoyed that.

The ending for this one definitely leaves you with hope for Macy and her family. You can tell they are not 100 percent healed (you never are really) but you can see them starting to come out on the other side.

 

five-stars

Saint Anything by Sarah Dessen

Saint Anything by Sarah DessenSaint Anything by Sarah Dessen
Published by Viking Juvenile on May 5th 2015
Genres: Romance, YA
Pages: 432
Source: Borrowed: ebook
Goodreads
three-half-stars

Peyton, Sydney's charismatic older brother, has always been the star of the family, receiving the lion's share of their parents' attention and—lately—concern. When Peyton's increasingly reckless behavior culminates in an accident, a drunk driving conviction, and a jail sentence, Sydney is cast adrift, searching for her place in the family and the world. When everyone else is so worried about Peyton, is she the only one concerned about the victim of the accident?

Enter the Chathams, a warm, chaotic family who run a pizza parlor, play bluegrass on weekends, and pitch in to care for their mother, who has multiple sclerosis. Here Sydney experiences unquestioning acceptance. And here she meets Mac, gentle, watchful, and protective, who makes Sydney feel seen, really seen, for the first time.

I really enjoyed “Saint Anything” by Sarah Dessen, but not as much as I did “Lock and Key.” The biggest issue I really had with this book was the fact that Sydney’s mother and father were 100 percent ridiculous. And them not realizing the danger of Ames. I also hated the final scene between Ames and Sydney with Sydney rushing off. It didn’t feel real at all.

This book tackles a really big issue right away. Sydney is dealing with years of fallout from her older brother Peyton. Petyon though charismatic, is a huge mess. We find out that he is sent away time and time again due to breaking and entering, drinking, and drugs. Throughout it all Sydney’s parents have been supportive. Until the night Peyton goes out, gets drunk and high and hits someone with his car. This leads to Peyton being sent to jail for several months and Sydney and her family trying to pick up the pieces.

Sydney has always done the right thing. However, she is floundering with transferring schools and going to Jackson High School. Due to her parents having money issues because of her brother’s constant arrests and fines, Sydney suggests transferring for the good of the family. Seriously though, Sydney is a touch too martyrish for me at times.

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After transferring to Jackson, Sydney goes to a pizza place after school and meets the Chatham family. Pretty soon she finds that she has friends for lives in Layla and Mac (brother and sister) and there friends Eric and Irv. Though Sydney has old friends from her school (Jenn and someone I am forgetting) they were pretty much non-entities throughout the book. Besides one scene where Sydney goes and deal with their mess, I was not feeling old school friends that much.

I honestly didn’t feel the romance between Sydney and Mac. I thought they really worked out well as friends. I would have loved it if Dessen had them be best friends just like Sydney is with Layla.

I have to say, that for me, my favorite character was the secondary character in this one, Layla. We eventually see how Sydney re-meets Layla and comes to become part of her inner group at Jackson High School. Layla and her chaotic family were so bigger than life, it may have been better to flip this and make her the main character. I mean Layla in five seconds gets what is going on with Ames and Sydney’s parents are totally oblivious.

The parents in this one were infuriating. I don’t know why, but I kept thinking of Brock Turner’s parents, and their total 100 percent backing of their son and blaming everyone else for what he did. So to read a book where Sydney’s dad was checked out, and her mom was so insistent about being there every step of the way for her son without acknowledging what he did. At least Dessen redeems the character of Peyton by having him having a dang clue about what he did and why it was so awful. I can’t even give the parents kudos for finally clicking onto what a creep Ames was, guess what, don’t move people into your house when you don’t really know them. I know Ames was a fictional character, but my stranger danger alert was going off in every scene he was in.

The dialogue felt off at times. We have a lot of Sydney “inner dialogue”. I really wanted and needed her to speak up more. Her anger at her parents when she gets grounded (she invites people over after they say no and gets caught having a sip of vodka) was hilarious to me. Um no dear, you don’t get to be outraged when you are drinking underage and have people in a house you don’t pay the mortgage on.

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I was ready to shake Sydney, and this is where the martyrdom needed to die.

The book’s flow was off while I was reading this. I think it’s because it wanted to cram too much in it, and honestly there was a lot in it. Between Peyton’s jail time, Sydney’s transfer, we also have the Chathams dealing with the matriarch of the family dealing with MS, Layla’s dating woes, and oh yeah Ames and his totally not subtle I am going to try to do something evil self.

The setting in this one was once again Lakeview. The town didn’t feel set up as well as it did in “Lock and Key.” I don’t know why that is, but maybe the flow had something to do with it.

The ending was a bit too much everything is awesome for me. We do have Sydney taking a step to go and have closure on something that has been worrying her this whole book. But man oh man, I found the whole thing inappropriate. Send a letter first, and then see about it. Showing up on someone’s door didn’t feel right to me at all.

three-half-stars

Lock and Key by Sarah Dessen

Lock and Key by Sarah DessenLock and Key by Sarah Dessen
Published by Speak on May 14th 2008
Genres: Romance, YA
Pages: 444
Source: Borrowed: ebook
Goodreads
five-stars

"Ruby, where is your mother?" Ruby knows that the game is up. For the past few months, she's been on her own in the yellow house, managing somehow, knowing that her mother will probably never return. That's how she comes to live with Cora, the sister she hasn't seen in ten years, and Cora's husband Jamie, whose down-to-earth demeanor makes it hard for Ruby to believe he founded the most popular networking Web site around. A luxurious house, fancy private school, a new wardrobe, the promise of college and a future—it's a dream come true. So why is Ruby such a reluctant Cinderella, wary and defensive? And why is Nate, the genial boy next door with some secrets of his own, unable to accept the help that Ruby is just learning to give?

What can I really say. I loved this book to pieces. It’s been a while since I can say that a book was picture perfect from beginning to end, but I really did find this book worked great. I had no issues with the writing, dialogue, plot, setting or pacing. I went and borrowed a ton of other Sarah Dessen books from the library as soon as I finished “Lock and Key.” I read this for the “Key to My Heart” square for Romance Book Bingo 2017.

The main character in “Lock and Key” is Ruby Conner. Ruby is a senior at Jackson High School living in North Carolina. Through bits and pieces we find out that Ruby was in foster care temporarily after it becomes known that she is living alone and her mother is nowhere to be found. Placed with her older sister Cora that she hasn’t seen in years, “Lock and Key” is really Ruby’s journey learning to figure out what it truly means to be family, and how sometimes the hardest thing to do is stay and just support someone.

I freaking loved Ruby. I mean loved her. I wanted to hug her, give her some chocolate cake, and tell her that she is awesome. I have never fallen so quickly into another teen character’s head since Harry Potter. Ruby’s vulnerability and her general belief that she could take care of herself with help from no one we see get reworked from the beginning of the book to the end. Ruby and Cora’s shaky relationship due to Ruby’s belief that her sister had abandoned her we also see slowly changes through the course of the book. I loved that Dessen didn’t just throw out hey Ruby you are wrong from other characters either. Ruby had to see and feel that her way or really her mother’s way of acting was just not what she needed anymore. Ruby’s reluctant friendship with Nate also got me too. I loved how she got to see that someone who she thought had a perfect life, really did not, and that her just saying this is too hard, was actually not what he or she needed.

All of the secondary characters got to shine in this too. I loved Nate. Man oh man, his backstory regarding his mother and his father was just heartbreaking. A kid who doesn’t want to be in the situation he is, but doing the best he can until he is 18 and can be free.

Ruby’s sister Cora was also such a great character. There is a scene when Cora’s husband Jamie is rightfully angry and yelling at Ruby, and Cora steps in front of her like she did when they were kids and their mom was on a tear. I wanted to hug them both. We get to see that Cora is just as unsettled having what she considers a “good” life and not being used to things like huge family dinners, Christmas cards, etc.

I loved Harriet and Reggie, and heck pretty much everyone. Well except for Ruby’s old friends at Jackson who she got to see for herself were not true blue friends at all.

The writing takes a look at a lot of things. Drug and alcohol abuse, child abuse, and even abandonment. Dessen does a good job of not prettying things up which I appreciated. I also applaud her since she writes Ruby really well. I have a hard time with some YA authors having teens talking like characters from Dawson’s Creek.

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That was always my big thing about that show, no one my age sounded that pretentious. Did we sound like asses though? Yes, all teens do at one time or the other.

The flow was great too. We pretty much get to see Ruby over a course of a school year til her graduation which I really appreciated. Spare me from books that have a character do a day/night change in a month or two. It’s not realistic. It would have been great to see Ruby in her therapy sessions, but I was happy with what we got.

The setting of Lakeview, North Carolina sounded pretty polarizing. When Ruby is transferred from Jackson to what she considers the rich kid school, I was so happy we didn’t see some Mean Girls shtick in this book. We got to see a lot of secondary characters there with tons of nuance as well.

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The ending was really great. I can picture Ruby and now her family and her family of choice. I am going to see if Dessen ever follows up on Ruby and others from this book. It looks like she revisits the town of Lakeview in a lot of books, so it be nice to see a shout out to Ruby and other characters we have met.

 

five-stars

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