I’ve been on a Sarah Dessen adventure since finishing Saint Anything. I also recently finished The Truth About Forever and have just started on Just Listen. So far, there seems to be a trend of a goody-two-shoes protagonist who meets a group of misfit friends that teach the protagonist how to live freely and happily.
“Two a.m.’ He swallowed, then said, “You know. The person you can call at two a.m. and, no matter what, you can count on them. Even if they’re asleep or it’s cold or you need to be bailed out of jail…they’ll come for you. It’s like, the highest level of friendship.”
I enjoyed What Happened to Goodbye mostly because of the character Deb, and its relatable themes on wanting to be someone else and home.
Not Deb the Downer
Accepting all the good and bad about someone. It’s a great thing to aspire to. The hard part is actually doing it.
I actually liked Deb more than Mclean (protagonist). Deb is first introduced as a preppy welcome squad of one when Mclean transfers to a new school, however, readers soon learn that Deb has no friends. Seeing this, Mclean tries to include Deb into her new circle amidst protests. Deb surprises everyone by giving thoughtful relationship advice, having an extensive knowledge of tattoos, experience in a metal rock band, and providing leadership in community initiatives.
The existence of such a 4D character is a prime example that you can never judge someone just by what they look like on the outside. Deb has a wide range of interests and jumps passionately into each one. She is friendly to others even if it is not reciprocated and she maintains an upbeat attitude regardless of how others see or treat her. She is my definition of cool and the best thing about her is that she reminds us that people can surprise you if you let them.
It wasn’t about being happy or unhappy. I just didn’t want to be me anymore.
Mclean adopts a new persona each time she transfers to a new school: a preppy cheerleader, an introspective drama enthusiast, a collected student council member, etc. It was easier to be someone else than to be her true self because that way she wouldn’t get too close with anyone when she needed to leave.
And while it is always refreshing to be able to start on a blank canvas, Mclean teaches us that it is a lonely journey if you do not live as your real self. Despite the times when we wish we were simply someone else – someone smarter, funnier, better looking, or kinder, Dessen prompts us to take another look at our inner struggles and conflicts and to work towards resolving those instead of hiding behind another facade.
Home is where the heart is
Home wasn’t a set house, or a single town on a map. It was wherever the people who loved you were, whenever you were together. Not a place, but a moment, and then another, building on each other like bricks to create a solid shelter that you take with you for your entire life, wherever you may go.
These past few years, I’ve been noticing that it’s always about the people. In the bigger picture, it’s never really about the actual location. You can go to a crappy pub and it could still be a great night if you go with the right people. Vice versa, it could be the most extravagant pool party in the world, but it wouldn’t be fun if you didn’t know or care about anybody there.
Home is like that too. A house is a house, but a home is something more. Home encompasses a real sense of belonging, security, and love. These feelings come from your family, neighbours, and community. I believe home is a feeling, and even if you do feel at home when you enter your house or your old school, it was due to the people who lived or spent time there with you. Always, it is about the people.