Study Guide

Mclean Sweet in What Happened to Goodbye

Mclean Sweet

Our dear protagonist, Mclean Sweet, is a teenager going through a crisis of identity—among other things. She's just moved to the town of Lakeview with her dad, and is trying to finish out her last year of high school with as little drama as possible.

Social Chameleon

As she's moved from school to school to accommodate her dad's high-travel consulting job, Mclean has gotten really good at creating new personas for herself. Whenever she goes to a new town, she picks a new name and a new identity:

It was so easy. Just like that, in the hurried moments between announcements, I wrapped up and put away sixteen years of my life and was born again, all before first period even began. (1.28)

You'd think that she was on the run from the FBI or something, but nope—Mclean just finds it easier to play a part whenever she goes to a new school. It pretty much guarantees that she won't form close connections with anyone, which is important to her since she'll just up and move again before too long.

Her Father's Keeper

Ever since her parents' nasty divorce, Mclean hasn't been able to live life like a normal teenager. She's taken her dad's side in every way, choosing to see and talk to her mom as little as possible (which drives her mom absolutely nuts). She's also taken it upon herself to practically parent her dad; she makes sure their home is in order and that he's not lonely or sad:

[…] I knew there were so many things about his life that I couldn't fix, no matter how hard I tried. It was probably why I worked so hard to handle the things I did. Getting us settled, taking care of details, keeping the chaos we'd chosen as neat as possible. (2.68)

It's pretty obvious that Mclean has taken on some very adult responsibilities since her parents' divorce, and she doesn't complain about it. In her mind, it's the least she can do for her dad after her mom screwed him over royally.

The Grudge

Speaking of Mclean's mom… Mclean definitely knows how to hold a long-standing grudge when it comes to her betrayal. Even though it's been three years and her mom makes every effort to stay close to her, Mclean just isn't having it:

[…] I was suddenly infuriated. My mother was still talking—God, she was always talking—as I stomped to the open door and out onto the deck. (6.42)

She's not interested in hanging out with her mom because it feels like a direct betrayal of her dad—even when he assures her otherwise. It's only when Mclean begrudgingly agrees to start talking to her mom again that she feels like she can slowly let go of all her anger… and maybe rebuild a relationship with her mom. It won't be the same as it was when she was a kid, but it'll at least be a functional relationship—and Mclean won't have to carry so much hurt around all the time anymore too.

Skeptical Romantic

Following the crash and burn of her parents' beautiful marriage, Mclean is pretty skeptical of any relationship ever working out. She says:

In truth, since my parents' split, I hadn't had much faith in relationships and even less of an inclination to start any lasting ones of my own. (2.92)

Even though she has a huge crush on Dave and he gives her all sorts of butterflies, she keeps her emotional distance because she just doesn't see the point. Isn't every relationship destined to fail in an epic torrent of tears and betrayal? Girl has got some major hang-ups when it comes to connecting to people after her mom cheated on her dad, destroying Mclean's faith in true partnerships.

And it's not just romantic relationships that Mclean has a problem with—she's pretty guarded when to friendships as well. But the residents of Lakeview are pretty persistent, and soon she finds her walls cracking. She ends up with some friends and a boyfriend, and it's not nearly as bad as she thought it was going to be—not even when it comes to her mom. Go figure.

Mclean's Timeline

  • Mclean and her dad move to their new town—Lakeview—where her dad will be busy trying to save a local restaurant called Luna Blu.
  • As they move in, it becomes clear that Mclean is avoiding calls and contact from her mother, who cheated on her dad three years ago and now is married to the Defriese basketball coach, with whom she's had twins. Talk about a sports scandal.
  • Mclean goes to a college party next door one night and meets some of the kids who will be going to her high school. The cops come and she runs away—and at the last minute, she's pulled into an underground storm cellar by the boy who lives next door to her, Dave.
  • When she starts school, Mclean meets a girl named Deb who welcomes her (she's a total loner spaz), and also hangs out with Dave and his friends. 
  • Her dad has an accident at the restaurant, so Mclean asks Deb to give her a ride to the hospital; on the way, they become friends. 
  • As Mclean settles into life in Lakeview, she forms closer friendships with Deb, Dave, Riley, and their whole group. She even starts working on the town model that Opal—the manager of Luna Blu—is putting together for the town centennial. 
  • At the same time though, Mclean's relationship with her mom is super choppy. They fight on the phone one day, and her mom calls in the lawyers to revisit the custody agreement.
  • Mclean agrees to spend a few more weekends visiting her mom, and says that she'll spend all of spring break (a whole week) with her mom at her new beach house. That's a sound compromise.
  • Mclean has settled down in Lakeview and looks forward to hanging out with her friends more and finishing the town model with them. She and Dave even have a little bit of a burgeoning romance going on, and he asks her out. 
  • Right before she leaves for the beach house though, Mclean discovers some devastating news—Luna Blu is closing down and her dad has been offered a job in Hawaii.
  • Things get worse when she finds out that her friends have discovered all of the accounts she created at her previous schools; she had a different persona in each town and even went by a different name. 
  • Mclean runs off on her vacation with her mom, trying to forget all the unsettling chaos that's going on in Lakeview—but when she gets there, she thinks that she overhears her mom talking about how bringing her out was a total mistake. 
  • Feeling more alone than ever, Mclean takes the car and drives to the Poseidon, an old motel she used to stay in with her mom. She cries there and calls Dave, telling him where she is and saying that she wants to date him.
  • Her parents come and get her, and they all talk about how the divorce has been way harder on Mclean than they previously thought. (Um… duh.) They decide that Mclean will go back to Lakeview for a while, and eventually move to Tyler with her mom when her dad goes to Hawaii.
  • Mclean returns to Lakeview and finishes up the model town with her friends. She learns that Dave didn't go to her that night because he got in trouble with his parents for sneaking out. 
  • On the night that they complete the model town, Mclean goes to look at it and sees that Dave has put little figurines of her all over the town—and that he's written stay on the roof of the old abandoned house in their neighborhood. She finds him and they finally kiss.
  • In the end, Mclean almost leaves with her mom—but her parents decide at the last minute that they can't uproot her again. 
  • She ends up staying in Lakeview with Opal and finishing up the school year with all her friends—at long last, she's found her home.