When You Never Said Goodbye by Meg Kearny

Genres: Young Adult, Contemporary
Publisher: Persea Books
Publication Date: February 21st 2017

2 OUT OF 5 STARS

Disclaimer: A free copy of this book was received through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Lizzie McLane is living her dream studying poetry at NYU, but a shadow hangs over her. She was born in Manhatten but she’s never known her birth mother. Lizzie tells records her story through poems and journals: her search for her first mother, her new friends at NYU, her struggle with her father’s death, her relationship issues and her meeting with the strangely familiar guitarist in the park.

The novel is based on the author’s experience, but through a note at the end she explains that she took many liberties. It is because of these liberties that I will allow myself to criticize the plot along with the characters and writing.

Telling a story through journals is always a difficult undertaking. At best they leave us feeling very connected to our protagonists and allow the author to avoid dull scenes, at worst it’s disjointed and dull. When You Never Said Goodbye falls somewhere in between. I feel distant from Lizzie, perhaps because I have the disadvantage of never reading the previous two Lizzie McLane books but also in large part because she’s very bland. None of the characters feel whole, they’re all nice and like one artsy thing very much. The exception is Louise who gets a little bit of development but not nearly enough of the spotlight.

The poetry also fell short of what I’d hoped. For a book about and aspiring poet studying poetry, I’d hoped the poems would be more touching. The formal verse was well written (even though some poems felt like imitations of each other) but none of them really connected with me. Objectively the poems are good but none made me laugh and summoned tears.

The plot itself seems like a missed opportunity. There are several more satisfying or dramatic endings that the novel could have had. The author’s own life produced and ending she didn’t think was satisfying but I think keeping her story true on that bit might have made Lizzie’s search feel authentic. The baiting with Ruth was far too obvious and felt sort of like padding that didn’t serve a purpose in the story.

The best thing I can say for this book is that the college experience part felt very authentic – if a little romanticized. Lizzie’s voice suited a college student even it didn’t have as much life as I would have liked.

As much as I didn’t quite care for the book I might still recommend it for adoptees. Perhaps they can find things to connect with in this novel that I could not.

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Read this if you’re a fan of: Because I Love You

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