Review: Where Was Goodbye? by Janice Lynn Mather

Where Was Goodbye by Janice Lynn Mather

Where Was Goodbye?
Janice Lynn Mather
Simon & Schuster
Published April 30, 2024

Amazon | Bookshop | Goodreads

About Where Was Goodbye

A teen girl searches for closure after her brother dies by suicide in this breathtaking novel from the author of Learning to Breathe and Facing the Sun.

Karmen is about to start her last year of high school, but it’s only been six weeks since her brother, Julian, died by suicide. How is she supposed to focus on school when huge questions Why is Julian gone? How could she have missed seeing his pain? Could she have helped him?

When a blowup at school gets Karmen sent home for a few weeks, life gets more things between her parents are tenser than ever, her best friend’s acting like a stranger, and her search to understand why Julian died keeps coming up empty.

New friend Pru both baffles and comforts Karmen, and there might finally be something happening with her crush, Isaiah, but does she have time for either, or are they just more distractions? Will she ever understand Julian’s struggle and tragedy? If not, can she love—and live—again?

Where Was Goodbye? on Goodreads

My Review

If you know me, you probably know why this book would be difficult for me to read and review. I also think it’s a really important topic and one I want to see young adult literature cover and cover well, so I wanted to read it anyway.

Karmen’s quiet life at home in the Bahamas turned upside down the night her family learned about her brother’s death by suicide. As Karmen tries to piece together what happened and why, she hunts down people who knew Julian and the places he visited, including the cliffs where he ended his life.

At its core, Where Was Goodbye is a grief journey. It’s Karmen wrestling with unanswered questions. Her anger. Sadness. The emptiness around the dining room table. The growing distance between her parents.

People around Karmen react differently to grief as well. Her parents handle it in different ways, some causing additional harm to other relationships. Karmen’s best friend wants desperately to help, but doesn’t seem to understand what she’s going through. Instead, she reduces it to a clinical process.

I like that the author set the story in the Bahamas. I can’t think of anything else I’ve read off the top of my head that’s been set there. The setting is significant in a couple of places in the story, but many other scenes include quiet cues about Bahamian food and culture.

In the story, Karmen also learns to skateboard. She primarily uses the board for transportation and to connect with others.

Identifying with Karmen’s grief and her questions in the wake of her brother’s death felt easy. Her parents’ grief felt raw and real, as did Karmen’s. I like that the author was careful to avoid language and statements that stigmatize depression and suicide, though the story does include a few people harassing Karmen about her brother’s death.

This is definitely a book to approach with care, but it may be helpful for anyone who knows someone who has thought about suicide or experienced depression.

Where Was Goodbye? on Bookshop

Content Notes

Recommended for Ages 14 up.

Karmen’s brother has died by suicide. Karmen and her family are Black.

Profanity/Crude Language Content

Romance/Sexual Content
Kissing between a boy and girl.

Spiritual Content
Karmen and her friend attend youth group at their church. Karmen ends up ducking out for the service.

Violent Content
References to her brother’s death and specifically how he died. A boy at school says something cruel to Karmen, referencing her brother’s death. Later, a tabloid reporter tries to pressure Karmen into talking about her family’s loss. One scene includes suicidal ideation and a description of a moment when someone nearly attempts to end their life.

Drug Content
Karmen goes to a bar with friends. She sips a drink they give her and realizes it’s alcoholic. One of her friends gets very drunk. Another person offers to drive the group a short distance. Karmen gets out of the car when it becomes obvious the driver is drunk.

Note: This post contains affiliate links, which do not cost you anything to use but help support this blog. I received a free copy of this book in exchange for my honest review. All opinions are my own.

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About Kasey

Reads things. Writes things. Fluent in sarcasm. Willful optimist. Cat companion, chocolate connoisseur, coffee drinker. There are some who call me Mom.

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