It’s been so long since Auden slept at night. Ever since her parents’ divorce—or since the fighting started. Now she has the chance to spend a carefree summer with her dad and his new family in the charming beach town where they live.
A job in a clothes boutique introduces Auden to the world of girls: their talk, their friendship, their crushes. She missed out on all that, too busy being the perfect daughter to her demanding mother. Then she meets Eli, an intriguing loner and a fellow insomniac who becomes her guide to the nocturnal world of the town. Together they embark on parallel quests: for Auden, to experience the carefree teenage life she’s been denied; for Eli, to come to terms with the guilt he feels for the death of a friend.
If you read this blog, you probably already know that I am a huge Sarah Dessen fan. I have enjoyed all the books I’ve read by her, and Along for the Ride was no exception. I actually think that this book is my second favorite Dessen novel, next to Just Listen (which I truly believe nothing will ever compare to, in my mind).
What really made me fall in love with this novel was the character of Auden. Just like Annabel in Just Listen, I saw a lot of myself in Auden. I have never been particularly good at making good girlfriends and understanding the ways groups of girls work. I have always been slightly socially awkward and, especially in my elementary and middle school years, always felt really shy and out-of-the-loop around most of my classmates. As a kid, I also preferred books and learning to actual people. I really “got” all of these aspects of Auden’s personality. I remember losing myself in my studies in high school and even college as a way to not deal with all the stuff in my life I couldn’t control or didn’t want to think about. My connection to Auden definitely solidified my feelings for the book. Right from the start, I liked her, I understood her, and I rooted for her through the entire book.
And just as in Dessen’s other novels, Along for the Ride had fantastic secondary characters too. I (of course) loved Eli and was so intrigued by his and Auden’s budding relationship. I also REALLY liked Heidi, Auden’s stepmom. I liked how even through Auden’s eyes, I was able to see how normal Heidi was and what a great person she truly was, how she was trying so hard to make her family work. She was just so real that I couldn’t help but feel for her. I did not enjoy either of Auden’s parents, but I don’t think the reader is supposed to like them – although they, like the rest of the characters, were definitely realistic.
The story of this book was pretty great too. I do think that Dessen’s novels have a sort of formula to them, but I think that for her, it works. I had a pretty good idea of how the book would turn out, and I still loved where Dessen took the story. And I always appreciate how in a Sarah Dessen novel, everything is NOT solved just by getting the guy in the end. Sure, usually the guy and girl end up together in some way, but there’s always more to the story than that. And it doesn’t always equal perfection, either. I just think that her books are a much more realistic portrayal of life than a lot of teen novels. Along for the Ride definitely fit that description. I loved this book – if you are a fan of YA fiction, you will too.
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