Title: Along for the Ride
Author: Sarah Dessen
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.
In her signature pitch-perfect style, Sarah Dessen explores the hearts of two lonely people learning to connect.
I’m slowly working my way through Sarah Dessen’s books, and I’ve luckily enjoyed them all, including Along for the Ride, my fourth experience with her writing. I had some problems at the beginning that made it impossible for me to give this book a higher rating, but I think the characters grew past those problems for the most part, which is always a good and important thing in a book.
OK, first we have protagonist Auden. When I first saw her name in the summary, I was thrown a bit. I’m one of the people that her father would look down on (i.e. I’m not sure if I’ve heard of the poet whose last name is Auden) and thought this was just an unusual name used with the intention of making the protagonist *special*. Luckily this book had an explanation for the name, which helped matters, but I had trouble sometimes taking her name seriously, especially when her mother kept ragging on Auden’s new half-sister’s name, Thisbe, which is also very unusual but no more than Auden.
And, while I’m talking about Auden’s mother, let’s look at her. She’s apparently the stereotypical pretty woman who hates women that actually act like women, or at least the stereotypical kind of woman. If a woman likes the color pink, or any other warm colors, gets emotional, and cares about clothes and her appearance, then she must be a silly little woman who couldn’t possibly know anything. This is the main thing that rubbed me the wrong way about this book. Auden, as her very-similar daughter, often feels the same way and spent a good portion of the first third or so of the book looking down on her stepmother, Heidi, and the teenage girls who work at Heidi’s boutique.
I also wasn’t a big fan of the love interest. It wasn’t that he frustrated me like early-book-Auden and most-of-the-book-Auden’s-mother (can’t remember her name), it was just that he didn’t catch my attention as much as love interests normally do. He was a perfectly nice guy, but I wasn’t cheering him and Auden on in their journey to getting together.
I know it sounds like I didn’t enjoy this book much at all, but it really wasn’t that bad. Auden, and her mother to a lesser extent, grew and became a more accepting person, and I really enjoyed some of the secondary characters, as often seems to happen in the Sarah Dessen books I’ve read so far. It was an interesting enough story with its problems, but it encourages me to continue checking out her books.