Release Date: June 2009
Publisher: Penguin | Viking Juvenile
Pages: 383 pages
Publisher: Penguin | Viking Juvenile
Pages: 383 pages
Source & Format: Library; Kindle e-book
Sum It Up
Auden doesn't sleep at night. Her parents started fighting, and then they just didn't stop. Now, they're divorced and she's trying to decide what to do with her summer. Should she stay with her mom or go visit her dad, stepmom and new baby?
As much as she doesn't want to see her stepmom and new baby, she isn't looking forward to being stuck at home with her mom. She decides to spend the summer with her dad and his new family in the charming beach town where they live.
The only problem? Everything with them isn't so charming. Auden decides to help her stepmom with her clothing boutique to get out of the house. She's then introduced to the world of girls: their talk, their friendship, and their crushes. She's missed out on all that trying to be the perfect daughter to her demanding mother.
When she meets Eli, she doesn't know what to think. He's a loner, and he definitely qualifies as mysterious. When he finds out she has trouble sleeping, he becomes her guide to the nocturnal world of the town. They embark on parallel quests: for Auden to experience the carefree teenage life she's missed and for Eli to come to terms with his grief and guilt over the death of his best friend.
By Its Cover: Don't Judge Dessen by Her Covers
I'm not a huge fan of most of Sarah Dessen's covers. I know she doesn't have a say in them, so I'm not holding it against her. However, this was actually my first Sarah Dessen book, and I blame that on the covers. I have avoided reading any of her books because I always thought they were cheesy and juvenile. GUESS WHAT? They're not!! This book was so good, and I'm mad that I let a cover keep my away from this author.
Amen, Sister Friend: I Can Totally Relate
One of my absolute favorite things about Along for the Ride is the main character, Auden. She's the perfect daughter. She follows the rules, she studies hard, and she doesn't really have time for anyone else. Her social skills are lacking, but all she really wants is her mom's approval. She's incredibly smart, but she can also be kind of judgmental. She doesn't have time for people like her stepmom, Heidi, or the girls who work at Heidi's store.
Here's the thing. I loved Auden. I loved her a lot. She's a perfectionist, and she doesn't do failure. She might not admit it, but she's afraid to fail. And that fear made me love her because it reminded me of myself. While I didn't relate to everything about her, I totally understood Auden's struggle to be perfect and her fear. One of the big things I realized about myself in high school was that I avoided things I didn't know how to do because I was afraid to fail. If I didn't know I would be good at it, I didn't want to try it. Recognizing that about myself was the first step towards making myself conquering that fear, but reading about Auden brought it all back (in a good way). I loved seeing a character who struggled with something I recognized, and I was cheering her on as her quest helped her break out of the box fear had kept her in.
Literary Love: No Insta-Love Here
Another thing I loved about this book? The romance! Auden and Eli get to know each other really well during their midnight hangouts. They get to know each other. There is build up. This isn't insta-love, and I was eating it up.
Eli is a mysterious loner, but he opens up to Auden. I understood her attraction to him, and I also felt like Dessen helped you see why he was interested in her. I absolutely adored how Eli wanted to take Auden on a quest to give her back the childhood she'd missed.
Word Nerd: Had Me Hooked
I wasn't really expecting much from this book, and I'm sure you're starting to realize that I was more than pleasantly surprised. I'm now making it my mission to read all of her books. I feel like I've missed so much!
I loved that all of the characters, even the minor ones, are well developed. Heidi annoyed me at first because I saw her through Auden's eyes. Then, as I started to pay closer attention, I saw how she wasn't a flat character. She had her own history, her own journey, and she was a real person. That ended up being true about all of the secondary characters. They were realistic and enjoyable. I wanted to know even more about them!
I also loved the setting. I could imagine the cute beach town, and I really wanted to go visit! I could imagine myself exploring the town at night, shopping at Heidi's boutique, eating at the local joints and riding around on a beach cruiser.
Don't forget to throw in lessons about growing up, falling in loving, standing by your commitments and facing your fears. Needless to say at this point, but I was hooked.
Extra, Extra: Insomnia
I loved Auden and Eli's nighttime adventures. Seriously, this was one of my favorite aspects of the book. I thought it was adorable how they'd stay up late and explore the town. It was such an effective way for them to get to know each other!
Extra, Extra: Quest
Quests play a pretty big role in Along for the Ride, and I loved it because it was unexpected. I tend to associate quests with historical fiction or fantasy - so it was really nice to see the "everyday life" version of a quest.
"Life is full of screwups," he said, chucking another paper at a split-level before taking the corner. "You're supposed to fail sometimes. It's a required part of the human existence."
"It was so easy to disown what you couldn't recognize, to keep yourself apart from things that were foreign and unsettling. The only person you can be sure to control, always, is yourself. Which is a lot to be sure of, but at the same time, not enough."
"You couldn't just pick and choose at will when someone depended on you, or loved you. It wasn't like a light switch, easy to shut on or off. If you were in, you were in. Out, you were out. To me, it didn't seem complicated at all. In fact, it was the simplest thing in the world."
Bottom Line: Why Didn't I Read Dessen Sooner?
I don't think I need to say anything more about Along for the Ride. If you've read any part of this review, you should be able to tell that I loved this book. I adored the realistic characters, flawed family, swoony loner, and adorable beach town. This was such a great Dessen book for me to start with, and I can't wait to read more!