May 26, 2012

Just Get Back On the Bike

Along for the Ride by Sarah Dessen

Release Date: June 2009
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.

So Quotable
"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!

18 comments:

  1. These are my thoughts exactly! I kept seeing these covers and thinking her books really wouldn't be my type of thing. Along for the Ride was my first Dessen too, I'm so glad I took the plunge. Definitely one of my favorites this year!!

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    1. Exactly! I just heard that all of her covers are being re-designed so I'm really looking forward to seeing the new ones. I'm glad I didn't let the cover keep me from reading this book in the end because I loved it!

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  2. YAY!

    This is such a solid example of the Dessen universe because of the strong characters, the family complications, and the realistic romance and teenage dialogue.

    She really nails it, that Sarah.

    I'm so glad you loved it!

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    1. I'm so excited to read more!

      Have a favorite you'd like to recommend?!

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  3. Sarah Dessen is one of those authors I've been meaning to get to. I haven't been as put off by the covers, but I can definitely see how they might put some people off. They do have a very romance-y feel to them, like books that you find in that section of the bookstore (the one I really never tread into if I can help it). :) After this recommendation, I think I might just have to finally get my hands on a Dessen or two. Thanks!

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    1. You definitely should! I mean, this is the only one I've read but I loved it and have heard it's very representative of her writing. It's also the PERFECT summer read :)

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  4. I was typing my comment and realized I could just copy and paste Lisa's comment because I was saying the same things, lol. SO, I agree with Lisa. :) And you're not going to be disappointed with the rest of her books, I promise. SO happy you loved this book!

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    1. Haha love it! I'm so happy people like you raved about them - it's what convinced me to give them a shot! I'm so excited to read more!

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  5. This sounds really cute! I think I could probably relate to Auden because as a teenager I always followed the rules. I feel like many YA characters are more rebellious so at times I can't relate. I also love what you said about their nighttime adventures... I am intrigued to see what they get up to.

    I'm with you that this is a cheesy cover. The only Dessen I have read, This Lullaby, has a really cute cover, though!

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    1. I know what you mean about rebellious teens! I wasn't one at all, so I do have a hard time relating to those characters sometimes. But I loved Auden because she's kind of the opposite - so I think you'll like her, too. And the nighttime adventures are SO fun! READ IT!

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  6. YESSSS! Read all of the Dessen books because she is THE BEST.

    Sigh Auden plus Eli forever. I mean, I am totally not and never was an Auden, but I really liked reading about her, I thought Dessen made her super relatable.

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    1. Oh don't you worry, I'm planning on read ALL THE BOOKS. I can already tell I'm going to love Dessen.

      Auden & Eli = SWOON. So adorable. I thought Dessen made her relatable, even for people who aren't an Auden so I'm glad you agree!

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  7. I think I might have read a Sarah Dessen book or two when I was younger, but I honestly don't remember anything about them, so I'm officially putting myself into the "have not read a Dessen book" category. I own a few that I picked up from sales though! Glad to hear the characters were realistic. It sounds like this one is definitely worth a look for me!

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    1. Well I've only read one so I'm still a newbie to Dessen, but I really loved this one. I'm so glad I finally read something by her! I can't wait to see what you think if you end up reading something by her :)

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  8. Aww.... I'm so excited for you that you're discovering Sarah Dessen for the first time! And it's the perfect time of year too -- each of her books takes place during the summer, so they're the PERFECT summer reads! I first read Truth About Forever, and that one is my absolute favourite of hers. But all of her books are amazing -- enjoy your Dessen adventure!

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    1. I just found The Truth About Forever & Just Listen at a bookstore sale recently and picked them both up. I'm looking forward to interspersing them with my other summer reading :) They definitely seem like perfect summer books!

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  9. Dear Hannah:

    Add these to your TBR pile: This Lullaby (just finished it and it was freakin' fantastic) and The Truth About Forever (read it a while ago, but SO GOOD). What Happened to Goodbye wasn't my FAVE, but it was still enjoyable.

    I do recommend not going on a SD read-a-thon because they can sound a bit similar. Her writing style doesn't stray too far off the beaten path but spread them out between other books and you'll love them even more.

    xo,
    M

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    1. Dear Magan:

      I actually just finished This Lullaby yesterday :) It was very good! I still like Along for the Ride better, but I think that's just because I could relate more to Auden. And I just found The Truth About Forever for $3 at TJ Maxx and HAD to pick it up. Can't wait to read it later this summer!

      I appreciate the advice about not reading them back to back. I'd kind of gotten that impression, but I'm happy to hear you say it. I'll be spreading them out among some of my other summer reads to get the most of out them :)

      xo,
      H

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