Age: Young Adult
Interest: Teen Love/ Summer/Sarah Dessen/200 in 2011
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. (Summary from Goodreads.com)
I'd love to know what Sarah Dessen puts into her books to make them so addictive. Perhaps it's the warm-fuzzies her romances cause, the real people (as I've discussed before), or her character's cameos in other books. Prior to reading Along for the Ride, I'd only read This Lullaby and Lock and Key, so understandably I didn't see the guest appearances at first. In Along for the Ride, Auden talks about the chemistry partner she pitifully flirted with, Nate Cross. It took me all of five minutes after reading that sentence to realize that she was talking about one of the main characters in Lock and Key. (I also later realized one of the schools Auden formerly attended, Perkin's Day, was Ruby's school. And Auden talked about her Ume page.)
Maybe it's just the nod to the other characters, giving a small a assurance to her readers that their lives continued with more adventures even after their books were done. It's sort of like having an inside joke with Dessen. "Oh hey, you remember them too? I loved them so much they..." Or in my case, acting like a nosy acquaintance, starved for information on what happened after the book left off. Did so and so keep their resolution? Did those two ever get back together? How did that work out for him? Any way I look at it, her books are horribly addicting. I want to read them all, just for those little cameos. I want to re-read the ones I read because of the cameos and remembering how much I loved the characters. I also want to read the new books to have a whole new group of characters and cameos to obsess over. The woman is a serious genius, everyone and their mother already knows it though.
I loved Auden in Along for the Ride. Growing up in an intellectually rigorous household (though not as strict as Auden's) I understand the pressure of succeeding academically. I know what it's like to have missed out on childhood activities because I was too busy trying to act like an adult. Watching Auden balance her family issues, getting her first real friends, and making up for lost time was wonderful. In a really weird way, it made up for some of the things I had passed on when I was younger. For instance, like Auden, I never learned how to ride a bike. So, reading about her doing it was sort of like fulfilling a secret dream. I've always wanted to know how to ride a bike, but I'm too embarrassed to learn from anyone. Another really nice aspect of Auden is she toes the line between extremely self-sufficient and vulnerable. This girl can handle absolutely everything thrown at her, given time. However, she also has a few weak spots that makes her see she needs to rely on others sometimes.
Eli is solid. That is possibly the barest way to describe him, but it's all I can think of. He consistently supports Auden throughout the entire novel. There's only one time he is not there for her and for a good reason. I loved watching him change little by little through the book. I'm a sucker for those "girl slowly melts boy's heart of ice stories." Eli wasn't frigid exactly, more like closed up. The death of your best friend is a horrible thing to go through and blaming yourself for it is even harder. I can't imagine going through what Eli did and even be able to look at my old friends. It would hurt too much. What made Eli and Auden's relationship so great was the give and take. She gradually pulled him back to the friends he had lost and he helped her deal with the things she couldn't do alone. They simply worked together. (The witty banter was a plus too.)
I didn't love the relationship between Heidi and Auden's dad.I flat out wanted to hit him upside the head at certain points. However, I did like the real portrayal of a married couple with a new baby. I know that I'd be just as scared as Heidi. There is so much that can potentially go wrong with a child, not matter how much you safeguard.I would be petrified. She was looking to Auden's dad, who'd raised two children, for guidance on what the hell to do. When he didn't tell her, didn't help her, didn't do squat, Heidi buckled down and did it all herself. While I don't enjoy her beginning imitation of a doormat I was unbelievably proud of her by the end. She made sure Auden's dad stopped being a whimp and took care of his child. Heidi stood up for herself and her need to have her own downtime. Admittedly, she had to hit her breaking point before any of it happened, but that was useful too. It is very rare that people talk about the crushing fear, loneliness and worry that comes with being a first time parent. Usually everything is portrayed as all smiles and the worst thing that can happen is a messy diaper. Being a parent is extraordinarily rewarding, fulfilling and one of the most important things a person can do. However, it is also the hardest thing in the world. Seeing Heidi buckle under the pressure and talk to someone about how difficult it was and how helpless she felt was moving. Hopefully other first time parents will realize it is okay to talk to someone about their problems and know some people won't judge them.
Overall Along for the Ride was a sweet and moving summer read with an edge under it. Characters with depth, a dreamy boardwalk background, relationships and cameos, what more could anyone need? Pick up you copy at a bookstore today. ;)
Other books by Sarah Dessen:
Someone Like You (The book How to Deal is That Summer and Someone Like You combined.)
Keeping the Moon (Also called Last Chance)
Lock and Key
The Truth About Forever
What Happened to Goodbye
Teaser Lines: “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.”