Along For the Ride by Sarah Dessen


Since her parents’ divorce, Auden has lived with her mother, who is a professor and a successful writer. It is the summer before she leaves for college and Auden decides she needs a change of scenery, so she goes to live with her father (also a professor and a less successful writer), his young wife, and their new baby in a small beach town.

Growing up, both of her parents treated her like an adult, expecting her to be mature both personally and scholastically. Because of this, Auden did not experience a “normal” childhood. She never had close girlfriends, never attended a dance, never learned to ride a bike. The lack of experiences becomes evident when Auden begins working in her stepmother’s store. The three teens who work in the store are typical girls: they love clothes and boys, they dance around the store, they are comfortable in their age in a way Auden cannot relate.

For a long time, Auden has suffered from insomnia. To escape the daily routine, when she cannot sleep she roams the town, looking for places to get decent coffee and kill the long nighttime hours. It is in the night when she meets and slowly gets to know Eli, a local boy with his own burdens. The two of them decide Auden should experience the typical childhood milestones and set out to make it so. Auden also learns some things about family and friendships along the way.

Sarah Dessen has written another fantastic book. I love Auden, and I love that she’s not a stereotypical girl – very relatable. And I love that the other girls who seem typical on the surface turn out to not be so typical and teach Auden and the reader a thing or two about making quick judgements. Eli is adorable. The setting is crafted beautifully. While I was lucky to read this beach town novel while sitting on the beach, this is the kind of book you can pick up in the middle of February and be transported to July.

Ms. Dessen is skilled at writing books that deal with weightier issues without making it a heavy, depressing problem novel. If you’ve never read anything by her, this would be a great place to start! While the cover is eye catching, it is misleading about the characters – specifically Auden. I know I am echoing the sentiments around the internet when I say that whoever designed the cover must have not read the book.

4 and 1/2 stars


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Filed under review, young adult lit

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