Along for the Ride by Sarah Dessen
Release Date: June 11th 2009
Publisher: Penguin Books
Edition: UK Paperback, 424 pages
My Rating 4/5 stars
From Goodreads: "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."
This was my first Sarah Dessen book! I don't know how I took so long to jump on board, she must have slipped through my radar somehow. This was one I picked up at my library, because I felt like an easy contemporary read. Along for the Ride really fit the bill for that!
I really loved Auden's character. Really academic and not so social. She feels it's her fault that her parents got divorced. Surely she could have prevented it? Once she realised that her parents waited for her to go to bed before arguing she would stay up later and later in hopes they wouldn't fight at all. Eventually it didn't matter what time she went to sleep, her parents would still fight. But by this point she was pretty much an insomniac and was awake and alert for all of the fights. She blames herself, and as a result she tries to please her parents by being academic.
Auden decides that she wants to spend her summer after senior year with her Dad and his wife Heidi and their new baby girl Thisbe (don't particularly like the name, but then neither do half the characters in the book). Having spoken to her mum previously about the new baby and finding out that when raising Auden and her brother, her mum pretty much did it all alone as her dad 'needed his full 9 hours sleep,' Auden walks into pretty much the same situation with her Dads new family. Heidi is stressed to the max, not knowing how to look after Thisbe and run a business and do all of the domestic things that are expected of her.
Auden was never very good in social situations so when she first meets the girls working at Heidi's shop, she is pretty judgemental. The girls are far more into their looks and into boys than she has ever been. Finding herself with a job working at the store doing Heidi's books, she realises that there is much much more to the girls there and she can finally call them friends.
Of course along the way she meets a boy, Eli, but of course he is socially unavailable, and has been since the car accident. He doesn't talk to anyone and he rarely goes to the parties or hangs out with his friends. But somehow he finds himself talking to her, she is different to everyone in town. She doesn't look at him with pity for what happened and he finds it refreshing. They take comfort in each other during the night, as they both are insomniacs. Word starts to get around that the old Eli is starting to show himself again.
Sarah Dessen is a great YA writer, though I did find that some of the information included could probably have been skipped. I thought that it took a little bit too long for the story to get going. I really didn't care much for Auden's Mums dinner party with her students that seemed to drag on for a couple of pages at the start of the book. I would have preferred the start of the book to be more about Auden and not her Mum. However once the book got underway it was a really great read, I look forward to reading more of Dessen's work!
Have you read any of Sarah Dessen's work? What would you recommend?