Kelly's Reviews > Along for the Ride

Along for the Ride by Sarah Dessen
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Jul 30, 2012

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bookshelves: young-adult

Like popsicles and sangria, Sarah Dessen's novels are best enjoyed in the summer. They're light, bubbly fun and have just enough substance to not end up on your list of guilty pleasures.

Light and bubbly was exactly what I was looking for when I picked up "Along for the Ride". (I graduated from college about two months ago and frankly, all I want to do for the next few months is watch reruns of "The Hills," eat Doritos, and read books that fall under the category of "easy reads.") I tend to gravitate towards teen literature when I need a mental break but can't keep a book out my hands. After rereading Dessen's "Someone Like You" a few weeks ago I realized and remembered how great of a writer she is, so I'm giving her other novels a chance.

Dessen's most common criticism is that her stories are all the same: socially awkward girl (too tall; genius; has no friends), dealing with a familial crisis (sister's wedding; parents' divorce; birth of new half-sibling) gets involved in something she'd normally never do (cater; ride a bike; rebel in general) and falls in love with a charismatic young guy who usually has some secrets of his own (is abused by father; lost best friend in car crash; cheated on her sister).

"Along for the Ride" doesn't stray to far from Dessen's tried-and-true, albeit successful formula. Auden, your average do-gooder who lives to please her divorced parents, spends a summer with her father, his new wife, and her fresh-out-of-the-womb half-sister. Along with being a loner and alienating most of the local girls, Auden can't sleep and moseys about the town at night. That's when she meets Eli, a fellow insomniac, who becomes her partner-in-crime when they embark on a "quest" for Auden's self-fulfilllment.

My favorite aspect of the story was Auden's developing relationship with her stepmother, Heidi, and her baby half-sister, Thisbe. I feel like the stepparent and stepfamily are often villianized in young adult fiction (even in Dessen's own "That Summer"), so I was happy to see that Auden's most healthy relationships are with the two people she's not wholey related to.

I loved, and still love the idea of a midnight adventure with a mysteriously charming guy, but Dessen didn't explore it nearly as much as I wanted. Auden claims she spends her nights with Eli doing "crazy things," but perhaps the craziest thing they do is argue their way into a skeezy nightclub where they slow dance for about five minutes. I didn't get the "craziness" from their trip to the bowling alley or the many times they bought snacks at the gas station. I suppose many of Auden and Eli's "adventures" aren't captured on the page and the reader is left to imagine them instead, but the spark between the two hinges on this "quest." Perhaps that's why their romance feels a bit shallow.

My major issue with the story is Auden herself, and it's the same problem I have with Macy in another one of Dessen's novels, "The Truth About Forever": Dessen's heriones' lack any kind of confindence or gumption when it comes to their parents. Auden's were horrifyingly immature and selfish, and yet she never gives them a piece of mind. When Auden finally confronts her mother and father (both on the phone, no less), she's as stoic and tight-lipped as ever. It's as if Auden spent the entire book realizing how awful her parents are and working up the courage to stand up for herself, yet by the end of the story she does nothing! I can never imagine someone putting up with that kind of behavior from anyone - let alone their parents - and getting angry about it, but never admitting how they really feel.

Overall, "Along for the Ride" was an enjoyable, fast-paced read and is perfect for anyone looking for a little entertainment while lazing poolside.
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