Along for the Ride – Sarah Dessen
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.
In her signature pitch-perfect style, Sarah Dessen explores the hearts of two lonely people learning to connect.
I didn’t realize it until I started reading this book, but there’s a subtle comfort in Sarah Dessen novels. In a strange, convoluted way, the Lakeview world feels like home, or at least what we all wish home was. It’s a comfort going back to the same places, the same faces, and the same stories. It’s a comfort knowing that the characters still rely on that great Ume.com, and apply to the U after graduating. It’s no surprise finding out that Jason Talbot is still an A-grade jackass. It brings a smile to your face to see that the key necklaces are still bestsellers. That the memorable worlds of Perkins Day and Jackson High and World of Waffles are still standing, still running, still playing a part in the lives of the familiar faces we all fell in love with.
And yet, there’s always something new. Along for the Ride is set away from the familiar haunts, in a small town called Colby, home to Auden’s dad, perky stepmother and brand-new half sister. And it is to Colby that Auden goes to escape her mother’s house and the rut she seems to be falling into. Between a pair of crazy academic parents and their messy divorce, not to mention an even crazier wayward brother, Auden grew up too fast and learned not to be able to sleep at night. But this summer offers her the perfect opportunity for a second chance at childhood, at teenage, and at becoming who she really is, all while the rest of the world sleeps.
Auden’s head is a great place to be, especially for anyone who’s been a nerd their whole life and knows what it’s like to miss out on those ever-so-crucial life experiences *coughcough*. She’s not naïve – in fact, despite her lack of “street smarts”, she gets exactly how selfish her parents are, and how ridiculous her brother is and knows when she’s making excuses for either. But what I love about her is that takes on the world with more than a little trepidation and uncertainty, gets a little scuffed and scabbed on her way, but keeps going. Of course, she has help with that, but more on that later. There’s a bit of Macy, a hint of Anabel, and a touch of Macy in her and you’ll love her in all the same ways you loved them.
I don’t think I can get through this review without addressing the insane amount of rallying that Mitali, Trish and more recently Alea have been doing for Team Eli, and I’m happy to say I’m officially a flag-bearing member after this! Sarah Dessen has scored a true gem with this novel, finally creating that star male MC with all the best traits genetically picked out or something. He’s a little damaged, a little broken, but he’s not looking for pity or comfort, just a kindred spirit. And underneath the dark, broody aura, the guy is genuinely fun! I have fallen quite hard, I admit.
My favorite Eli moment: “Forgive the mess,” to explain his apartment’s look. Not “I’m sorry about the mess,” but “Forgive the mess”. There’s a very subtle difference! (Okay, that probably wasn’t really my favorite, but it’s 5 in the morning and it’s the only one that stuck in my mind).
Along for the Ride is another classic Dessen gem to add to the collection – a story of two people who try to fill in each others’ missing parts, and figure out who they’re meant to be when the world’s not watching. Read this for the stellar supporting cast, engaging dialogue, fantastic quotes and all the other unique elements that define a Dessen classic.