Along for the Ride by Sarah Dessen
Publisher:  Viking Juvenile
Published:  June 11th 2009

Hardcover, 383 pages

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. 

Auden is a very recluse girl, and she likes it that way.  She is very academically driven and purposefully stays away from social situations.  For her last summer of “freedom” before she goes off to college, she moves in with her father, who has recently been re-married and has just had a new baby, in a small beach town.  Auden saw this as the perfect opportunity to get to know her father better and to be by herself while trying to be a “normal” teenage girl.  From the moment she steps foot in her father’s home she is bombarded with her father’s new wife, Heidi, and their new baby, Thisbee.  The one thing missing is her father – everyday he shuts himself away in his office, working on a new book, only to come down for a new Diet Coke and a bite to eat.  By accident she finds herself working at her Stepmother’s clothing store, where the girls there are just as peppy and high-spirited as Heidi, everything Auden is not. During a few short months Auden discovers herself questioning what she once knew about her parents, the people around her, even herself.  

I loved the characters in this book – all of them (expect maybe her father).  You really see Auden grow up.  In the beginning Auden has a “I’m better off alone” attitude and even acts as if she is better than most people (even though this is not very overt and obvious) and is very closed minded.  By the end, she is much more open minded and more of an adult than most people her age.  Eli struggles with guilt throughout the whole book.  When Auden and Eli start spending time together, Eli’s guilt becomes more understandable. 

 I loved how real Sarah Dessen portrayed all of her characters.  I wanted to scream at Auden’s parents so many times.  I kept asking myself why they just couldn’t love Auden for who she really was.  I ABSOLUTELY loved Heidi, Auden’s new step-mother.  There is definitely more than meets the eye to her.  

Sarah Dessen’s writing style and plot are both easy going yet very engaging.  This is the first book of hers I have read and went out right away to buy more of her books after finishing this one.  I couldn’t put it down!  

My Rating: