'Auden has always felt like the odd one out. Since her parents’ divorce she’s shied away, studying lots and staying out of the party scene. But now Auden’s realised there must be something more and, just like that, she changes everything. Moving to her dad’s house opens up a whole new world of beach parties, food fights – and simply having fun. As she starts to get to know herself – and a secretive boy with dark, brooding eyes – can Auden begin to let go and finally feel like she truly belongs?'
In other words:
Auden’s grown up pretty much all work and no play, but the summer before university she has nothing to work towards – she’s already been accepted to her preferred uni, but in the meantime, has a summer to kill. Staying with her dad in a small town, she gets to know the teenage population. For Auden, who’s more at home behind a textbook, this summer is all about learning to let go.
Sarah Dessen’s books tend to follow not exactly the same formula, but similar themes. Family, friendship, love, and the main character is on a journey of self-discovery and growing up. She’s a master at writing books not only for teens, but books about teens. Each book, though similar, brings a new character with authentic issues and an authentic story.
So where does Along for the Ride fit into this strong repertoire? In my opinion it’s solidly in the middle. Auden is a character easy to relate to – she’s a product of her parents and her upbringing, slowly learning how to become her own person. The cast of characters are interesting – those who you’d least expect it of seem to be the most insightful. I did have a quibble: everyone in the town is essentially good – there are those with faults, but these are usually people from Auden’s past.
Eli is an interesting love interest, but I actually didn’t feel that I got to know him. Similarly, he was just too nice; going so far out of his way for a stranger reads as a little bit unlikely to me. Maybe I’m just too cynical. This small issue aside, I’m constantly amazed at Sarah Dessen’s ability to weave a story from almost mundane events and little action. She manages to do so without ever letting the story become stagnant or dull.
So where does it rate? I’d put it on a par with Lock & Key. A solid new read for any Sarah Dessen fans (especially as you will recognise cameos of characters from previous books). If you haven’t read anything by Sarah Dessen before then this is still worth reading, but my advice is to get yourself a copy of The Truth about Forever to read – one of my favourite contemporary books for teens. These books lean more towards a female readership, but I'm sure lads could enjoy them too.
Category: Contemporary teen fiction