Auden needs an escape from her overbearing mother, so she goes off to a small town to live with her somewhat-neglectful father, his new wife, and their newborn baby for the summer. While there, Auden learns a lot about judging others, love, and family. People aren’t always who you think they.
Sarah Dessen is an author I’ve loved since childhood and I will probably always love. Every time I read one of her novels it’s like I’m returning to say hello to an old friend. She was the first favorite author I ever had and she is still easily one of my top five favorite authors today. She shaped me a lot as a writer and as a person. Along for the Ride was a beautiful story that brought me back into the world of Sarah Dessen. As per usual her writing was top notch, with loveable characters, great pacing, and a storyline that grabbed me right away.
I really fell for Auden’s plight and I grew to care about her character, but I will talk more about her later. I was incredibly invested with what was going on in her world, as she had a mother, Victoria, who thought everything she did was right…and Auden always had to be a miniature version of her mother. If she didn’t agree with her mother, her mother would always try to have the last word. So when she set off to spend the summer with her father and his new family, I could understand why…but then her father, Robert could be almost described as neglectful. He loved his family, but he was never there for him. Every time his new wife, Heidi was left alone with the newborn baby, I felt bad for Heidi. Robert never was there and he was full of excuses on why he couldn’t help with the baby or even change the diaper. Her business meant nothing to him, and I understood why Auden was misguided in life. She had two selfish parents, that at some points I grew to hate. I felt that the novel should have painted them in better lights early on…because by the time we saw them in better lights it was the end of the novel, and I just didn’t like her parents.
Ever since her parents’ divorce Auden has been plagued by Insomnia and that is what actually sets off her romance with the distant, elusive Eli. Eli has a dark past, but of course Auden helps him get through his problems and they fall for one another. Their romance was cute, and I liked that Dessen took her time to let them fall in love. Dessen never falls into the love at first sight gimmick, and she lets her characters talk for themselves. When Auden and Eli fall for one another, it feels deserved and not like Dessen is just throwing two random people together. When they were together, their nightly adventures were adorable and funny, and very romantic in how simple they were. Dessen never had anything extravagant, but instead a trip to a diner or just eat pie at a Laundromat would make my heart flutter. While I can’t say the romance was totally realistic, it worked and won me over.
Dessen has always had a way with writing side characters as they are full of life and usually steal the entire scene. Along for the Ride is no different. Many of the side characters stole the show, such as the three teen girls who work for Heidi—Maggie, Leah, and Esther—who each had a giant personality and each one made me laugh. For me Maggie was almost the heart of the novel. She was a beautiful soul who made me so happy. She was selfless, cared maybe too much, but had her badass moments as well. She was girly and wore tons of pink, but she could also do many amazing stunts on a BMX bike. When Maggie came into the scene, everything just got better. In any normal book Maggie and her friends would be the villains or they would be annoying jokes, but Dessen treated them as real young women with their own distinct personalities.
Along for the Ride suffers from honestly the same flaw, which plagues many of Dessen’s novels. If you read one of her novels, you basically know the heroine. In many of her novels, the heroine comes off exactly the same in dialect, personality, and through their thought processes. They are always the young introspective girl, unsure of themselves. They usually have a dry sarcastic wit and a pessimistic outlook on life. I’m not saying this is a bad character. I actually love the character she always uses…but after a while it’s starting to get a bit boring. Along with that the parents got on my nerves big time, and I kept waiting for Auden to finally tell them off…but then this never happened. I was disappointed that I never got this…as I felt the entire novel was leading up to Auden telling her parents off for being the way they were.
In the end, I had a great time with the novel, and once again Dessen didn’t let me down. She crafted a beautifully written romance novel, that also was about not judging others, friendship, and family.
YEAR READ: 2014