Author: Sarah Dessen
Summary:A surprisingly appealing book, Along for the Ride followed teenage Auden. Studious to a fault, precocious and far too adult for her years, Auden has grown up in the shadow of two extremely successful and prestigious parents and one carefree, spoiled older brother. After her parents’ divorce, Auden, who cannot sleep nights as a lingering result of the constant fighting, spends nights at the local café drinking coffee and reading. Feeling increasingly disconnected from her mother, Auden eventually decides to spend the summer with her father, his new wife, and their newborn baby. She discovers quickly that her father has not changed from the spoiled, selfish man he was with Auden’s mother, and that baby Thisbe is a screaming, colicky infant ready to drive Auden’s harried stepmother over the edge. Auden is reluctant to get involved, but instead begins working at her stepmother’s small store. Though at first she disdains the girls there, she soon discovers that one, Maggie, is easily as smart as Auden herself, but has somehow balanced intelligence with all the happier parts of being a teen.
Though Auden is curious, it is the mysterious Eli who finally draws her out of her shell. Suffering from the loss of a friend in a car accident a year earlier, Eli is wary of intimacy with most of his peers. The two of them, kindred spirits and fellow insomniacs, begin to explore the town together at night on a quest to give Auden the experiences she missed out on. A disagreement separates them, but Auden, after watching her family and her father’s consistent refusals to take action to make things work, decides that she will learn to ride a bike – one thing that she has never learned, which will require her to try over and over and over again. In the process, she will come to understand herself far better, and take another chance on her own relationship.
Review:Though Auden’s pompous attitude and detachment from her peers should be distasteful to a reading audience, it was surprisingly easy to sympathize with her anyway. Teens who have had broken or dysfunctional families will particularly appreciate Auden’s resentment at being caught in the middle and her viewpoints as she watches her family crumble, come together and crumble again. Relationally oriented, the book is very realistic and contains enough humor and scenes of teens enjoying themselves to keep it from being dry, preachy or overly angsty and dark. Auden and Eli are well developed with often obnoxious quirks and flaws that manage to make them entirely sympathetic. The secondary characters are relatively well developed too although some readers may tire of the sometimes relentless descriptions of them behaving the same way over and over again. Multiple themes run through the book without causing it to be preachy, including family bonds, divorce, stepfamilies, and peer relationships of all kinds. The question of whether or not people can truly change is a dominant focus throughout the story, and Auden’s journey into the person she truly is, as opposed to who her parents want her to be or believe she is, is both warming and poignant.