Reading level: Young Adult
Hardcover: 383 pages
Publisher: Viking Juvenile
Release Date: June 16, 2009
Synopsis: 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.My brain's crapping out on me and for some reason I can't seem to etch out a review. So I'm free-stylin' this one: Being the child of a novelist and professor, she's pressured to be academically brilliant. She's very mature for her age and by the time she's a teen, she's got her mindset permanently set on being successful. She strives for perfection and has competes with everyone. (Including Jason from The Truth about Forever!) Then her parents get divorced. It speeds up to when she's finally finished her senior year and receives an e-mail from her overly perky step-mother Heidi inviting her to spend the summer with her, her father and her new step-sister Thisbe. Auden decides to go, as an excuse to get away from her control-freak of a mother. But once she gets there, it's not what she expected at all.
Auden's feeling of annoyance towards her stepmom are pretty clear from the first pages; Heidi is everything Auden (and her mother) hate: the typical pink-wearing girly girl. Heidi, however, became one of my favorite characters because she's much more than a girly girl. She's actually pretty tough...and genuinely kind. The three girls that help Auden with her lack of understanding in the world of girls are Maggie, Esther and Leah. Maggie was another character I loved. She was like Heidi, girlish but full of surprises (one being that Maggie's into fashion AND BMXing. Not a usual combo you find in a girl.) Auden's friendship with these girls starts rocky since Auden makes the mistake of hooking up with Jake, a local who ends up being Maggie's ex. *coughAWKWARDcough*. The trio of girls was reminiscent of Morgan and Isabel from Keeping the Moon (these two even make a cameo!). As for Eli, Auden and him bond over their insomnia and teaches her that not everything has to be perfect. The only things that suck are her parents. Her father's lazy, selfish and runs away whenever there's a problem. Her mother is mocking and always has to be right which causes tensions between her and Auden.
The best thing about this book were the characters; Dessen's a master at creating a set of people that are all different and blend (or clash) together to create drama and romance. Along for the Ride is a great summer read that everyone should pick up.