Book review: ‘Along For The Ride’ by Sarah Dessen

along_for_the_rideThe summer before she starts college, overachiever Auden West makes the unexpected decision to spend her vacation with her father, stepmother Heidi and newborn baby sister Thisbe in their beachside town of Colby. Since her parents’ divorce two years ago, Auden has thrown herself completely into education and ignored any pull at having a social life. Without friends and tired of trying to get the attention of her intense mother, a well-respected college professor, Auden decides to get on “beach time.”

But any hope she’d had of spending time with her father — a once-successful novelist — are thwarted as Robert West holes himself up in his office daily, trying to grind out chapters of a new book which will catapult him back into literary stardom. And there’s another problem bringing down the walls of the West beach home: baby Thisbe just can’t stop screaming. Ever. Overworked, exhausted and at her wit’s end, Heidi comes to rely upon Auden for assistance in navigating the troubled waters of new motherhood and a tense relationship with Auden’s dad. She can only do so much, though — and when she meets Eli, a fellow insomniac who also wanders the town’s sleepy streets late at night, Auden begins to see just how much she have missed while spending her life trying (in vain) to gain her parents’ approval and attention.

What I loved about Along For The Ride — and all of Dessen’s works — is her uncanny ability to blend family stories with romance, friendship and, in many cases, a larger “social issue.” In this novel we’re talking about the children of divorce — and I think she explores that well without it ever becoming treacly. For me, Dessen’s works feature characters about as authentic as they come. I loved watching Auden change, trying more and more of what she never thought she could do, or would be interested in — and watching her friendships develop with Maggie, Leah and Esther. Life with Eli seemed very real, too, and though I knew ultimately what would probably work out between them, I was still excited to get there. The novel didn’t focus exclusively on family dynamics — nor did it talk about the love interest nonstop. Everything was in balance, producing a fun, thoughtful read.

While I have to admit that Along For The Ride lacked the emotional resonance of some of Dessen’s other works — like Just Listen, my personal favorite — I read it very quickly and really felt for many of the characters, especially Heidi. And the ending was perfect! Definitely recommend her work to anyone looking for a great read with very memorable characters.

4 out of 5!

ISBN: 0670011940 ♥ Purchase from AmazonAuthor Website
Personal copy purchased by Meg

Along For The Ride — just six days to go!

along_for_the_rideWhat am I waiting quite impatiently for this Wednesday? Sarah Dessen’s newest release, Along For the Ride, which publishes Tuesday, June 16! I’m a longtime fan of Dessen, a young adult writer from North Carolina who captivates with each and every character she creates. I know I’m certainly not alone!

I’m so devoted to Dessen, I can tell you quite honestly that I haven’t even read the synopsis of the book. Regardless of whether it’s about aliens taking over lakes across the country, a team of well-mannered explorers studying exotic plant life or a young woman grappling with the pangs of first love, loss and delicate family relationships (I’m banking it’s somewhere close to the latter), I’ll be rushing out to grab it!

But just for kicks, here’s how Amazon is piquing our interest:

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.

Okay! Well, now I can say that I’ve actually read the synopsis. Sounds awesome, right? I’m quite excited and feel like this rampant enthusiasm will result in me live Tweeting about it as soon as I rip open that cover. And since I leave for the beach next Wednesday, I’ll get it just in time to tout around all vacation!

New to Sarah Dessen? I highly recommend everything she’s ever written, but I have to go on record as saying my favorite novels are Just Listen and The Truth About Forever. Sarah is the master of creating textured, believable characters who think, speak and behave in ways you would expect from disjointed but lovable teens. I’m immediately drawn into her stories of friendship and family dynamics, and there’s always an awesome, tangible love story in there. Dessen is a young adult author, but don’t let that deter you if you’re not usually into YA — her stories will appeal to readers of any age!

What’s everyone else waiting for this Wednesday? Check out more responses over at Breaking the Spine!