Here is the official blurb from Goodreads:
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.
I’m always impressed by Sarah Dessen’s novels. Let’s just establish that upfront. She manages to write about romance, family life, and the stresses that come with being a teenage girl. ALONG FOR THE RIDE isn’t my favorite Dessen novel, but I found a lot to love.
Auden is an incredibly lonely character – my favorite kind. In her mission to please her mother, Auden has been groomed for academia. Shopping, gossiping, hanging out – these are pursuits for lesser girls who don’t have a bright future in front of them. Auden decides to take a break from this life of constant studying and perfection by heading to her father’s for the summer. Her father is fairly newly married to a much younger woman, and they’ve just had a baby. Auden walks into a house where things are chaotic. The baby screams all the time. Heidi, Auden’s stepmother, is exhausted, short-tempered, and depressed. Auden’s father is too busy working on his novel to help Heidi. Rather than feeling like she belongs, Auden feels like a stranger and disconnected from her father and his new family.
Luckily, Auden finds an escape in working at Heidi’s boutique. There she befriends several girls and learns what it is to belong to a group of friends. More than that, as Auden goes on nighttime walks, she meets a boy who shares her insomnia. Their late night adventures were my favorite parts of the novel. Eli used to compete in bike racing, but after a tragedy he quit. Like Auden, he is lonely and isolated. These two find a kindred spirit in each other and slowly change each other. I wished Eli had been in the story more than he was.
Here and there, the pacing felt a little slow to me. There isn’t a lot of action in the story. The plot reflects the lazy days of summer in a sleepy summer town. Things move slowly with a lot of quiet reflection. A few times I wished for something more to happen. For Auden to throw a tantrum or confront her father. The sense of feeling repressed started to get to me, and I’m not sure the end paid off when the book felt like it could have been shortened to help the pacing. At the end of the day, though, I still loved the book and found myself rooting for Auden to break free of her parents’ expectations and find her own voice.
A great read for fans of Sarah Dessen and YA contemporaries with a family component.
Find it on Goodreads.
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