I've now read more Sarah Dessen novels than any other YA author. I've never been disappointed by a Sarah Dessen novel, and I'm happy to report that her newest title, Along for the Ride, does not break this trend.
This is a perfect summer read. I read it from my picnic table while getting a bit of a tan. It was a near-perfect experience. I felt like I was truly transported to the setting of the novel, which is a small seaside community. Far, far away from my driveway and the mountainous region I live in.
This story focuses on a summer in the life of a teen girl named Auden. Weird name, huh? Not for the child prodigy of two university professors and published authors. Auden is named after the poet W. H. Auden, and this fact is only the beginning of her isolation and awkwardness with her peers. She is closest to her mother, a negative and condescending person who uses Auden to get info about her ex-husband.
And then there's Auden's father. Almost as soon as she arrives at his beach cottage for a summer visit, he disappears into his office to finish the novel he's been working on for a decade. In almost every situation in the book, Auden's father is childish and self-absorbed.
A surprising brightness in Auden's life comes in the form of her young, chipper stepmother. Auden (and I) don't expect to care about this woman, but she is one of the most sympathetic characters in this novel. She is a new, overwhelmed mother and a business woman. And her husband, Auden's father is an overgrown child. I feel for her.
It's not long before Auden, normally a driven-to-study recluse, starts to change her patterns and opens up her mind and heart to the people around her. I love that she makes friends, but not easily. She is very socially awkward and seems to not understand the normal rules of engagement. Despite this fact, she finds that she has more in common with the people of this small town than she ever thought possible.
And, yes, there is a romance. And heartbreak. And friendship. And Auden is not the same after her summer at the beach.
A perfect read for a day at the beach, the lake, or at your picnic table. It's summer in a book!
Check out a video where Sarah Dessen explains her inspiration for this novel.