Title: Along for the Ride
Author: Sarah Dessen
Release Date: June 16th 2009
Up all night.
Nights have always been Auden’s time, her chance to escape everything that’s going on around her.
Then she meets Eli, a fellow insomniac, and he becomes her nocturnal tour guide.
Now, with an endless supply of summer nights between them, almost anything can happen…
– Blurb courtesy of goodreads.com
My Thoughts On…
Ever so slowly catching up on Sarah Dessen’s newest releases the next one on my list was Along for the Ride; reading this book was the perfect way to spend a lazy Saturday afternoon, and now reviewing this book is going to be the perfect way to spend a Saturday evening.
Although she plans to spend her last summer break before going to university the same way she has spent pretty much all her free time – studying, avoiding her mother and the last night gatherings she hosts for her graduate students – after speaking to her brother Auden decides she needs something more. While she can’t hop on a plane and travel to Paris, or Rome, or Amsterdam like Hollis she can go to North Carolina and spend time with her father, his new wife, and her new baby sister.
Unfortunately Auden’s summer with her father is not what she thought it would be; her father locks himself away trying to write his next great masterpiece, her sister won’t stop crying, and her step mum is exhausted trying to look after Thisbe on her own. When she tries to help Heidi with her store one evening, unable to sleep, Auden ends up getting a part time job there managing the finances and it’s there Auden meets Maggie, Leah and Esther.
Auden is struggling with something much more than just how to fill her days before she goes to university though. Ever since her parents fought in the night while they were still married Auden has been unable to sleep thought the night and instead spends her time wandering around the town. It’s on one of these nightly strolls that she first sees Eli.
The two of them strike up a friendship, and Eli spends the nights showing Auden the secrets of the town that only the locals know, and helping her reclaim her lost childhood and all the experiences she missed out on having grown up all too quickly.
Auden reminded me of Ruby, the protagonist from Lock and Key, a little at the beginning. The two characters weren’t at all similar in personalities or in their family situations, but both were very closed off from the world around them and the reader at the beginning. Like Ruby though the more time Auden spends with Eli and the small circle of friends she makes, including her step mum and her new sister, the more she opens up.
When she was a child Auden was forced to become an adult, and she never got the chance to have a normal childhood doing the kinds of things other kids did. Her mother is ambitious and all about book smarts over everything else, and she passed that along to Auden who feels she has to be different from other typical girls in order to earn her mother’s approval. Auden’s relationship with her parents is a major theme in this book, and I thought all their interactions were brilliantly written.
Eli lost his best friend, and ever since then everything that brought him joy seemed to have been stripped from his life. However when he starts spending time with Auden on their night journeys he opens up more, maybe because she doesn’t know about his past he feels he can be more himself with her. While Eli helps Auden reclaim some of her lost childhood Auden helps drag Eli back into the world again after he shut himself away.
I loved the way the relationship between Eli and Auden developed. The two reached out to each other because they represented something they needed. For Eli Auden was a fresh chance; someone who didn’t know about his past, what happened to his best friend, and who didn’t look at him with pity. For Auden Eli was someone who shared her insomnia; someone who she could waste the hours away with before the sun rose and she could finally fall asleep.
However more than the relationship with Eli I loved seeing Auden’s relationship with her friends and her step mum develop as well. At the very beginning Auden is still influenced by everything her mother thinks about typical girls, she sees herself as apart from them and doesn’t make an effort to join in or understand when they talk about things like fashion and boys. The more time she spends with them though the more she realises she was wrong to judge them by her mother’s standards, that there is something more to each of them than she first thought.
The friendship between Maggie and Auden was my favourite part of this story. It would have been all too easy for Sarah Dessen to have made Maggie the enemy for Auden; the classic mean girl trope you find in a lot of YA contemporary novels set in high school. Dessen doesn’t do this however, and I felt it made the story so much better seeing both Maggie and Auden develop, and their friendship with one another develop alongside them.
I honestly don’t think there is ever going to be a Sarah Dessen book I don’t like. While Just Listen remains my favourite Along for the Ride is a brilliant addition to the YA contemporary genre. There are none of the usual tropes you find in this genre, instead it’s a refreshing story about family, friendship and about learning who you are.
What did you think of Along for the Ride? Was it a favourite of yours or could you just not get into the story? Let me know.