Friday, August 30, 2013

Rereading Sarah Dessen: Along for the Ride

Welcome this month's edition of the I Eat Words Sarah Dessen Read/Reread Challenge! Check out this post that explains the details about the awesomeness that is this challenge. This month my BFF Sandy and I (along with all other challenge participants) read Along for the Ride. I realized this month that I reallllly wish I had read all the novels in order. It's starting to bug me that I can't pick up on cameos because I'm reading the books out of order. That didn't change my opinion of the novel though...I still liked it!

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.
About the Story
Main  Character: Auden West
Age: 18
School Year or Summer?: Summer
Boy: Eli Stock
First description of the boy: "When I turned, I found myself facing a tall guy with longish dark hair pulled back at his neck, wearing a worn blue hoodie and jeans. He glanced at me quickly - his eyes were green and deep set - barely seeming to register my face." (page 41)
Crushable?: Yes.
Big Secret?:  No secrets, more just not being honest and not communicating well.
Heavy Storyline?: A little bit, maybe. Divorce/separation play a large role, as does the death of Eli's friend, Abe (which happened prior to this summer).
Parents Together?: No - divorced.
Sibling(s)?: Yes, an older brother, Hollis (20?) 
Takes Place In: Lakeview is where she grew up but she spends the summer in Colby.
Cameos: Several! Auden's prom date was supposed to be Jason (Macy's boyfriend from The Truth About Forever) and she mentions Jason's ex and the guy she started dating after him. She went to Perkins Day at one point and that's mentioned in another novel (Dreamland maybe?). She frequents the Last Chance Cafe. Esther, one of the girls who works at Clementine's, and Clyde, who owns The Washroom, both show up in The Moon and More. Heidi wears and sells key necklaces (Lock and Key...which I only remember from the first time I read it because we haven't yet reread this one).

About the Book
Released: 2009.
Epigraph?: No, but there is a map of Colby. A map! I love it!
Format (of the copy I read): Hardcover (and includes special features)
Own?: Yes. It's actually my second copy. I brought my first copy to the signing I went to two years ago but was able to get a free copy. I had Sarah sign my other one to my sister and this new one to me.
Signed?: Yes (see above.)
Read or Reread: Reread
Age when first read: 22.
New cover vs older cover: New (I don't think Auden ever would have worn that polka dot dress).

My Thoughts
When I started this challenge Along for the Ride was one of my favourite Dessen novels. (I say that a lot, don't I?) Like the others, I wondered if it would hold up. I'm not entirely sure that it did. I loved it and I enjoyed rereading Auden and Eli's story but I don't think I loved it quite as much as I did the first time around. Don't get me wrong, the book is still amazing and is still in the top three (we'll see if that changes by the end of this challenge) but I think I found it too similar to some of Dessen's other works.
I think the problem (if I even want to call it a problem) is that I've been reading all the books over a short(ish) period of time so it's a little easier to spot the similarities. Auden was sort of a combination of Macy from The Truth About Forever and Remy from This Lullaby. She was an overachiever who wanted to please her parents (especially her mother) and was more of an adult than a teen because that's what her parents had expected of her her whole life. This isn't a bad thing but I thought it was notable that there were fairly specific characteristics and plot points present in this novel that show up in previous Dessen novels.
As is typical of Dessen's novels, the romance isn't the main point of the story. It provides a really sweet secondary plot and it's great to see Auden blossom and Eli learn to open up again. But Auden's journey isn't about finding the boy. She's finding herself before going off to college and finally figuring out where she fits and belongs in her family. Her journey is a great one and it's made that much better by her finding someone to share her time and thoughts with. It also helps that Eli is set on creating a quest for Auden and helping her complete it. I loved that!
I loved spending more time in Colby. Whenever Dessen's novels bring us to the beach town I always wish it was real because I want to go there. I want to go to the Washroom and chat with Clyde and try some of his pies. I want to shop at Clementine's. I even want to go to Tallyho's to see why Leah loves it and the other girls hate it. And I must try those onion rings at the Last Chance Cafe. Dessen does an amazing job of really placing the reader in Colby and I love visiting it through the pages.
I love the idea of a summer changing you. Dessen is huge on summers and how those few months can alter you and pack more of a punch than the rest of the year combined. Auden's summer is no different as she shakes up her world and decides to spend the summer at the beach with her dad, step-mom, and new baby half-sister. Makes me wish that I had spent more time at the beach the summer before I went away to university! As I mentioned before, Auden has a journey to go on and changing her schedule and location makes that journey possible. She's able to see herself in a different way, meet new friends, and finally come to terms with her family. Auden realizes that people can change (no matter what her mother may say) as long as they allow themselves to be changed. With Along for the Ride Dessen once again proves that summer is the time to be transformed - and I love it.

Sandy's Thoughts
Along for the Ride is still my favourite Sarah Dessen novel. My second favourite has changed to The Truth About Forever and who knows, it could change again before this challenge is over. That is one of the exciting things about rereading fantastic books. Reading the same book at different stages in your life can give you a different feeling about the contents. As you change and grow so does your outlook and opinion, not only about books but about life as well.
This happens to Auden in Along for the Ride. She decides to live with her father and his new wife for one summer and it changes her forever. Auden has lived her whole life as the smart but distant girl. She thrives in academia but struggles with what others would describe as normal experiences, such as prom or having girlfriends. She has spent her formative years bowing to the expectations of her parents and ended up becoming the adult in her relationship with them. None of the aspects of a normal childhood or teenage experience have interested her, until now.
Until she goes along for the ride in Colby, she has lived her life on the periphery of friendship and relationships with people her own age. When Auden arrives in Colby, however, she is thrown into a secret world of girls and boys and true friends. She is lucky enough to find a group of girls who take her for what she is and not just what they presume her to be. Maggie, Leah and Esther eventually see through Auden’s holier than thou attitude towards them and try to teach her the value of friendship. Falling in with them allows Auden to be her own type of girl; strong, smart, quiet but determined. With this new discovery of herself Auden learns that she can live with academics and still have a life beyond.
During her summer in Colby, Auden learns that people are never what they appear to be at first glance. She is used to making snap judgements about her fellow teenage girls, teenage boys, her brother, her parents and even herself. Everyone has a deeper self and a story to share and now so will Auden. Auden finds her counterpart in Eli, a boy who has lived too much, or so it seems. Eli is sure to make her summer outside of her protective bubble a memorable one. He invents a quest that is as much about getting him out of his grief as it is about making sure Auden has a childhood before university. Together they embark on a quest not only to change Auden’s past, but to shape her future.
This novel made me smile. It is the perfect teen summer story, complete with angst and the growth of a somewhat sheltered heroine. A summer away from the influence of her parents allows Auden to grow into a more well-rounded version of herself. If only we all could have a summer as eye opening in our youth. But it is never too late.
One summer can change you. People are changeable if they just allow it, if they just go along for the ride. Just be sure to steer every once in a while.

Next month
Someone Like You, Dessen's second novel. I think I prefer the romance in the movie How to Deal than what actually happened in the book so I'm interested to see if I'm remembering this correctly.


  1. I can't this the Dessen novel that you said I should start off with? It certainly sounds good!

    1. Yes! This is one of the best ones. I've sort of revised my stance on How To Read Sarah Dessen since I've reread her first one, THAT SUMMER. It's not her best, it was her first novel after all, but it's still very good. Reading in order means getting all the cameos which I think is good. All that being said, ALONG FOR THE RIDE is definitely one you should read!


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