My rating: 5 of 5 stars
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.
Along for the Ride was such a beautiful, moving novel, about relationships, identity, and second chances. I think what makes this book so incredibly difficult to put down is that it feels so real. Something I love about Sarah Dessen’s books is her ability to create such relatable characters. I discover bits and pieces of my own personality in Dessen’s characters, and recognize the conflicts and challenges of my own life within the pages of her books.
And I think we’d all like to know how we can solve our own problems and face our own challenges, which is why it is so satisfying to see a conflict resolved in a book with a happy ending. Because we think, that could be me.
Anyway, I love Auden because she is a character that has been forced to grow up too fast, and as the reader, it was exciting for me to see Auden embark on her “quest” to reclaim her childhood. By doing so, Auden must learn to take chances. She realizes that she has to be open-minded and willing to try and fail. For a character like Auden, who is unaccustomed to failure, picking herself up and “getting back on the bike” after a fall is definitely a challenge.
The minor characters of the novel, including Auden’s parents, her stepmother Heidi, her new friends (Maggie and Eli), and especially baby Thisbe, are representative of the other themes of the novel. Auden’s mom, for instance, is judgemental of people who are unlike herself. Auden’s dad is a quitter, and tends to give up when the going gets tough. Auden’s recognition of these qualities in herself is part of what causes her to want to change.
People can change. And people can always surprise you, because you do not have to be “either/or.”
The romance, of course, is probably the number 1 reason I fell in love with this book. The romance between Auden and Eli isn’t cheesy, and it isn’t sudden, either. Their friendship and what they are able to share with each other is what’s important. They bond because both are unable to sleep at night, a result of the internal conflicts that are nagging them. I love the way they communicate, and I love the way Eli is so patient and understanding.
Second chances are liberating. Second chances allow you to forget the past, forget the failure, and move on.
“So you believe in second chances now,” he said, clarifying.
“I believe,” I said, “in however many you might need to get it right.”