I’ve been reading Sarah Dessen books for a while, but for some reason Along for the Ride passed me by. It’s pretty standard Dessen, in so far as a slightly awkward teenage girl who is a bit of an outsider spends a summer learning about herself and falls in love along the way. But why mess around with a tried-and-tested formula that works? That’s the beauty of Dessen’s novels, the charming way she shows the transformation of the main character coming of age and the undeniably sweet romance.
Along for the Ride is no different – studious Auden spends the summer with her father, his new wife and baby, where she learns about female friendships, experiencing life as a care-free teenager and crushes. Throw in some insomnia, late night drives and a boy who is guilt-ridden over the loss of a friend.
And it’s delightful. Auden is, like all of Dessen’s main characters, instantly likeable and easy to identify with. The love interest Eli is initially mysterious but once Auden knows more the more likably he becomes – particularly as he helps Auden capture a sense of youthfulness she missed trying to be the perfect daughter to an academic mother. The development from Auden as a solitary character to one who gets to know the girls who work at her stepmother’s store is well executed, particularly the move from grudgingly interacting with them to eventually appreciating that she had judged them on stereotypes. But it really is the late night jaunts and the transformation of Auden, who moves from being unsure of herself and a bit lost, to someone who seems to find a place for herself amongst the chaos of her family.
A delightful uplifting read, particularly for anyone who ever felt like they just didn’t quite fit in enough.