Review: Along For the Ride by Sarah Dessen

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Summary Courtesy of Booklist/Amazon.com

Auden is about to start college in the fall, and decides to escape her control-freak professor mom to spend the summer with her novelist father, his new young wife, and their brand-new baby daughter, Thisbe. Over the course of the summer, Auden tackles many new projects: learning to ride a bike, making real connections with peers, facing the emotional fallout of her parents’ divorce, distancing herself from her mother, and falling in love with Eli, a fellow insomniac bicyclist recovering from his own traumas.

I hadn’t been excited for a Sarah Dessen release in a very long time. I waited patiently for months when I heard that she was releasing Along For the Ride, saving up to purchase the hardcover edition. Now, I am a bibliophile to the greatest extent, with mountains upon mountains of books that could easily fill the library in Beauty and the Beast. But I never buy brand new hardcover books. I just don’t. First of all, twenty dollars is a lot to pay for a book that will last me—maybe—a day and a half. That is why Benjamin Franklin established libraries. So when I bought Along For the Ride, it was a pretty big deal.

Through the majority of the book, I was disgusted by the way that Auden’s father acted. He was a jerk, self-absorbed, and inconsiderate. His new wife—Auden’s stepmother—wasn’t a strong figure like I expected her to be, with the exception of taking all of the responsibility of raising their newborn baby Thisbe while still managing her own business.  The baby was given a wretched name—Thisbe—from Shakespeare and seemed to be more of an annoyance to the storyline, making my stomach clench whenever I read that she was again plagued with colic and wouldn’t stop screeching for hours. The baby really didn’t fit with the rest of the plot. Auden seemed a bit of a pushover and a people pleaser, and the “fling” with Jake seemed out of character so early in the book that I felt it was an amateur writer’s first draft, not a published novel that had gone through the rigors of editing with a seasoned author at the helm.

Along for the Ride was disappointing, to say the least. The writing was formulaic and predictable, having read the majority of Sarah Dessen’s books I basically knew how it was going to pan out in the end.The only thing I liked were the nights at the bike park, where Auden watched the town’s teenagers having a good time throwing tricks on their BMX bikes, and the nights where Eli and Auden would work on her “quest”. The cover suggested that the subplot of her learning to ride a bike would be a major factor, a struggle for her after possibly a traumatic event, but instead it was  Eli’s tragic event. But no such luck. The plot should have been thought through longer, instead of caving to the pressures of the young adult audience to produce another book quickly.

I am a great fan of Sarah Dessen’s work, and there were moments in the book that I liked. I pretended to escape back into summertime. I had wished it to be another “Someone Like You” or “This Lullaby”, giving the reader hope that love could really be neverending and anything was possible in summer. Maybe Ms. Dessen will break from her norm and produce a fantastic fantasy or adventure book? We shall have to wait and see.

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