Title: Along for the Ride
Author: Sarah Dessen
Book #: Standalone
Publish Date: June 2012
Format: Paperback, Reissue
Date Read: August 22nd 2013
Rating: ★★★ / out of 5
There were endless ways to spend your days, I knew that, none of them right or wrong. But given the chance for a real do-over, another way around, who would say no? Not me. Not then. Call it crazy, or just chicken salad. But within reason, or even without it, I was in, too.
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...
(Synopsis taken from Goodreads)
This is my first Sarah Dessen book. There, I said it. Honestly, contemporary romance just isn't my thing. I did, however, need lighter read to have with me while I was on vacation at the beach because the book I was currently reading was a 500+ page long horror story. So, yes. I needed a contemporary romance for the time being.
While the first page of this book boasts that you will "Read her once. Fall in love." This was sadly not the case for me.
I liked most of the characters, to a degree. The only character I really managed to connect with was Auden, though I did have problems with her character. I did like the love interest, Eli, but honestly there was nothing overly swoon worthy about him to me, especially compared to some other love interests I am still in love with. The friends that Auden makes are pretty cool. Her parents, though... Those people were a trip. I just could not.
The only characters I am going to go into detail about are Auden, her mother and her father. They were the ones I had the most thoughts built up on by the end of the story. All the other characters were enjoyable to read about, but not extremely memorable in my opinion.
Auden's main goal has always been to gain her parent's praise. She works hard in school to achieve the highest grades. Unfortunately, all her focus on school work has left her with a lacking (or nonexistent) social life. While I am not a brainiac like she is, I was able to connect to Auden for this reason because I, too, didn't really have much of a social life. While I do love hanging out with friends and going places, I mostly like to keep to myself. I never went to any of the school dances, including my senior prom, and spent most of my time nerding it up in the library (a.k.a. "media center").
However, I found her to be a bit of a hypocrite and, despite the fact that later on in the book we definitely see a split between who her mother is and who Auden is, it is apparent that her mother has rubbed her fudgemental ways off onto her. I say she seemed to be a hypocrite because multiple times she complains that Heidi talks way to much, going on and on and on. Yet, she does the same thing. At least two times in this book, when she is talking to Eli, she starts running her mouth off so much that you just want to yell at her to shut up.
As far as being like her mother, Auden makes this comment about Maggie which I found to be totally shallow and inappropriate:
Here you had the capability to know so much about so many things, and you chose shoes and clothes. Leah at least seemed smart, while Esther, who clearly followed her own beat, was an individual. But Maggie was just... well, she was just like Heidi. A girl's girl, all the way, all pink and fluff and frivolity. Even worse, she was happy about it.Bitch, please. Who do you think you are?
But then, she also pulls a moment like this were she comes off as being strong and agreeable:
"Says who? Society. The same society, I might add, that dictates that little girls should always be sugar and spice and everything nice, which encourages them to not be assertive. And that, in turn, then leads to low self-esteem, which can lead to eating disorders and increased tolerance and acceptance of domestic, sexual and substance abuse."My final verdict on her is that she is still very judgmental and I didn't like the comments she made about certain people. However, I still did like some of her opinions and enjoyed watching her change some opinions she had over the course of the novel.
Her father is a egotistical, sexist pig head who is just so obviously self-centered that is is laughable. He has a newborn baby and contributes absolutely nothing to helping with the care-giving. He assumes that his wife is happily taking care of the baby, cleaning the house and making dinner for him. He also has no problem dumping all his baby duties off to his daughter who is supposed to be spending her time there vacationing and not babysitting. He makes this statement which was really the final straw for me so much that, despite how much he might have "changed" by the end, I am glad I don't have to ever deal with him again:
"If you were an Ashley or a Lisa, not an Auden, do you think you'd be so special?"Excuse me?
I'm not even really sure what to label her mother. She is just a piece of work. She gives her daughter the bitchiest pieces of advice, such as things like: "Oh, darling, don't be bitter. It's the first instinct of the weak" and "A smart woman knows a fling is always best."... She, too, is a big fat hypocrite who openly shows her distaste for women who are "feminine" and not "assertive" "enough" or "smart" "enough", but then complains about her son's fiance being too smart and serious for him. She raises Auden to be smart and sensible, but hates the idea of her son settling down and becoming a bank teller when she would rather him go back to partying around Europe and living off her money. No. Just no.
The story just didn't wow me. Maybe there is not supposed to be a major, main plot line in these sorts of books, but I found myself reading without any idea what I was supposed to be looking forward to in the end.
Was the story supposed to revolving around Auden learning how to ride a bike? Or learning to give second chances? Or discovering herself? Or learning to like Heidi? Finding a name for the bike shop? Learning to balance school and a social life? Completing her quest? Getting a second chance at prom? It is mostly a mix of all of these things and I don't know why this bothered me, but it did. A major plot with a beginning, middle and end felt non-existent to me.
Overall, for something I was expecting to be a light, summer read, a lot more thought and analysis came out of this book than I really hoped for. It was okay, but nothing as wonderful as I heard all Sarah Dessen's books were supposed to be. I may or may not read more of them, but I would still recommend.
But I still kind of wondered, that night and so many others, what I was missing.
"People don't change. If anything, you get more set in your ways as you get older, not less."
So I took the checkbook, nodded, and walked out the door, leaving them- as I had so many other groups- to say whatever they would about me once I was gone.
"That first love. And the first one who breaks your heart. For me, they just happen to be the same person. At least I'm efficient, right?"
"Who says there has to be a point? Or a reason. Maybe it's just something you have to do."
"Who says you have to be either smart or pretty, or into girly stuff or sports? Life shouldn't be about the either/or. We're capable of more than that."
"Failing sucks. But it's better than the alternative."
"Not even trying." Now he looked at me, straight on. "Life's short, you know?"
"Or they don't. Sometimes, they don't."
When something's difficult to come by, you'll do that much more to make sure it's even harder- if not impossible- to lose.
I had these experiences, these tales, more of this life. So maybe it wasn't the fairy tale. But those stories weren't real anyway. Mine were.
"So you don't want me to take you," he said.
"No," I replied. "But I'll meet you there."
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