Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Book review: Along for the Ride

Along for the Ride
Because being a girl isn't just about exam results and university applications.

Along for the Ride by Sarah Dessen (RazorBill)
I can't even begin to tell you how much love I have for Sarah Dessen.

*By the sentence above, you may deduce that lots of gushing and fan-girling is about to follow*

She really has this remarkable ability to create characters that are not only relatable, but whose stories make you want to live their lives in each and every one of her books; regardless of how flawed and broken they are, and no matter how difficult their home life is.

It's like she spent all of her time going from country to country, and home to home, to come up with an amalgamation of all the things that define the make-up of teens and young adults everywhere.

Her novels aren't the in-your-face, beautiful and lyrical prose that say, Maggie Stiefvater is known for, but a subtle dance across your skin, and a butterfly's whisper in your heart.

It's writing that says:

I know you....

I know where you are and where you come from; I know what it's like to be you and I know where you've been. It says, I know how you got where you are and I know where to go to from here.

And that for me, is the heart in which her storytelling skills lie.

If I thought that What Happened to Goodbye was a wonderful novel, then Along for the Ride is a book that has surpassed it in so many ways. I never thought this was possible because I already have so much love for What Happened to Goodbye.

Along for the Ride is the story of Auden, a young girl who hasn't slept ever since her parents' divorce.

Focusing purely on her studies and maintaining her stellar grades, Auden avoids the social scene like the plague; spending most of her time studying and driving around late nights, and sitting at 24/7 caf├ęs, drinking pots of coffee, with nothing but her study notes and insomnia to keep her company.
 

Yet, underneath her studious demeanour, there's a girl underneath who can't help but feel like she's missing out on something.

So, when she gets the opportunity to visit her Dad and his new family, she decides on the spur of the moment, to head on off to the beach-y town in search of some answers and to get a break from being the daughter of a demanding and academic mother.

 What follows is a journey of self-discovery for her; one in which she discovers fun and friendship, late-night parties and bike rides.

It's a world where she'll discover that learning to be a girl is not about mathematical formulas, but about sexy jeans, flip-flops and a brooding, secretive boy who really, really gets her.


I fell in love the moment I started reading this book. There was just something about Auden that I knew I was going to relate to.

I've met and come across many book characters who I could identify with, but none of them impacted on me the way she did. 

Auden is, for all intents and purposes, incredibly self-contained, self-sufficient and highly intelligent. She's quick with numbers and works well with facts and figures.

You'd think that being so studious a girl would make her boring, but it's quite the opposite here. For all of her intellectual capabilities, she's a lot more complex than you'd think.

Having to deal with a domineering and academic mother who just so happens to be a renowned professor of literature, all Auden has known is how to be the way that she is. Older than her years, being an academic scholar is and has always been the one thing that has defined her.

With almost no friends and only books to keep her company, the world she lives in is a rather lonely place.  When she decides to take up her Dad's offer to stay with him, his new wife and their new baby for the summer, she doesn't realise that she's in for the ride and the transformation of her life.

Upon arriving, Auden is quickly thrown into a world filled boys, baby-pacifying and learning to get to know her new stepmom, who is the complete antithesis to Auden's mom.

Besides getting to work at her new step-mom's boutique shop, she has to navigate her way through the unfamiliar and foreign territory of opening herself to new experiences, friendships, love and learning to stand up to both her parents, who prove to be the kind of parents who really could do better. 

And here's where it becomes interesting.

Because not only does she learn how to open herself up emotionally, but she learns that life is not about living in and enclosing herself an insular bubble where she doesn't have to answer to anyone, or give anyone any more of her time than is required.

Watching how her relationships progress with the various people she gets to know is an absolute treat.

From the awkward, stoic and stiff girl, to becoming a girl who realises that screwing up is ok and that life is all about taking chances, Auden's transformation is one of the most beautiful things to behold. 


The best part for me? Is all the time she's spend with Eli. Mysterious, brooding and wrestling with his own demons, he and Auden gravitate towards one another with a sense that they're just meant to be.

Together the two of them embark on a quest to help Auden experience all the fun things she's been missing out on; making late night stops for coffee and pie at a hidden spot; stopping at the quick mart every evening to pick up groceries, wandering around aimlessly and sharing secrets in the early and clandestine hours of the morning.

It's a journey you'll wish to undertake yourself.

In Along for the Ride, Auden mentions the fact that her brother has the ability to take a simple thought and transform it into something that resonates deeply within.

To me, that sums up my experience of reading a Sarah Dessen novel. There's so much subtext in a simple thought, so much meaning and lessons to be learned from her writing.

Along for the Ride is one of my new favourite reads. I cannot recommend this book enough. If you haven't read any of her books, I suggest you give them a try.

You won't regret it.

 I promise.

8 comments:

The Romance Bookie said...

"Along for the Ride" is 100% my absolute favorite Sarah Dessen book!! I've read them all, but somehow I can't help but always think back to this one! Great review! :)

Books Ahoy said...

I love Sarah Dessen!!! Great review :)

Cierra @ Books Ahoy

Leanna (Daisy Chain Book Reviews) said...

I recently bought Along for the Ride and The Truth About Forever and I can't wait to get started on my Dessen adventure. I hope I love her books as much as everyone else does!

terri-maree said...

I so need to read this now, have it ready to order on kalahari, I love when reviews demand that you get a book now so you can share the experience, as this one has done :)

Jenny said...

Wow Tammy, I really need to read this one! Can you believe I haven't read anything by Sarah Dessen? Fail. I think I need to start with this one, I love the sound of Auden - seems like the story is really character driven and I'm such a big fan of those types of stories:)

Carrie at In the Hammock Blog said...

love this version of the cover. i can't believe i've never read anything by this author!

Miss Vain's Paranormal Fantasy said...

Hi Tammy!!

Great review! I had never heard of this book before and after reading your review I plan to read it!! Have a great week, and thank you for visiting my Wow!! Old follower. Happy reading.

Krystianna said...

Thanks for the review! This one has been in my tbr pile for a while. I should really pick it up soon.