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VINE VOICEon June 21, 2009
I must admit, I did everything I could before writing this review. I checked my e-mail at least 10 times, I watched an old episode of Friends, I snacked on sunflower seeds. It's not that I didn't want to write the review because I didn't like the book, it's quite the opposite. I knew that once I wrote the review, I would be done, moving onto another book. The truth of the matter was, I didn't want to be done with Dessen's book.

Along for the Ride is about 18 year old Auden, a remarkably smart girl who's parents divorced when she was younger after years of bickering. She became an insomniac, avoiding her problems by staying awake, studying at a nearby cafe. Meanwhile, being raised by two academic parents, Auden organized her life around school - she could answer any educational question, yet barely had any friends and missed out on every important childhood landmark (prom, bowling, learning to ride a bike..) After a strangely inspirational message from her older brother Hollis, Auden decides to spend the summer before her freshman year of college in Colby with her father, his new extremely cheerful wife, and their even newer baby, Thisbe. There, Auden discovers something about herself through interactions with Heidi, her stepmother; babysitting Thisbe; working at a clothing store with girls her age; and, above all, meeting the mysterious Eli who helps her rebuild her past.

The story talks about love, redemption, and second chances. It's about how it's never too late to rediscover yourself and grab hold of your present.

I really loved Along for the Ride. The characters were interesting, deep, and always surprising. Yes, as many young adult books, the plot was a bit predictable, but that didn't matter. Along for the Ride took you away from your life and put you into Auden's. It's the perfect young adult book - one that presents a problem and finds ways to solve it.

The main characters were incredibly real - everyone had one of them in high school. There was the beautiful Maggie who was actually smarter than she looked. The party girl Leah, and the big mistake Jake. There was Eli, the secretive love interest with a heart of gold. And Adam, the extremely affectionate best friend. And then there was Auden, a girl with a secret of her own, who was still trying to figure herself out.

I loved so much about the book. I loved that I could actually see Colby - I knew the map of it like my own neighborhood. I loved that everyone went to the Gas/Gro before going out because in the past I had a similar place. And I loved the importance of the summer - the last for everyone before college. How important it was to make it "the best of times," because at that age, everyone wants to.

The writing was spot on, incredibly detailed and relatable. It's a book you could pick up and easily slide back into Dessen's world. I liked the hope it brought, as well as the message. I liked how Eli and Auden hung out at night because neither could sleep. How the world is so much different once people are asleep. And now, I too now look at the houses around me and wonder why someone else might be awake at 1am. What's their story?

There was one quote that I especially enjoyed. Towards the beginning, the girls stock up on food at the Gas/Gro. After Auden asks why they do it, night after night, Esther replies "I don't know. It's like, we're headed out somewhere. You never know what's going to happen. So you stop for supplies." Indeed.

Along for the Ride is the perfect summer read - set at the beach, you could practically hear the waves pouring out of the pages. It's the first book I've read of Sarah Dessen's and definitely won't be my last. In fact, I might have already set up a book store trip with my own group of friends to get another.
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VINE VOICEon July 18, 2009
I really want to gush about how awesome this book is, but sadly, I don't think I can. I wanted to like it, I really really wanted to like it, and as a book, it was pretty decent, but I'm getting so sick of the standard Dessen formula. It was cute the first time. And maybe the second. But by now, it's gone way too far. It's always the same: Annoying, messed up family situation, girl doesn't know how to deal with it, girl meets boy, boy fixes everything in girl's hypothetical world, and then there's always that really annoying cringey moment when you just know that Dessengirl and Dessenboy are going to have a falling out, but you also know that they'll be back together by the end. The story moves along quickly, which is what I've always liked about Dessen, but I'm reading the same story over and over and over again. I'd like some change! I love all her characters, but why is it always the same outline? Character-wise, Auden's a sweetheart, and I definitely sympathize with her. Eli is not as well developed as the other Dessenboys, but he's still someone you can get to like. The family situation is aggravating, and I'm sure I wasn't the only one really wanting to pummel Auden's dad with a baseball bat (and what happened to that, anyways? Dropped storyline, much?). I'm glad Jake wasn't used as the character to come between Eli and Auden, as that would have made me flip out even more. I don't know, I really want to be enthusiastic and tell you to buy the book and read it and love it, but it's all the same. Pick up any Dessen novel (and do pick one up, they're fantastic and should be read by every teenage girl out there) and you'll get the same story with minor changes. I want some more originality. I know she can do it, she's done it before, why the rut? She's such a fantastic writer, and I want to see more of her writing, but I'd like a new story next time, okay?

Rating: 3/5
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on June 19, 2009
With the exception of "Dreamland," the plots of Sarah Dessen's books are as alike as slice and bake cookies--girl with relationship hang-ups forged by family dysfunction meets boy and makes new friends who teach her life lessons. Over the course of a summer or school year, said girl falls in love, and comes in to her own.

Although "Along for the Ride" sticks like a squeaky wheel to this formula, I actually found it to be my favorite Dessan novel to date! I thought Auden was a more sympathetic and fully developed character than Niki, Remy, Macy, or Annabel, and her fear of making mistakes and letting her guard down made sense and were justified within the context of the story, which is a problem I've had with "This Lullaby" and "Just Listen."

I also found the supporting characters--Ester, Leah, Wallace, and especially Maggie, Adam, Heidi, and Auden's family to be much richer, and the life lessons Auden learned from them (ie how to let loose and express your emotions and that women can be BOTH girly AND intelligent) to be more nuanced and entertaining than Dessan's usual scope.

It's certainly true that Eli and the plot points surrounding his romance with Auden are very reminiscent of Macy and Wes in "The Truth About Forever...," but the little details of their late night escapades, made their chemistry feel fresh enough to me, although I would be interested to see if Dessan could crack her romantic interest mold of Eli/Nate/Dexter/Wes/Owen etc., and give us a guy who is truly original.

I felt that Dessan's trademark extended metaphor "riding a bike" gelled with the plot and with Auden's growing realization that when you makes mistakes, you should get back on that bike, in a way that previous Dessen metaphors such as "lock and key,""modeling," "running," "painting" etc. seemed forced.

Overall, I was happy to coast along on this ride, and I would recommend this book to fans of Dessan and young adult literature. However, should readers wish to ride along a different path, I advise seeking out new ground.
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on June 19, 2009
It's a good book don't get me wrong.

However...

Most of the characters feel very impersonal. The motifs are painfully obvious and over worked. There is a lot of telling vs showing which is a first for me with a Dessen novel. As I read I couldn't help it when the word formulaic came to mind. The only thing I found convincing in this book was Heidi and her baby. All the other things seriously just kind of died in a gimmicky pink blur of previous awesomeness (I mostly am referring to previous books by Sarah Dessen).

What disappointed me the most though: Eli and Auden's adventures were glossed over. The adventures were (I thought prior to reading the book) the meat of the book; the crux of all of Auden's problems; the heart of her relationship with Eli- all of that totally just got... skipped. The book never tapped into the magic of being out at night, on a quest, with the boy you like-like, or even the chemistry that happens between two people when they share experiences like that. It seemed to be a lot more telling vs showing when it came to this rather critical part of the book. (I am REALLY not a fan of one paragraph to sum up a week's worth of magical nights that bonded the characters together that I never even adequately got to see!)

I think there was a LOT going on in this book and it I got lost along the way. Too many loose ends, the focus was all over the place, and the Beach Bash Prom thing just seemed like a cop out. C'mon a prom-night centered climax? Uh...no.

All in all I'm disappointed and would recommend her earlier works. When I don't personally connect with the characters I can't seem to have much love for the book as was the case here. I will probably get a lot of thumb downs but that's really how I felt about the book.
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VINE VOICEon August 5, 2013
I read two books by this author in quick succession, this one and This Lullaby. Consider this a joint review since the books basically followed the same formula and had many similarities -- which makes one think that the author has discovered a formula and is determined to stick to it.

Since I am not a young adult, I naturally read these books differently from the mainly teenage and probably predominantly female audience they are intended for. One of the things I look at is the portrayals of the parents who are uniformly clueless, usually selfish and self-absorbed to the point of parody and occasionally cruel. Is this the way my generation performed as parents? Is this how our kids look at us? Oh well, let time do its work and before we know it, another generation of kids will be criticizing another generation of parents for their shortcomings.

In this book, the portrayal of the parents is one of the more amusing points because they are both so awful. Auden's mother is an unbearable intellectual snob and her father is even worse, a selfish, self-absorbed, pompous twit. The two are divorced and the father has married a much younger woman who has just given birth to a fretting baby. Of course, Auden's father wants no part in taking care of said child, because he's trying to finish a great novel on which he's been working for 10 years.

In "This Lullaby" the father was never there -- an irresponsible folk singer who died. The mother writes romance novels and, as the book begins, is marrying for the fifth time. She allows her daughter, Remi, to make all the arrangements while complaining how exhausted she is.

Interesting that both these books feature selfish writers. (I created one myself in my novel, Romance Language.)

Both of these books take place in the summer between the end of high school and the beginning of college. Both involve protagonists who are very smart and have been accepted to elite universities. For some strange reason, both want to study economics (maybe they could be roommates in a sequel joining the narratives).

Both have troubled brothers. Both either have or gain a gaggle of supportive girl friends. Auden has never had a boyfriend. Remi, in "This Lullaby," has had too many but never allowed herself to get close to them. By the end of the summer, both young women will learn to open up and accept love. End of story. Even the parents grow up a little bit (but it's hard to believe that part).

I'm not sure what the benefit of these books is for "young adults" but they are pleasant enough ways of whiling away a plane ride.
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on April 28, 2015
My first Sarah Dessen novel, so I finally get what everyone raves about. I can't even put it into words, there's just something smooth and unassuming about the writing. I was wary at first, b/c Auden is kind of a strange character who is a bit hard to relate to....wasn't sure if I was going to be able to get into it. And yet somehow I found myself up late into the night reading "just one more chapter".

It was the perfect summer coming-of-age tale. It had my required smidgeon of romance in it, but it was really just the story of how Auden grows over the course of one summer spent at her Dad's. Her parents just about put me through the roof....and yet I could see people who would behave that way. I wasn't sure I would get to a point where I forgave them their transgressions, but in the end they were just people, just flawed in a different way than I'm used to.

I loved the relationship Auden builds with the 3 girls. I love that as weird and, well, socially awkward as she was, they still sort of absorbed her into their group. I LOVED that Maggie was not all she seemed to be....I felt like there were so many lessons for girls in that one character -- there was a line that I probably should have highlighted, something about how girls can be girly and feminine, but that doesn't have to be all that they are....obviously said way better than that. *rolls eyes*

And needless to say, I LOVED the relationship that developed between Auden and Eli. I can't even put it into words. It was like two kindred souls finding each other, and learning about themselves in the meantime.

Looks like I'm going to take advantage of this sale and pick up a few more Sarah Dessen novels. I'd been in a funk in my reading, and her voice was just what I needed to suck me back in to this reading world I love so much.
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on December 4, 2014
Along for the Ride by Sarah Dessen made my flight to a conference in New Hampshire fly by! The interesting characters drew me into the realistic story line. One of Dessen's strengths is her use of dialogue in conjunction with everyday activities. Whether on the phone, walking along the street, or hanging out at work, each conversation provides insights into the cast of characters.

Being an awkward nerd myself, I immediately empathizing with Auden. I even liked her name. Although the novel contained classic "coming of age" themes, there were enough unique aspects to hold my interest. I was particularly intrigued by the way Desson brought Auden and Eli together through their late night exploits.

The "it's never too late" theme is often applied in adult fiction with older characters, however Dessen did an effective job applying this concept to a teen character. From bowling to food fights, it was fun trying to anticipate what would be included on her list of activities.

Of course I have a few complaints. For instance, the book cover is attractive, but just plain incorrect. It shows an old bike rather than the types described in the book. Also, Auden would not be wearing that girlie pink dress.

Also, not being a coffee drinker myself, I found the ongoing references to coffee rather strange. I'm not sure if it's a regional or generational thing, however since all three of my grown children drink coffee I'm guessing it's another one of those things I missed out on as a teen.

When reading this type of "summer at the beach" story, it's fun to have a sappy, happy ending. I wasn't disappointed.
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on September 27, 2015
There are several layers to this story, and I appreciated the depth in Along for the Ride that we don’t get in all of Sarah’s novels. Auden doesn’t sleep – hasn’t since before her parents divorced – and when she decides to spend the summer before college with her dad, his new wife, and their new born daughter, Auden meets fellow insomniac Eli. Along for the Ride has some of my favorite Dessen themes: female friendship, great tension between the MC and love interest, and a realistic protag. I remember relating to Auden when I was younger, because I was an insomniac and did everything I could to avoid sleeping. I loved, and still do, the idea of going on a mini-adventure every night while everyone else is sleeping. Like most of Sarah’s books, the family dynamic is tense in this one, but Auden’s parents felt so…self-absorbed and pretentious, it infuriated me to read. Ultimately this was a middle of the road Dessen novel for me: not the best, not the worst, but overall somewhat forgettable when lumped in with the rest.
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Auden has always been highly motivated and focused on her schoolwork, pushed by her successful scholar of a mother and bestselling writer father. When her parents split up, Auden becomes an insomniac, and becomes all too familiar with the night. The summer before she starts college, she decides to live with her father, his new wife, and their newborn daughter. There, in a small beach town full of eclectic people, Auden realizes all that she has missed out on, and discovers that maybe it's not too late to grab on to all the life has to offer.

Along for the Ride is a heartfelt, humorous, and thoughtful read by popular author Sarah Dessen that readers will devour. Dessen creates an enchanting setting in the beach town of Colby, one that every girl can't help but fall for, and a cast of characters that are charming, witty, and captivating. Auden's epiphany of all the things that she missed out on while concentrating on her academics and her resulting mission to make up for all of the things she missed out on is entertaining and perceptive, and sure to resound with many readers. Her other discovery, that people aren't always as they appear, may be cliché, but nonetheless meaningful within the context of the novel. A reoccurring debate within the novel is whether or not people ever really change, and Dessen does an exemplary job relating that issue to Auden's story. Full of all the wonders of summer time, Along for the Ride is an insightful and enjoyable read full of romance, healing, discovery, and wonderful friendships that will charm readers and inspire them to take advantage of every opportunity to live life to its fullest.
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on December 31, 2010
Firstly, I would like to say that I would recommend any of Sarah Dessen's other books in a flash. If I were to write reviews about them here, they would all be five stars. This book, however, is different.

After thinking about what felt "wrong" with this book, I realized that Dessen spent an inexplicable amount of time telling and not showing. It felt like pages and pages--probably over half of this unnecessarily long book--were dedicated to the main character, Auden, merely explaining what her days were like. She would go on and on, repeatedly describing her weekly routines. But as a reader, I never fully experienced any of these routines with Auden. I was just made vaguely aware of the fact that they had occurred.

Also, Dessen's writing felt...lazy. There's one sentence in the book that makes a perfect example. Here's Auden describing another character's facial expression: "...you kind of had to see it to understand."

Dessen wrote this way throughout the entire book, never quite getting around to describing things. After almost 400 pages, I realized that I couldn't even form clear mental images of Auden or her friends. Dessen's writing style totally changed for this book.

Eli, too, was a major disappointment. He was spoken of often ("I spend most of my time with Eli these days..."), but was rarely in the actual spotlight. I definitely didn't know him well enough to find him memorable, let alone likable.

"Along for the Ride" was an utter disappointment. If this is your first time reading a novel by Sarah Dessen, choose another story by her. Perhaps "Just Listen" or "The Truth About Forever."
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