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Along for the Ride Hardcover – June 16, 2009
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Dessen has built a well-deserved reputation for delicately depicting teen girls in turmoil. Her latest title showcases a socially awkward young woman who seeks solace in the comforting rigidity of academic success. 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. The cover may mislead readers, as despite the body language of the girl in pink and the hunky blue-jeaned boy balanced on a bike, this is no slight romance: there’s real substance here. Dessen’s many fans will not be deterred by the length or that cover; they expect nuanced, subtle writing, and they won’t be disappointed. Grades 9-12. --Debbie Carton
"Beautifully captures that sense of summer as a golden threshold between past regrets and future unknowns." -The Washington Post
Top customer reviews
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.
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.