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Review: Along For The Ride by Sarah Dessen

“Riding a bike is one of the many things Auden’s missed out on. Even before her parents’ divorce, she was cast into the role of little adult, never making waves, focusing on academics to please her demanding mother. 

Now she’s spending the summer before college in the tiny beach town of Colby with her father and his new wife and baby. A job in a trendy boutique introduces her to the world of girls, their friendships, conversations, romances. And then there’s Eli, an intriguing loner. A fellow insomniac, Eli introduces Auden to the nocturnal world of Colby. Together they embark on a quest: for Auden, to experience the carefree teenage life she’s been denied; for Eli, to put a tragic episode behind him. Combine two lonely people with a charming beach town and an endless supply of long summer nights, and just about anything can happen.”

Humans are afraid of change. As creatures of habit, we easily become complacent in the hand the universe has dealt us. Almost convincing ourselves that we are happy with what we have because we've had it for so long. Thus any time we see change come our way, for better or for worse, we hide, run, and resist at every turn; determined to endure this consistency just to avoid it. 

Along for the Ride is a book about learning to go with the flow of things instead of pushing against it, choosing to stay where we are. It also can be said that this book is about embracing our true selves and the true selves of others. Learning to accept the many facets of people and not just accepting the surface of a person. And most completely, this book is about change and the breaking of our own habits. 

A habitual creature, Auden West is a product of a divorced home, who has developed insomnia. Having spent many a night staying awake to hear her parents fight, now awake, Auden spends most of her nights alone, sipping coffee at her local dinner, studying to appease her academic driven mother while slowly being robbed of her childhood, forced to grow up too soon. However, this summer before college, her father and stepmother, Heidi, have invited her to stay with them and meet her new baby sister Thisbe, in the beach town of Colby. Getting a little inspiration from her brother Hollis, a nomad of life, she decides to take a chance and make a change, accepting her father’s invitation. 

Upon arriving at the beach, things are not at all as she would have hoped. Thisbe won’t stop crying, Heidi is exhausted yet forcibly happy and her father is unhelpful and non-existent, repeating the same offenses he did when married to Auden’s mother. Once again, Auden is thrown back into a world of problems between her parents that result in her inability to sleep at night, forcing her to preoccupy her time until sun up. 

While on her nightly adventures, she runs into a kid named Eli, who doesn’t have much to say, and uses his nights to avoid the daylight of a traumatizing event in his past. With Eli, she discovers a whole other world, a whole other life of fun, youth and carefree bliss that she did not have growing up. Auden gets a second chance at her childhood as well as a first shot at love and the dramas of being a teenager. Slowly but surely, Auden lets go of  her strict, parent pleasing ways and learns to take things as they come, living her life.

Also while revisiting her childhood; Auden confronts her true feeling about the divorce, instead of running away with them into the night. She learns to stop being a “mini-adult” with her parents and finally gets to be the child, having them take responsibility for her upbringing and allowing her the freedom to be herself. Thus, in a way, she is given a second chance at being their daughter instead of being a young adult companion. 

Along for the Ride will make you nostalgic for the time of your youth or aware of how short youth is, making you embrace every single moment and person in your life. This novel will also help you see that there is more to a person than meets the eye. Most importantly, this novel will help you see the habits you’ve kept for years and break free, running for change. 

Reviewed by Camia Rhodes

Book Information
Publisher: Penguin Group
Release Date: 6/16/2009
Pages: 432

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