|Along for the Ride by Sarah Dessen|
|Reviewer: Jill Murphy|
|Summary: Auden spends a summer away from her overbearing mother and finds more than she ever thought she would in this intensely personal novel. It's a lovely read and right up there to Dessen's high standards. Recommended.|
|Buy? Yes||Borrow? Yes|
|Pages: 432||Date: February 2010|
|External links: Author's website|
Auden has always felt like the odd one out amongst her peers. Her parents - now divorced - are both academics and high achievers, and they, especially her mother, want the same for Auden. Auden's older brother is the rebel and so Auden feels as though she needs to be the one who satisfies her mother's ambition. So she works hard and never lets her diligence or conscientiousness slip for even a moment. But she's socially awkward and lacking in experience. She's never had a boyfriend, hates the colour pink and can't even ride a bike.
Uncomfortably aware that she's missing out in some way, that there's something more in life, Auden decamps to her father's beach home for the summer. He's struggling with his novel and is shut away in his study for most of the time, so Auden is thrown together with her girly stepmother, her colicky new baby stepsister and a gaggle of girls who talk about nothing but clothes and make up and relationships. And then a boy on a bike appears. Secretive and with dark, brooding eyes, he grabs Auden's attention at once. Gradually, she inches her way to a new world of beach parties and gossip and fun. But it's so hard to let go, even for Eli...
I really like the way Sarah Dessen writes: it's so easy to see why she's a bestseller. She takes a pivotal moment in an adolescent's life - that step forward from girlhood to womanhood - and writes about with the kind of deep understanding that never fails to draw you in. She's wonderful at portraying the gulf between outside and inside - her characters are usually reserved and undemonstrative on the outside, but a veritable maelstrom of thoughts and emotions and anxieties and confusion on the inside. We so often brand adolescents as sulky or sullen or even alienated, when the truth is they're anything but. There's simply so much going on that they can't articulate it. Dessen writes about this with great skill and her books always absorb me utterly.
If I had one criticism to make, it would be that perhaps there is a template developing. Dessen's plots don't vary much and neither do her characters. There's nothing in Along for the Ride that we haven't seen before and I would like to see her try something new, branch out a little. Having said that, her audience likes the familiar and these stories provide such a recognisable emotional landscape that her audience probably wants more of the same. It's almost certainly only haggard old reviewers like me calling for some diversity.
It's a Sarah Dessen novel and it does exactly what it says on the tin: tells an intensely romantic coming-of-age story with a real depth of understanding in beautiful, lyrical prose.
My thanks to the nice people at Puffin for sending the book.
If they like Sarah Dessen's style, they'll also love anything by Julia Green, who also writes about introspective girls. I think Last Kiss of the Butterfly by Jill Hucklesby and Flightsend by Linda Newbery would also appeal.
You can read more book reviews or buy Along for the Ride by Sarah Dessen at Amazon.co.uk
You can read more book reviews or buy Along for the Ride by Sarah Dessen at Amazon.com.
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