Review Blog

Oct 06 2009

Along for the ride by Sarah Dessen

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Penguin, 2009. ISBN 9780141327488.
Age 13+) Highly recommended. This is a wonderful book that is even better on a second reading. Auden cannot sleep at night; her sleep patterns have been disrupted ever since her parents' divorce. When she is invited to stay at the beach with her father, young stepmother and new baby, she decides to go in the hope of maintaining contact with her father. It is also an opportunity to do more with her life before she goes off to university. She works in her stepmother's boutique and discovers the world of girls and clothes. Best of all are her nightly quests with Eli, another insomniac, when she discovers just what she missed out on in her teenage age years when she was too busy studying to have a good time.
Dessen's characters are all beautifully developed. I was drawn to the friendless Auden, who has tried so hard to get the approval of her academic parents, that she has missed out on parties, bike riding and even her prom. Eli, the dark brooding boy who has lost his best friend in an accident, is a wonderful character and I loved the way he shares Auden's quest to taste her lost childhood. Both Auden's and Eli's interactions with Thisbe, will give readers a real insight into just what it is like to look after a fretful infant and how love can develop for a baby.
The girls in the dress shop are delightful, and Maggie turns Auden's perceptions around about girly girls showing her that you can like clothes and make-up but still ride bikes and excel at school. Auden has a dysfunctional home life, but Dessen cleverly gives her overbearing mother and selfish father enough depth that there is hope that the family problems will resolve by the end of the book.
The themes of friendship, looking beyond the obvious and living life to the full are memorable. I loved this book, it is well written, has enough depth for the most discerning reader, a great beach setting and characters that are unforgettable.
Pat Pledger

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