June 18, 2009
Review: Along for the Ride
By Sarah Dessen
Read my review of LOCK AND KEY
Sarah Dessen is one of the grand dames of YA literature for a reason. While I don't think this title is as good as my favorite Dessens, it is well worth picking up. (If I weren't doing a full review of it it would be the sixth book on my Books of Summer list.) One of the things that made me instantly empathize with Auden is simply how much she was like me. My parents divorce was far less dramatic and I'm far less socially awkward, but there are similarities. As I love reading books as escapes, it's nice to see something that seems like my life through a fun house mirror.
("But can you ride a bike?" you ask. The answer is kinda. I recently tried to ride for the first time in ten years and . . . let's not talk about it.)
After discovering her mother has a lover, Auden decides she's going to shake things up and live with her father, his new life, and their infant this summer. Upon getting there, she discovers that Heidi is about to snap and her father is just as bad at parenting as her mother always claimed. Surprisingly, she begins to enjoy live in Colby as she carves out a niche for herself. It helps that she's made a connection with Eli, a fellow insomniac, as the roam about the town at night.
I liked the balance between the romance and the other aspects of the book. Auden's family issues are interesting, though I often felt sorry for Thisbe, who can't really control anything going on when a lot of it is going to affect the way she is raised. It's not a happy plotline, but Auden's associations with the local girls give it balance. That is a happy plotline, as Auden discovers how to recognize and navigate social currents. Likewise, her relationship with Eli balances between the light and dark due to his baggage.
And, while it is done in an exceedingly unsubtle manner, I love the message that girls can be into makeup and clothes as well as being incredibly smart. Being feminine - even hyper-feminine - has nothing to do with intelligence. Not to mention that liking to be girly doesn't mean the patriarchy wins. It just means you like to be girly. Nothing wrong with that.
If you haven't read a Sarah Dessen book, this one would be a fine place to start. If you have read one, you know what to expect. She does have a formula, but I don't mind as long as she keeps writing books that are sweet, entertaining, and not dumbed-down. ALONG FOR THE RIDE has romance, drama, and a positive, hopeful message. I can go along with that.