Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Along for the Ride

Author: Sarah Dessen
Publisher: Viking (Penguin Group)
Released: 2009
Genre: Young Adult

Auden has spent her whole life caught up in her parents' goals for her, struggling to get their attention while her older brother, who does everything irresponsible, gets their undivided attention. She's always been responsible and mature, and she's never done anything impulsive. She's also never had any fun. So when her stepmother, Heidi, a girly-girl Auden's mother despises, invites her for the summer between high school and college, Auden impulsively says yes and drives over to spend the summer with her father, stepmother and new baby sister. Although it doesn't start out as any sort of vacation, Auden soon meets Eli, a fellow insomniac, who shows her what she's missed as a child and allows her to experience "essential" childhood memories. Over the summer, Auden learns that growing up can sometimes mean being a child again.

Auden is such a sympathetic character. You can really feel for the girl who just wants her parents to see her, but realizes too late that perfection goes unnoticed while acting out and being a baby gets their undivided attention. And a girl who realizes that she is the only real adult in the equation of her family, and who takes a summer for herself to remedy that.

The story is a great one for breaking stereotypes. When Auden discovers things about her "ditzy" stepmother and her friends, and when she sees the truth about her own supposedly mature, academic parents, she sees that not everything is clear-cut, and that it is possible to be adult and mature without losing your personality or losing out on having fun and relaxing.

I loved the style of the book. It's fresh and engaging, and Auden's voice is authentic and consistent. There's also a sort of back-and-forth as Sarah Dessen uses flashbacks quite a bit. It reflects the crazy quality of time in a  teenager's life, and allows the reader to see Auden's reactions before the event and then find out what happened, making it that much more interesting.

This is a good coming-of-age story, with great relationships and characters and an engaging plot.

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