Reading Update: Along for the Ride

Good news everyone!  While my power cord is still malfunctioning, my internet access has been restored by the grace of God and Joel’s technical know-how.  Let’s all praise Jebus!  Now, with the HPB Christmas party over and with a semi-functioning computer at hand, I can finally sit down and tell you all about Along for the Ride by Sarah Dessen.

I finished this book a little over a week ago, and have succeeded in putting it completely out of my mind.  This, unfortunately, doesn’t bode well for Ms. Dessen.  This isn’t to say that Along for the Ride was bad; I’ll admit that I wasn’t having a horrible time reading about Dessen’s tale of summer love and growing up.  But as I mentioned in a Twitter post, the experience was akin to chewing some of that really pink bubble gum: sugary and delicious for about 10 seconds before it completely loses its flavor and/or appeal.

The plot of Along for the Ride is annoyingly predictable/contrived:  Auden is super smart and headed for college in the fall, but has spent her childhood abstaining from friends and normal fun.  Frustrated with her mom, whose cynicism and tendency to sleep with her graduate students is beginning to wear on her, Auden goes to live with her dad and stepmom at their idyllic beachside bungalow for the summer.  Auden doesn’t expect to have fun–her father has been known to ignore his kids, and her stepmom Heidi is one of those girls: she’s blond, skinny, obsessed with clothes and only wears pink.  Add to this Heidi has recently given birth to Auden’s new stepsister, who cries almost all the time.  Now, at this point, I’d like to point out that if this were me, the book would go no further than this simple lesson in exposition.  These people sound horribly annoying, and so even if they were my family, I don’t think I’d try living with such disfunction for a summer.  For being such a smart girl, I still don’t know what compels Auden to make herself so uncomfortable.

Of course, it wouldn’t be a very good “coming-of-age” novel if Auden said f*ck it and found herself a killer internship for the summer.  And so, driven by an irrational desire to become closer with her deadbeat dad, Auden stays in Colby (state unknown), working at Heidi’s flip flop/jeans/bathing suit shop on the boardwalk.  Of course, Auden meets a trio of girly girls who induct her into the world of teenage bliss.  Then, there’s the guy–the mysterious Eli, who used to ride BMX bikes for a living before a horrible accident derailed his life.  Both him and Auden are insomniacs, and end up spending their nights together.  They don’t do that (come on, this is written for 13-year-olds), instead sticking with ingesting huge quantities of junk food and rediscovering Auden’s childhood.

All sarcasm aside, the book was enjoyable.  As you might imagine, the reading experience wasn’t difficult.  This can be refreshing when your reading schedule tends to be on the heavy side.  Also, like the hopeless romantic I am, I was pretty taken in by the whole Eli/Auden romance; even though nothing really dramatic happens, reading about Auden’s angsty feelings brought me back to my own teenage years.  After being in a committed relationship for five years, sometimes its nice to revisit the butterflies that made those teenage crushes so emotional (not that I want to relive that angst…so stressful).

However, everything was just so contrived, I had a hard time looking past the silliness of it all.  At least Hunger Games held a nugget of deeper meaning.  Aside from the largely empty lessons on growing up, Dessen’s novel is mostly sugary fluff.  This is perfect material for a summer beach read–perhaps intended for an 18-year-old looking for something to happen to her during her last summer before college.  I mean, that’s the fantasy we all enjoyed at that age, right?  That being said, the ending seemed a little unrealistic when you consider that the boys-of-summer don’t tend to translate well into the boys-of-fall/winter.  Just watch Grease.  Overall though, Dessen’s novel is largely harmless and enjoyable chick-lit for the younger set.  Just make sure it’s not the only thing they read before they head off to college.


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