My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Auden isn’t your typical teenage girl. She’s a driven student at school on her way to a prestigious university. Her focus on the academic side of life has meant that her social life suffered a bit–she’s never really had close female friends and her prom date stood her up to go to an academic conference.
Auden is also haunted by the spectre of her parents’ divorce. Their frequent late night arguments have turned her into a night owl.
The summer after her senior year, Auden decides to spend time with her father, his new wife and her new step-sister at the beach side community. While there, she finds a job at her step-mother’s clothing store and watches as her father begins to repeat the same patterns that led to the dissolving of the marriage to the mother. She also begins to stay up old night with the mysterious boy who holds a secret and has withdrawn from the close circle of friends he used to hang out with on a regular basis.
“Along for the Ride” presents Auden as one of those teenagers whose had to grow up too fast for her own good and, at various points, has served as the parent to both her parents. Her mother sees her new friends, her possible boyfriend and her life with her father as a possible rebellion and rejection of the academic path she wants for Auden and not as a chance for Auden to have the chance to be a teenager for a while.
While this isn’t a typical novel for me, I kept reading because of the authenticity that Dessen brings to the story of Auden. Her voice rings true and the characters she meets and interacts with all seem real. Auden’s frustration with her parents is real and the story of her brother meeting a woman very much like their mother and getting engaged to her is a nice touch. The only thing I didn’t like was how compactly and easily everything is wrapped up by the novel’s final lines. It works too hard to give us closure.