Along for the Ride was utterly, completely and thoroughly so much fun to read. A great introduction to Sarah Dessen.
Auden is different: her parents, both professors/academics/writers have always expected the very best from her (and expect nothing from her older brother) and so she's always been quiet, studious and very UN-childlike. Now that her parents are separated (despite Auden doing what she could to prevent it...which lead to her insomnia) Auden lives with her mother. Her mother is the star of her own little universe - witty, charming, smart, cutting (she's sharp). So Auden, when faced with the prospect of this last summer before college doing nothing but studying and shadowing her mother, decides to spend her last days of freedom with her father, his new wife and baby.
But this escape is not quite what Auden expected. Her father is trying to finish a book and so shuts himself away in his office all day and Heidi just had a baby, so she's entirely focused on her first child. Also, Heidi is the complete opposite of her mother. She's vivacious, bubbly, warm and likes pink. Auden is less than impressed with Heidi, but when she sees how her father is so withdrawn from her and the new baby, she starts to help Heidi out with little things. One of those things is balancing the books at Heidi's clothing store on Colby's boardwalk. That only takes a few hours, and Auden spends the rest of her nights driving around Colby, drinking coffee and being solitary.
Right next door to Heidi's shop is a bike shop. And the guys from the bike shop like to flirt with the girl's from Clementine's (Heidi's shop). Auden at first feels like an outsider - always on the fringes and looking in. But eventually one of the girls, Maggie, reaches out and befriends Auden. And when Auden tells her new friends about her lack of childhood, they are more understanding of her seemingly aloof, standoff-ish ways.
And last but not least is the guy. Eli is the manager of the bike shop. He also used to compete in bike competitions (the kind with ramps and jumps - interesting glimpse into that world) but after a tragedy, he quit competing, deferred his first year of college and retreated from the world as much as he could. But in all her wanderings around Colby, Auden sees Eli around and eventually they get to know each other, and it was good.
I don't really want to go into more that happens with Auden and Eli. But I loved it. I loved experiencing her brush with summer love right along with her. Experiencing a crush! When was the last time you had a crush on someone and got butterflies in your stomach? (That's why I like YA too, it takes me back to the good stuff!)
Along for the Ride is not just about summer love. That's just a teeny part of it. So much more is going on with this book. Auden learns how to relate to her peers, she learns to see beyond the surface and to not be so superior. She also learns she's not at fault for being unable to prevent her parents' divorce. Really, this book is about growing up and in order to do that, Auden had to embrace her lost childhood. How classic is that?
I feel like I'm not doing this great book justice but if anything, just know I was entirely captivated by Auden and the other characters in this book and AFTR gets 5 stars from me. I cannot wait to read more by Sarah Dessen!