Along For The Ride by Sarah Dessen Review

Posted July 10, 2013 by Asheley in Uncategorized / 19 Comments

Along For The Ride by Sarah Dessen
Published by Speak/Viking Juvenile
Publish Date: June 16, 2009
436 Pages
Source: Library
Find It: Goodreads / Amazon / B&N

It’s been so long since Auden slept at night. Ever since her parents’ divorce—or since the fighting started. Now she has the chance to spend a carefree summer with her dad and his new family in the charming beach town where they live.

A job in a clothes boutique introduces Auden to the world of girls: their talk, their friendship, their crushes. She missed out on all that, too busy being the perfect daughter to her demanding mother. Then she meets Eli, an intriguing loner and a fellow insomniac who becomes her guide to the nocturnal world of the town. Together they embark on parallel quests: for Auden, to experience the carefree teenage life she’s been denied; for Eli, to come to terms with the guilt he feels for the death of a friend. –(from Goodreads) 

Along For The Ride by Sarah Dessen

My Thoughts:  It is no secret that I’ve had a hard time connecting to the Sarah Dessen books I’ve read so far. I’ve also made it no secret that I’ve only read two of her books before now and that I plan to keep trying. I knew in the back of my mind for a while now that Along For The Ride was set in the fictional town of Colby which was based on the real-life town of Emerald Isle, NC, which isn’t that far from my house. I knew that this would maybe be a good choice for me to try for my next Dessen book because several of my reading friends have really liked this one. So recently I put this one on hold at my library and got really nervous when I got the email that it was available for me. EEEEKK, TIME TO READ THE DESSEN. (I was SO NERVOUS, you guys, because I was shredded by the last Dessen book that I read. It happens.)

Since there are so many people that have reviewed this book and done a great job at it, I just want to talk about it a little bit and why I think I finally, finally, finally have found a Dessen book that I am trending upward with. Hooray for a positive experience! 

1. Auden. I like this gal. She’s a bit of a loner, very independent. She doesn’t really hang out with friends or do social things often, preferring (I suppose) to keep to her studies or read or whatever it is that the loner-types do. She reminded me very much of the main character from this book just a little bit in her development from the first page to the last page as she learned to become her own self, to learn to have a little bit of fun every now and then, and to maybe-perhaps fall in love instead of keeping her nose in a book all the time. 

I was thrilled when Auden – on a whim – decided to go spend a summer at the beach with her dad. This is so out-of-character for her, which is great for her at this stage of her life. But mostly because 1) she needed to get away from her holy terror of an overbearing mother and 2) HELLO BEAUTIFUL OCEAN, Auden’s coming to live beside of you! 

2. Eli. I like Eli a ton. He’s a quiet guy that appears mysterious but really isn’t because of the thing that happened to him in the past. He’s only a mystery to Auden because everyone else in Colby has known him their whole lives, so they know his deal and his mannerisms and his reasons for keeping to himself. But he intrigues Auden, naturally, and little by little she begins to learn about him, his past, his thoughts, his secrets, his wishes and dreams, all of it. And as she learns, we-the-readers learn too, which is why we all like and can get behind a nice guy like Eli. 

I loved that Eli and Auden both were night owls and hung out together while the rest of the world was asleep and unknowing – being awake at night and this shared thing is what allowed them to build a friendship that turned into a relationship and I just loved this. But despite my absolute die-hard love for their relationship, the romance was actually subtle, which was kind of nice too. 

3. The Ocean. I love the ocean. So much. I love that this book is based on a real place that I can picture in my head. That alone is enough to push it up a little bit on my “like” meter. 
I like other things about Along For The Ride too. There are several story lines in the book that are believable, relatable, and written very true-to-life and I can respect that a ton. For example, initially I thought it was kind of odd to have Heidi and her postpartum issues written into the story but as I read on, I realized that everything tied together and made more sense as the story went on. Also that that particular story line was written accurately and I can appreciate that from the perspective of someone with a women’s health background. But I digress. This isn’t a women’s health book. 

Auden comes to town basically with a ton of books and no friends, but she ends up making some friends. She has a shaky start at it, but these girls – and guys – that become her friends are actually really great. They’re in the story enough that they’re all really developed and likable and can stand individually. Auden’s father and stepmother and baby sister are written well too, although I have to admit that not all of their scenes are the most comfortable to read. Ugh, Auden’s mother – I don’t want to talk about her. She’s no fun at all. 

That’s the thing that I’ve figured out about Sarah Dessen books and about myself reading them – she makes me uncomfortable – she’s done so three times now – but she’s written her stories very well. They’re not my favorite YA contemporaries and I’m not going to say that I’m a raging fan at this point. I still want to read on and support this NC author – there are several other titles that you guys have mentioned that you are pretty confident that I will enjoy, so I’ll try those out. You guys have to admit that she has this unusual ability to weave in an odd discomfort level issues in with her swoons and great friendships and lovely settings and all of that. 

I liked Along For The Ride, but this time when I went into the book I went in expecting a YA Contemporary with issues and maybe a light romance. I focused largely on the setting and loved it to pieces with all of the talk of the ocean and the sound of the waves. I loved that there was a little bit of romance but that it wasn’t always the focal point of the story and I loved how “real” the story – all of the stories inside of this story – was. I really like that Eli guy and wish there would’ve been just a little more about him because I think he is interesting. 

I recommend Along For The Ride to fans of YA Contemporary with issues and light romance, great summer reads, great perfect settings, and fans of Sarah Dessen (because you know you all make up an army out there).


Along For The Ride will appeal to fans of:

YA Contemporary Romance
Romance: Slowly-developing. No Triangle. 
Issues:  Family Issues/Divorce

Along For The Ride by Sarah Dessen
is currently available for purchase.


Have you read ALONG FOR THE RIDE? 

Which book by Dessen should I tackle next? 


About Asheley

Asheley is a Southern girl. She loves Carolina blue skies, Ben & Jerry's ice cream, and NC craft beer. She loves all things history but prefers books over everything.

You can find her somewhere in North Carolina, daydreaming about the ocean.

Find Asheley on Litsy @intothehallofbooks!


19 responses to “Along For The Ride by Sarah Dessen Review


    Lol:) So proud of you for tackling another Dessen!

    It's been a while since I read this one (and sometimes Dessen's books bleed together and I have hard time remembering which character was who) but I do remember liking the stepmother storyline and Eli. This one reminded quite a bit of The Truth About Forever. Don't know if you have tried that one, but if you liked this one you would prob enjoy that one too. The love interest Wes is kind of like Eli.

    And OF COURSE you know which Dessen book I recommend your read next. I don't even have to say it do I? 🙂

    *This Lullaby:))*

    • I remember you telling me about This Lullaby and The Truth About Forever, and honestly I know that I have four of Dessen's books that I haven't read and I can't remember if both of those are in that stack but I know that Forever is. Either way, the library is and I trust you 100% so I'll most likely go with This Lullaby next. 🙂

      I'm SO GLAD to have finally liked a Dessen. I was SO STRESSED about it, as you may know. I want to love her so much, and I have a little ways yet to go, but I love to support my homestate authors, ya know?

      And I thought the stepmother story line was very accurate and TRUE TO LIFE, my L&D and OB/GYN experience can back that up, although it took me awhile to figure out why it was in the book. Dessen tied it in well. And I just loved Eli, the broken boy. Of course. You know that I would, but he was so SWEETLY broken, and with such reason. I only wish there had been more about and from Eli. I kind of miss him, which sounds weird but is true.

  2. Agree with Heather. This Lullaby is my favorite Dessen book. And I am a fan too, but I actually have liked only 3 of her books (not counting TL which I love). But I read all her books and have come to appreciate her take on family issues and the lack of love triangles.

    • So you're a This Lullaby fan too? I'm definitely gonna try and read that one next then. That's 2/2 so far on this post and I know others have told me that as well.

      Family issues and the lack of love triangles – hmm, I haven't read enough of her to really notice that, but you make a great point. I love love triangles but can appreciate when they aren't in a book and I love family issues. Thanks Melannie!!

  3. I am so happy that you read a Dessen that you liked! I've read the previous two you've read and they weren't my favorites either. The one I liked the best was THE TRUTH ABOUT FOREVER, though I have yet to read THIS LULLABY, which I'm committing to do soon. That is everyone's favorite it seems. Dessen has quirky characters and I LOVE anything that takes place at the ocean. But I agree that she isn't ever going to be a go-to contemporary author for me. I know this is going to sound shallow, but I think I'd like her better if there was slightly MORE romance weighted into her stories. Don't hate me for saying that. I just always end her stories longing for a bit more from her. In any case, I do want to read this one and the one Heather recommends. Also, I very much admire you for sticking with authors/stories that you don't love.

    • The two that you mention are the two that I seem to be hearing the most as far as recommendations go. I know that I have at least one of those, but I also know that both of my libraries have both of them – so acquiring them to read will not be difficult at all.

      I agree that I wish there were a little more romance in these books to balance out the rest of the story. Doesn't have to be the main focus of the story, just a little more. And you know, I think this one (I didn't mention it here, forgot) qualifies as new adult because these are post-high school students that are about to enter college and are preparing to do so.

  4. Okay, admission time. I haven't read anything by Sarah Dessen before. I've heard different things about her and her books but have yet to actually physically pick something up myself and read it. I do remember reading that you hadn't really found a book yet that made you understand the love for her yet. I'm so glad that finally changed, and also major kudos to you for sticking with an author that you weren't exactly sure what the fuss was all about (I know how hard that can be, believe me). I really like the sound of this book, and the way that you wrote this review. Maybe this will be the Sarah Dessen book that I try first? We'll see. 🙂

    ~Allison @ Good Books & Good Wine

    • Thanks, Allison! I still have a few of Dessen's books that I want to check out and I may even like them better from what I hear. Who knows!? I'd love to find something by Lauren Oliver that I like – she's another one that I've not connected to the way others have and it kind of bums me out a little bit. So I'm going to keep trying with her stuff too, I think.

      I certainly liked this book better than my last two (Just Listen and Lock and Key). Maybe give this one a try and see what happens?? 🙂

  5. Ems

    I've been so intimidated by her books. I had a bad experience with Dreamland (hit too close to home, no pun intended), but I loved The Truth About Forever. Those are the only two I've read, but I feel like I want to read this one now. Thanks for a great review that helped me make up my mind!

    • Dreamland is one of those on my shelf that I keep looking at sideways but I have yet to pick up. Lock and Key is the one that hit too close to home for me. I hope you like this one. It was really neat and I love the ending – it was a nice, quiet ending that just made me feel good. I appreciated that so much.

  6. I know that I have to read another one of Dessen's books eventually, but I'm kind of dragging my feet in the ground here. I just doubt I'll end up getting that Dessen spark of love that most people seem to have – and so reading your review made me very happy to see that I'm not the only one in this position! That being said, I do like what you described of Auden's characters and, if I can relate to any of Dessen's protagonists, it's probably this one. I'm glad that altering your expectations somewhat helped you enjoy this book more, Asheley!

    • I agree about that Dessen spark – I'm not sure that I'll ever have it either, Amanda, but I'm glad that I can say that I enjoyed this book. Auden is a really neat character with great growth over the book, which is something I always love. And I loved the male character, Eli. I think you're right, too, about altering my expectations for this one. I went into it expecting ya contemp with issues and some lite romance and that's what I got, so I wasn't as surprised/shocked as I was the previous two times.

  7. I'm not a contemporary reader, but I have read two Sarah Dessen books. Unfortunately, I read them so long ago I can't remember either of them! I do like that the MC reminded you of Golden, because I did read that one and really enjoyed it. I loved watching the growth in that story, so I'm sure I would here as well. And I actually like when authors try to make you uncomfortable, so that shouldn't be an issue. I look forward to seeing what other Dessen books you pick up and like! I keep thinking I should go back to reading some of her books (or re-reading the ones I have) but never do. Maybe you can convince me I should 😉 (I guess first you have to completely fall for one of her books!!)

    • Auden did remind me of Parker in Golden, but I think that Golden is a much better book (I don't mean that with any disrespect toward this book, but no one can deny Golden's absolute brilliance.) The two girls just struck me as similar and I wanted to note that because just like with Golden, I could see a little of myself in Auden.

      I'm on the fairly-new side of contemporary, and I've found that I really like the issues contemporaries, so I like that discomfort too, as long as I'm expecting it. I think my problem is that with the first two Dessen books, I was horribly put off by the covers (they're so pretty and bubbly and just lovely, no indication of any issues at all), and I was fairly new to the contemps too. I was much better prepared to take this one on, and I actually just liked this story much better too. So for me, an all-around better experience this time. I plan to read more of her work and maybe I'll completely fall for one of them! 🙂

  8. My favorite Dessen books and two of my favorite books EVER are The Truth About Forever and This Lullaby. The rest I can take it or leave it.

    I read this one because someone said it would be more akin to those books?? Honestly, I didn't like it at first because the protag made me uncomf but I liked it when she grew. I also really liked Eli! I thought their bike rides were fun to read about, esp when they ate PIE.

    Lovely review! Now, if you haven't read The Truth About Forever + This Lullaby yet, you shouuuld.

    • From what I hear most, the two Dessens you mention seem to be the majority favorites. I think I may go there next for my Dessen reads!

      Auden did grow! And I'm SO GLAD about that! I was wondering how she would turn out in the end because like you in the beginning I was like whaaaa? But she was great in the end. And I thought Eli was fabulous – I wouldn't have minded more of him in the book. He just had so many things about him that other people didn't know, which made him mysterious, but not that "mysterious guy" that is so popular in YA/NA today. He was just a guy that liked to keep to himself and be unique and I loved that.

      I think I may have The Truth About Forever on my shelves and I know that both of my library systems have This Lullaby! Soon!

  9. I definitely want to recommend This Lullaby and The Truth About Forever like so many before me. TL has a very atypical Dessen heroine while TTAF has such a sa-woony romance! I think I only read Along for the Ride once because I don't really have a memory of what happened in it. I know my sister owns all the books so maybe I will try to reread this one this summer.

    • Oh boy, I would love a sa-woony romance – perhaps I will start with The Truth About Forever! It's funny how everyone has their opinions about their favorite Dessens and for different reasons, but these two are the ones that people come back to the most as far as recommendations to me! Thank you!

  10. This was my first Dessen, and I've now read three total (I think). Of all of them, I liked this one best because I related to certain aspects of the main character. I expected to love Dessen more than I actually do. In fact, I had a fourth book of hers that I ended up just letting someone else have because I had no desire to read it. I think it must be a "it's not you, it's me" type thing. I just find certain aspects of her books I little repetitive and felt like I was reading the same general "formula" with all three, if that makes sense. I can totally understand why so many people love her – and I still really did love this book – but I don't think I'll be seeking out her books in the future.

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