Sunday, May 9, 2010

ALONG FOR THE RIDE by Sarah Dessen

Along for the Ride
Sarah Dessen
Young Adult Romance
Viking, 2009
383 pages

Overall, this was a good book, and it came at just the right time for me. I've been running a bit dry lately in the "good reads" department, spending almost two months straight starting novels and not getting past the first 50-100 pages, for various reasons, but most of which boiled down to them not holding my interest or being just plain stupid.

I knew I'd finish Along for the Ride after I'd read only the first page. It just had that wow factor in the writing style and character voice. Also, I could relate to the MC dealing with divorced parents as she begins her transition from teenager to adult, and I'm sure that played a large role in my readerly sympathy.

Set in a beachside tourist town in North Carolina during the summer between high school graduation and freshman year at college, Along for the Ride has enough teenageisms to be considered classic young adult (such as the group of girls working at the MC's stepmother's boutique who always talk about fashion and boys and argue over what social event to engage in on any given night) and enough adultisms to be considered crossover (such as making up for a bland childhood with rare second chances and learning more about who you are through the viewpoint of a stranger). I enjoyed these aspects greatly.

Although the characters were all well-developed, even the minor ones, the story itself left a few things to be desired. I didn't have a clear sense of plot, even after finishing the whole book. Looking back, it felt more like a philosophical journey than a compilation of events, and every time it seemed we were building toward something big... it didn't happen. Either it was completely skipped or simply summarized, not giving it the credit it deserved. Many moments felt contrived with double meaning so the author could make a point, and some of those points were highlighted ad nauseam.

Auden was definitely a relatable character, but I felt her romantic counterpart, Eli, could have been a little less boring and predictable. There is something to be said for being stand-off-ish and taking certain things in stride, especially with the particular issues in his past that he was dealing with (namely, the death of his best friend), but I would have liked a little more dynamics from him, especially toward the end.

And I honestly can't pinpoint the climax of the story, which then left the ending feeling like a big letdown. Every last detail was tied up too nicely, making it seem unrealistic, but for the young adult audience, maybe that's what they want. As an adult, I guess I just know better: things don't always go the way you want them to in the end. It's a romance story, so I expected the HEA for that part of it, but not for all of the subplots as well. Just saying.

I guess the bottom line is, the second half of the book didn't live up to the first half, in my opinion. Even so, I would still recommend Along for the Ride for both teens and adults; I give it four stars out of five. It's lengthy for YA, but it reads quickly and smoothly. The average reader could realistically finish this in a weekend. If you're really busy or don't read very often, I'd say you could still complete it within a week. Despite its downfalls, it has a way of hooking you into late-night/early morning reading.

~Lydia Sharp


Claire Dawn said...

Thanks for the reccomend. I love crossover.

Laurel said...

I haven't read this yet but I know that sensation you describe of wondering what the plot was when you finish. It's a bit...unsatisfying.

But a testament to the author's character development when you finish anyway.

j.leigh.bailey said...

I've been debating picking this one up... It sounds like I might just have to dig it up after all...

Nomes said...

I really like your review of this. I've read it too, and felt you nailed the little things that niggled with me as well. But you're right -- Sarah Dessen does have a really readable style, so it keeps you turning the pages.

Have you read any others of hers? I really liked This Lullaby. And teen girls I know say The Truth About Forever is their fave Dessen - has a definite swoon factor with Wes :)

Anonymous said...

hmm...i was considering reading this, actually, but i agree that sarah dessen has a habit of "tying things up" a little too nicely. she's a good author if you're in the mood for a nice "journey" book with some romance thrown in, which i think is the basic structure of all her books

but she's a good writer, and i don't mean to bash her, she makes it work.