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. – Goodreads
Along for the Ride is the story of Auden, a girl who never sleeps. Her parents were constantly fighting and she just started to stay up. Her parents being divorced is of course a key part of her life. Her mother and her strive for perfection, her father and the new, younger wife, and the baby is a lot for Auden to take in. But she makes due, even if she doesn’t want to. The never sleeping only gets her so far. While her mother loves her almost far too much (the need of perfection since her older brother is…not) her father almost doesn’t parent at all. It seems that he doesn’t know how to parent, which shows with the new baby and his wife Heidi. He’s forcing Heidi to do almost everything and Auden can feel the tension and how you can cut it with a knife.
Auden however stays with her father in this small beach town, that is featured in multiple Dessen novels. It’s interesting to see Auden find her place in her father’s new world. It isn’t that she’s at odds with her step-mother and father, but it’s that she doesn’t know how she fits into their new life, with a newborn. What Auden quickly finds out is that her family needs her even they don’t know it. Her step-mother is failing and her father is in denial about her. The baby is taking a lot out of Heidi, and Auden begins to assist her and Heidi is thankful. Heidi becomes a different person when she gets four hours of sleep!
Then Heidi and Auden’s father begin to have the same fights that her parents had. Her father is selfish and has not changed: at all. And that hurts Auden’s heart. Her father gives no shit about anyone but himself. When Heidi tells him this he rages because he is in denial about it. Because he’s there for them, but not in the way that counts. Auden wants to shake him so he figures his shit out. What’s awesome though is how Heidi and Auden are on the same team. The same side and they work with each other. It’s a new friendship that she does not have with her actual mother no matter how she tries and Auden slowly begins to form this nice friendship with her step-mother, something she planned on forming with her father, but again, her father is an interesting gentleman.
In typical Dessen fashion, Auden does not relate to other girls, because she doesn’t understand how to be that girl: whatever is the opposite of the it girl of the novel. But slowly Auden actually warms up to the girls at Heidi’s store and they become actual friends. Auden puts her new friends in a very particular box though, and later when the friends break that stereotype box Auden is in legit shock and it is a perfect moment. What Auden doesn’t expect is for her mother to make a surprise trip to Colby and to hate the fact that Auden isn’t the Auden she let go to Colby. Auden has changed and grown and that shocks her academic mother.
But throughout the summer Auden continues to change who she is, and not in a bad way, she’s just growing. She gets closer to Eli and begins to have feelings for him even though she’s in denial about them. Feelings are not studious, something her mother trained and molded her for. Her mother molded her for greatness. Not for love. What her mother also molded her for, was to look down on people who were academically not as good as her. She didn’t do this on purpose, but her brother was a flake and she worked hard to not be a flake.
I enjoyed this book and the growth of Auden throughout the book. It’s the one thing I always enjoy from Dessen novels, there is always growth. While I do not regret reading so many Sarah Dessen’s in a short time, I do wish I would have spread them out more, because they really do start to all blur together. Same themes, and boys, which is fine, but I did wish Dessen would mix it up and tell a brand new story. One I didn’t see in other stories of hers. While three stars seems bad, it’s actually not. I did enjoy the book, I just have no interest in re-reading it.