August 2, 2013
REVIEW: Along For The Ride
Published June 16, 2009
Publisher: Viking Juvenile
Format: audiobook, borrowed from the library
Genre: young adult contemporary romance
To Buy: Amazon * Barnes & Noble
Rating: 3 STARS
(From Goodreads) 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.
In her signature pitch-perfect style, Sarah Dessen explores the hearts of two lonely people learning to connect.
Along For The Ride was my first Sarah Dessen book. To be fair, YA contemporary is not really my favorite genre. But, Sarah Dessen is wildly popular, and I just had to experience one of her books for myself.
I'm able to separate the quality of the writing from the quality of the story. There is no doubt that Dessen is a very talented author. I could recognize the quality of her writing right away.
It's just, for the life of me, I could not connect with this story! I don't think it was because of the writing - as I said, no problems there. I think problem number one was a lack of interest in most of the characters. It's not that they weren't well developed. I got where Auden and Eli were coming from. I thought the background stories of the main characters were told very well.
They were just all so... bland. When I could muster up a feeling or two for Auden, it was usually irritation. She was pretty much a bitch. As was her mother. And most of her friends. Eli was very wishy washy and kind of boring. He never made any bold plays for Auden's affection; there were never any declarations of... like, much less love from either of them.
I got the impression that Dessen was trying to make some sort of statement or teach a lesson, and the romance between Auden and Eli just was a side effect. It seemed as if 75% of the book was Auden's internal monologue as she waxed philosophical about her lack of life experiences and her unhealthy reaction to her parents' divorce. The lack of dialog between the characters made the book drag in certain places as I was waiting for the next scene to begin. I didn't realize how critical a good conversation between characters is to carry a reader through the story until I read Along For The Ride.
There were some parts of Along For The Ride that I did like. I liked that a good portion of the book takes place at night. It was different, and I appreciate different. I liked the premise of Auden's "bucket list" and how she and Eli set out to conquer it. I did not like how that list was kind of abandoned at a point in the book and never picked back up again.
I still think that YA contemporary isn't my thing, as a general rule. I love - no, I NEED - a good romance in my stories. I love some good drama and tension. Some good kissing and bold declarations of love. Some YA contemporaries have these things. Some don't. Along For The Ride had none of these things, unfortunately.
Do you know a good YA contemporary that would fit the bill? Make a good recommendation!