Reviews for Along for the Ride
Booklist Reviews 2009 April #2
Dessen has built a well-deserved reputation for delicately depicting teen girls in turmoil. Her latest title showcases a socially awkward young woman who seeks solace in the comforting rigidity of academic success. Auden is about to start college in the fall, and decides to escape her control-freak professor mom to spend the summer with her novelist father, his new young wife, and their brand-new baby daughter, Thisbe. Over the course of the summer, Auden tackles many new projects: learning to ride a bike, making real connections with peers, facing the emotional fallout of her parents' divorce, distancing herself from her mother, and falling in love with Eli, a fellow insomniac bicyclist recovering from his own traumas. The cover may mislead readers, as despite the body language of the girl in pink and the hunky blue-jeaned boy balanced on a bike, this is no slight romance: there's real substance here. Dessen's many fans will not be deterred by the length or that cover; they expect nuanced, subtle writing, and they won't be disappointed. Copyright 2009 Booklist Reviews.
Horn Book Magazine Reviews 2009 #3
Auden, the preternaturally mature daughter of two self-absorbed (and divorced) academics, is quiet, studious, and responsible. She's also never had a real friend, broken a rule, or gone on an adventure. Then, the summer before college, she accepts an invitation to stay with her father, her terminally perky stepmother Heidi, and her newborn half-sister Thisbe. Soon Auden is befriended by a trio of local girls who help her reconcile her mother's strict notions of feminism and intellectualism with her own desires for the future. She also forms a prickly alliance with Heidi, who, not nearly as vapid as Auden thought, shoulders the burdens of motherhood alone, since Auden's father helps out only when his own routine and sleep schedule are in no danger of disruption. Without judgment, Dessen explores the dynamics of an extended family headed by two opposing, flawed personalities, revealing their parental failures with wicked precision yet still managing to create real, even sympathetic characters. Though Auden's repressed upbringing is a less compelling hook than Just Listen's mysterious social shunning or Lock and Key's estranged sisters, Along for the Ride still provides the interpersonal intricacies fans expect from a Dessen plot. Rounding out her latest offering with richly depicted female friendships, Dessen offers up a summertime tale of self-discovery. Copyright 2009 Horn Book Magazine Reviews.
Kirkus Reviews 2009 May #2
Auden missed childhood thanks to her parents' divorce, which she navigated with the gravitas of a 30-year-old. No bike-riding, no giggly sleepovers. Just schoolwork, college ambitions and relentless insomnia. In the summer before college, she spontaneously joins her dad, his 20-something wife and new baby at their oceanfront house, hoping to transform into someone who enjoys normal teenage fun: beach, boardwalk, bonfires and beers. Dessen reworks well-traveled terrain and creates a remarkably original story with realistic teen dialogue, authentic girl friendships and a complex underlying question: Can people really change? Taut, witty first-person narration allows readers to both identify with Auden's insecurities and recognize her unfair, acerbic criticisms of people. It's Eli, a fellow insomniac, with whom she connects, and together they tick off items on her kid to-do list (food fights, bowling, paper-delivery route) while the rest of the town sleeps. The spark between these two sad teens and the joyful examples of girl connectivity deepen this ostensibly lighthearted, summer-fun story, which offers up complex issues--the residual effects of divorce, acceptance of imperfect parents and lip-gloss feminism. (Fiction. 14 & up) Copyright Kirkus 2009 Kirkus/BPI Communications.All rights reserved.
Publishers Weekly Reviews 2009 April #4
Studious good girl Auden, named for the poet, makes a snap decision to spend her summer before college at her father's beach house rather than with her mother, a professor whose bad habits include male grad students. Auden's parents divorced three years earlier, a split she's not yet over. Her remarried father has already produced another heir, a colicky baby named Thisbe (after a tragic figure from Shakespeare), with his young wife, Heidi, who owns a boutique. Feeling sympathy for stressed-out Heidi, Auden agrees to do the shop's bookkeeping, providing her with an instant social circle--the teenage clerks plus the boys from the neighboring bike rental, including hunky, wounded Eli. Both night owls, Auden and Eli bond when he coaxes her to experience childhood activities--bowling, food fights, learning to ride a bike--that her insufferable parents never bothered to provide. Auden's thoughtful observations make for enjoyable reading--this is solid if not "top shelf" Dessen: another summer of transformation in which the heroine learns that growing up means "propelling yourself forward, into whatever lies ahead, one turn of the wheel at a time." Ages 12-up. (June) [Page 132]. Copyright 2009 Reed Business Information.
School Library Journal Reviews 2009 June
Gr 8 Up--It's the summer before college and Auden goes to her father's house in the small coastal town of Colby for some well-earned R&R. Having no plans other than to preread textbooks for her first-semester classes at Defriese University, the would-be bookworm's solitude is quickly disrupted by Thisbe, her colicky new half sister. Strolling the boardwalk with a fussy baby and late night coffee runs at the Gas/Gro lead to chance encounters with the locals, whose main pastime revolves around Colby's bike park. Auden's curiosity is piqued by Eli, a bike-shop worker whose reserved, solitary nature seems to match her own. Her social sphere widens when Heidi, her sleep-deprived stepmom, asks for some bookkeeping help in her fashion boutique, and Auden is drawn into the circle of girls who work and hang out there, including Maggie, the clerk also bound for Defriese in September, and sidekicks Leah and Esther. Auden joins in on evening rituals of "store-going," eating junk food, and house parties while keeping her budding relationship with Eli to herself. Even Dessen's minor characters are multifaceted and interesting. Readers will be most absorbed by Auden and Eli's romantic friendship, the type soul mates are born of, played out in the bike shop, Colby's all-night Laundromat, and coffee shops. This summer vacation-themed story will be savored.--Vicki Reutter, Cazenovia High School, NY [Page 120]. Copyright 2008 Reed Business Information.
VOYA Reviews 2009 June
Two years after her parents' divorce, Auden still feels that she could have prevented the break up. While Auden summers with her father and his new wife and baby, the hurt becomes more apparent--as do her parents' flaws. A year after local teen Eli's best friend, Abe, was killed in an auto accident in which Eli was driving, Eli still feels responsible even though it was not his fault. He has stopped doing things he loves, like championship biking. Auden and Eli literally bump into each other at the beach. Loners and insomniacs both, they begin spending their nights on a quest to salvage Auden's deprived teenage years, time spent studying rather than socializing. Working at her stepmother's store, Auden is drawn into the drama/life of co-workers Maggie, Esther, and Leah, and their friends. But as Auden and Eli become closer, Auden discovers herself emulating her father by distancing herself from Eli and her new friends Dessen, queen of the intelligently written, thoroughly enjoyable novel about loners coming together, populates this novel with parents into whom one longs to knock some sense, teens who are smarter than their parents, and friends who are fun, loveable, and loyal. The subtheme of bike riding is a perfect ploy--especially because she never learned as a child--for Auden to grow. The juxtaposition of Auden's carefree older brother falling in love and settling down while Auden spreads her wings shows how people can change given the right circumstances. The dialogue is true to both adult and teenage language. The summer resort town setting is perfect. As with all Dessen's books, her latest is a must-have.--Ed Goldberg 5Q 4P J S Copyright 2009 Voya Reviews.