What do teenage girls like to read? An easy answer would be a novel from the New York Times best-selling author Sarah Dessen. One of her latest, "Along for the Ride," is a fun, girly, yet sophisticated read.
Life for a high school graduate and soon-to-be college student can be summed up easily in about two words -- strictly school. All through Auden West's life, she has learned everything there is to know about literature, science and math -- in high school and from her high-achieving college professor mother and book-writing father. But she hasn't learned a smidgen about friends, boyfriends, or what it means to cherish your family and friends, or even riding a bike.
With her usual habits of staying up all night to avoid her parents' constant arguing before and after their divorce and anti-social behavior in mind, Auden decides that a summer away from her academic-driven mother and old town might do her well. Auden takes advantage of the opportunity to visit her father, his new wife and their baby in a charming seaside town. This journey has opened Auden's eyes to the life she had been missing, from the woes of a worn-down new mother, an unwilling father, demands of a newborn and the biggest adjustment of all -- a world full of girls, clothes, boys and gossip.
Auden is immediately sucked into this group, finding herself working at her stepmother's girly shop and, even more shocking, intrigued by the loner, Eli Stock, whom she can't get out of her mind. They begin spending the nights traveling the streets of the quaint beach town, learning and uncovering the secrets of each others' somewhat unfortunate pasts. Auden and Eli discover an even more involved project to pour themselves into, moving forward and setting aside their pasts.
Auden, the school-driven teen, and Eli, a young adult with a possible future on the BMX circuit, help each other overcome what's been holding them back. For Auden, filling her summer with the fun she missed out on may seem simple enough but proves to be more of a challenge for her to give up a life ruled by academics. Even trickier for Eli is to get past the death of his friend, Abe, for which he blames himself. The two insomniacs find themselves constantly struggling to turn off of the beaten path that they are stuck on.
Dessen veered from the beaten path by breaking free from the typical soap opera-like love stories and created a stunning novel. The change in scenery is a delight for readers, leaving them feeling refreshed by a novel that has a more than pleasing plot line as well as romance. The novel, without a doubt, scores big, leaving readers with endless possibilities of what is yet to come from this successful author.
Lindsay Robinson is a freshman at Eden Junior Senior High School.
Along For the Ride
By Sarah Dessen
383 pages; $19.99