Along for the Ride, by Sarah Dessen
Originally, Auden stayed up late to keep her parents from fighting—if she was up and around, they were less likely to really let loose. So when the inevitable divorce finally happened, she found that she was out of the habit of sleeping. She used the extra time to focus even more seriously on her school work.
Now, she's spending the summer before college with her father, her couldn't-be-more-different-than-her-mother stepmother, and their new baby. She's working in her stepmother's extremely pink boutique, and for the first time, she finds herself in a world that includes actual interaction with people her own age, a world that has time for friendship, clothes, gossip and boys. Well, she isn't so much IN that world—but she's observing. It will take a bit more than her job in the boutique to actually enter it.
But there's this boy. Who doesn't sleep much either. Who doesn't seem to fit in quite right with the rest, either. Their night-time adventures will bring them closer together and ultimately, for one of them, back into the world—and for the other, into the world for the first time.
I loved Along for the Ride. It felt like a return to form for Sarah Dessen, because as much as I liked Lock and Key, I didn't love it. Didn't adore it. Along for the Ride, I adored. I loved Auden, I loved that she was so judgmental without realizing it (we've all been there at some point), I loved her stepmother, I loved seeing their relationship change, seeing Auden start to Look Beyond The Pink. I loved the group of friends and their banter—I loved that I knew that they'd been friends forever from exchanges like this (this is from an advance copy, final text may differ, yadda yadda):
Clearly, though, someone had taken steps to spruce it up, as evident by the bowl of nuts on the table and what looked like a brand-new scented candle burning on the bar that led to the kitchen.
"Décor," Adam said, having caught me noticing this. "It really makes a difference, don't you think?"
"Still stinks like beer," Leah informed him as she came in, dropping her phone in her purse.
"Does that mean you don't want one?" Wallace yelled from the kitchen.
"No," Leah said.
I loved that even though this was a story that focused on Auden, the other characters—her parents, her stepmother, her brother, her new friends—were real people. I loved the town. And the pie.
But what I loved most of all, I think, is that (prepare for the cheese, but this is TRUE) it inspired me. It reminded me, as Auden learned it for the first time, that (and this is another quote from the book, so subject to change but it had damned well better not because I love it) "being a girl could be about interest rates and skinny jeans, riding bikes and wearing pink. Not about any one thing, but everything".
Go Sarah Dessen. Thank you for this one!