Tuesday, April 24, 2012

On Bikes: A Review of Along For the Ride by Sarah Dessen

After I reviewed Anna and the French Kiss I started actively looking for more contemporary YA love stories. This kept popping up on Amazon and Goodreads, at it's well rated, so I thought I'd try it.


So the story is that Auden decides to spend the summer before college with her Dad, Stepmother Heidi, and baby sister. Auden has spent all of her childhood trying to be a grown up, a very academically successful grown up, and never learned to make friends or have fun. She also suffers from insomnia. Enter Eli. He also cannot sleep at night, due to semi-recent tragedy. Eli shows Auden how to have fun, they build a tentative relationship. Meanwhile, though, Auden watches as her parents make huge mistakes and screw up their lives and relationships, and she starts to doubt herself.

Positive Comments

Even though not much actually happens for most of the book, I could feel myself getting drawn into the story. I wanted Auden to develop as a character and learn some damn social skills. I wanted to see Eli rediscover himself. I wanted Heidi and Auden's father to improve their relationship. Mostly I wanted Auden's dad to figure out how to be a dad, or even try. But, yes, the writing is engaging and thoughtful.

The romance is only sort of a romance. It's more of a friendship that might blossom into something more. In the context of this type of book, I like that. It suited the characters and the place they are both in in their lives.

Critical Comments

Where are all of the likeable characters? Auden is cold and distant and judgmental. She get's better, and I was happy to see her do so. If she had been the only cold character, it would have been fine. But her father is the most deplorably selfish and useless father and husband seen outside of alcoholism. And Auden and Heidi both let him get away with being self centered and unhelpful, which made me unbelievably angry. Auden's mother is pretty much a bitch.

The problem with not liking such a high percentage of main characters is that in detracts from my liking the story. I felt like, although I was interested in the story, I didn't actually like it because I spent so much time being frustrated and angry at the decisions Auden and her family make. For example, I don't think it's acceptable to abandon your best friend/boyfriend out of nowhere just because you had a bad day--one that he did not cause.


I guess this one was just not for me. I really liked some aspects of the book--the message about having fun and finding yourself and accepting others is great. But I disliked enough things to make me mostly unwilling to read this again, or even recommend it to others. The writing was good, but the characters were so-so. 2.5 stars.


  1. I've read Sarah Dessen's books before and what I've found amazing about them is the fantastic characterisation and how each and every character seems so REAL. I'm sorry you didn't really enjoy this one, but I wasn't overly impressed with WHAT HAPPENED TO GOODBYE either, mostly because of the lack of backstory.

    And I couldn't agree with this more: 'For example, I don't think it's acceptable to abandon your best friend/boyfriend out of nowhere just because you had a bad day--one that he did not cause.'

    Great review!

    Nicole @ Teenage Fiction

    1. I'm not at all soured on Dessen's work. I'd be willing to try her other books some time, as I had no complaints with her writing style or structure. 2.5 is, after all, my "average" rating.

  2. I find it difficult to enjoy a book when I dislike even one character so a book full of annoying ones would probably tip me over the edge. I can see how Auden would be the way she is though if he parents are both horrible. I haven't read any Sarah Dessen books but I prob won't start with this one!

    1. A dis-likeable character, even if it's a main character, is not a deal breaker for me. But I have to be able to get inside their head and understand what made them the way they are...and I have to see them getting better. That's why I was willing to forgive Auden. Her parents, on the other hand, and her stepmother, made poor decisions and did selfish things, and because I wasn't in their heads to understand the reasons I could not forgive them.

  3. Auugh, I have one of her books and I hesitate to read it. Though she seems to be really popular among YA Romance readers, there is something about her that holds me back. But eventually I'll have to take the plunge and decide for myself.

    I think the only way I can ignore so many unlikable characters would be if the author did great job with creating a comfortable atmosphere or really wrote the characters in a way that I could understand WHY they are unlikable. I'm sorry this one disappointed, but I'm glad to hear that the relationship aspect of it all was satisfactory for the kind of novel it is.

    1. You know, her writing style really isn't bad. I'd go so far as to say the atmosphere and tone of the book was well constructed and soothing in it's own way. But I'm a character focused reader, so I couldn't handle the rotten characters. But I'm not totally put off of all Dessen's work.


Thoughtful comments are appreciated! I always respond to them, and I usually return the favor! Happy reading!

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