Tuesday, April 24, 2012
On Bikes: A Review of Along For the Ride by Sarah Dessen
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.
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.
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.