Monday, January 25, 2010

Albany YA Fic Examiner

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Along for the Ride--Sarah Dessen

The daughter of divorced parents, 18 year old Auden has always been an adult. As a young child she taught herself to stay awake at night to try to prevent her parents from fighting. She threw herself into her schoolwork and studied instead of slept. She had acquaintances but no real friends, choosing to focus on her future academic career instead of having fun with kids her own age. After she graduates high school Auden makes her first spontaneous decision and decides to spend the summer with her father and his new wife and baby. While there she meets the mysterious Eli and learns how to connect with her family and make real friendships.

I've liked Sarah Dessen since the first book I ever read of hers--Keeping the Moon. Her previous stories were good and Along for the Ride is no exception. Dessen has grown as an author and it's easy to see how her new role as mom is influencing her stories. Auden may be her oldest protagonist yet (but don't quote me on that) but she still has a lot in common with Dessen's earlier characters. She's lonely, confused and in need of real relationships, but not just romantic. There's also a level of romance in Dessen's books, but what really draws me to her is her focus on female friendships and how important they really are to teen girls and young adults. It's not surprising that Dessen has written a complex female protagonist, but it is surprising how equally complex and interesting Auden's parents were as well. Dessen's depiction of Auden's stressed out step-mom learning how to take care of a newborn was spot-on; her portrayal of Auden's dad as a selfish clueless but ultimately nice guy was also realistic.

There's a lot of substance in this book. Dessen's fans will not be disappointed. She may win over some new older readers--I've convinced my mom's book group to read it!

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