Along for the Ride by Sarah Dessen. Viking. Publication Date: June 2009. Reviewed from an ARC. Official Website.
The Plot: Auden spends the summer after high school graduation at the beach with her father, stepmother, and new baby half-sister. She discovers things about her father, her family, and herself.
The Good: Dessen delivers again.
Teenage girl? Check.
Discovering who she is? Check.
Realizing the good and bad, flaws and strengths of those around her? Check.
Making new friends of both sexes? Check.
Love interest? Check.
Did I mention it's at the beach?
While their is a romance (and I would confidently hand this to anyone looking for a love story), it's not a classic love story. The real story is the classic YA one -- coming of age. Auden has always lived under the shadow of her mother, being "too grown up" as a way to deal with her parents' divorce. Visiting her father and seeing him in a new light, while being out of the influence of her strong mother, gives her a chance to find out who she is and what she wants.
The love interest begins as a friend -- and the love is awkward, hesitant, and shaky. Auden has hidden herself away in books and school work, and love, friendship, and relationships don't come easy to her. Auden may be a bit more like the readers of Dessen's books, than past main characters (Lock and Key has uberdrama, Just Listen has the pretty model girl, etc.)
It wouldn't be a Dessen book without some mentions of her other books: here, Auden briefly attended the private school in Lock and Key; the jewelry from Lock and Key is also mentioned; and the beach town is the one in Keeping the Moon, with a couple of characters making brief appearances. Hey, speaking of the Lock and Key jewelry, Tiffany is making key necklaces!
© Elizabeth Burns of A Chair, A Fireplace & A Tea Cozy