aka YA Literature

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Along for the Ride by Sarah Dessen

If you're a Sarah Dessen fan, you'll almost certainly like this book. If you're not . . . then you probably won't. It's very "Sarah Dessen." Sort of like how Jodi Picoult has different characters and plots and issues, but her books are unmistakably her and she does what she does well. In Along for the Ride, the female main character discovers new things about herself and confronts internal emotional issues, while the strong secondary character(s) does the same. It includes some romance (but nothing too sexually explicit!) and some very clear but not too heavy-handed metaphors.

Auden is the daughter of two (now divorced) academics: a mother who is a successful English literature professor and ardent feminsit and a father who is also an English professor but who once had a very successful novel years ago and is now trying to write another. Auden decides to spend the summer after her senior year with her father, her step-mother, and their new baby at their beach-front home. While there, she ends up liking her step-mother a lot more than she expected to (she isn't as dumb and ditzy as her mother would like to believe), and she realizes how selfish and self-absorbed her father is. Auden also realizes how much of a childhood she's missed out on by growing up with parents who expected her to act maturely. She makes friends with the girls at her job and likes a guy who works at the bike shop nearby. He's struggling with his own issues, of course. I won't tell you how it ends, but you can probably guess since it's a classic Sarah Dessen novel.

I'm a Sarah Dessen fan. Just Listen is my favorite SD novel and one of my all-time favorites. This didn't quite reach that status (I don't know if anyone will ever equal Mallory or Owen for me), but I did like it better than Lock & Key. One of the things Dessen usually does that I like is to give the male character a very concrete interest (ex. music, bikes) and use that to develop characterization and create metaphors for life lessons. The female main characters don't tend to have that as much, though. I wish they did. I guess the books focus on the internal development of the female leads, so maybe that explains why they seem to be the ones with the "issues" while the guys tend/seem to have things figured out more by the time they meet the girl. Lock & Key was a little different in this regard, but the other books seem to follow this pattern. I mean, don't get me wrong; I always like reading the books, but it just seems very familiar. Of course, there are a lot worse things in life and in reading than knowing what you're going to get and knowing you like it.

1 comment:

Summer said...

I feel the same way about Sarah Dessen. But I'll always read the books.