Along for the Ride, by Sarah Dessen
Auden hasn't slept at night since her parents started fighting, a habit that has continued past the divorce and all the way through high school. She spends her nights at an all-night diner, overachieving as the perfect, academically minded daughter. After her senior year of high school, Auden decides to spend the summer in Colby, the beach community where her father lives with his wife and newborn daughter. The academically-minded Auden has never had a social life -- has never really had friends. And to be honest, Auden starts off the book pretty cold and judgemental, but also a little lonely even if she doesn't realize it. As the summer progresses, Auden begins working in her stepmother's boutique, meeting local girls her own age and their male bike-shop counterparts. And she meets Eli, a haunted boy who also spends his nights awake. And so begins the summer where Auden learns and grows in ways completely unrelated to test scores and college admissions.
This book could have easily turned into one big, cheesy cliche; but what I love about Sarah Dessen's book is their genuineness. Her characters are real and relateable, her settings vivid (I could smell the salty air and taste the copious amounts of coffee Auden drank). Auden drove me crazy at first -- but in the way that a real live person would. Her mother and father were unbelievably self absorbed and annoying -- but believably. I enjoyed reading about Auden's journey, I enjoyed meeting the secondary characters that taught Auden about friendship, and I rooted for Auden and Eli's sweet relationship. And speaking of Eli, I liked how he and Auden had a two-way relationship; they needed each other, which just made it that much more rich.
Bottom line: another solid contemporary YA book by the consistently great Sarah Dessen.