Breaking Out of Your Shell is Hard to Do Alone: Along for the Ride by Sarah Dessen

You definitely need friends and family who will be along for the ride.

Auden is a hard working, independent young woman.  She lives up to her mother’s expectation of being an over achiever and she spends most of her time reading and studying to get ahead. She barely has time for friends, and when she does they spend their time studying and discussing their academic successes.

When Auden’s family starts to deteriorate, Auden suffering from insomnia, delves deeper into her academics and further grows to resent the normal shallow teenage lifestyle that she’s not a part of.

One day, her father invites Auden to visit his new family at their beach house in the slow and quiet beach town of Colby.  Auden accepts imagining summer days spent bonding with her father.  When she arrives, however, it quickly becomes clear that Auden will be spending those days helping with the new baby and exploring the town on her own.  Eventually she meets up with a group of girls her own age, and hesitantly builds relationships with them.  While she’s attempting to chart the unknown waters of friendship, Auden also meets Eli, a boy who seems to be as lonely and broken as Auden.   Eventually, these relationships Auden builds will challenge her, especially when she tries to retreat into her old ways.

This was the first novel I’d read by Sarah Dessen and I really enjoyed it.  I did, however, really dislike Auden’s superior and sometimes snooty character at first, enough for me to consider closing the book.  As I keep reading, I soon realized that I was doing exactly what Auden was learning how to do; to give herself and relationships a chance.  The other characters, with the exception of Auden’s father, are well written multidimensional and by the time I finished the book, I felt as though I was saying “bye” to my own new friends.

With the weather getting warmer, I recommend this book to anyone looking for a light, but memorable, pool side or hammock read.