Along For the Ride

Sarah Dessen

Theme One: Can People Change?

Auden is a 18 year old girl, just graduating high school. She is already rearing to go to college, but she forgot there is one more thing before her next stage in life...her last real summer. Once Auden realized this, she realized she didn't know how to have fun. Her whole high school career had been all about academics. Her mother, who was a college professor and a pronounced writer, made sure of this, sending her to the highest academic school in the city, after being disgusted with public school and even a private school. Her parents had gotten a divorce a few years earlier, her father, who was also a writer, even though he was not as recognized, was now living with a new wife, along with a new baby, in just under a year and a half. He also now lives in a beach house, and seems to be happier than ever. When Auden realizes that she will be stuck at home all summer, getting a head start on her college courses, and spending endless nights listening to her mother talk to grad students about American literature around her kitchen table, she makes the spontaneous and uncharacteristic decision to spend the summer with her dad, and his new life.

When she arrives she immediately regrets it, seeing Heidi, her stepmother, who runs a boutique on the boardwalk, and seems too air headed to even have a brain. Along with that is the newborn baby, Thisbe is a very colicky baby and cries non-stop. At the beginning of the book Auden has a distinct view about herself and everybody around her. But over the course of the summer that all changes. She meets Eli, a mysterious bike jumper who has an unknown and fragile past. They take interest in each other when they run into each other consecutively at night, which is the time when they both seem to be the most active. Eli takes Auden under his wing, showing her the nightlife of the beach town. They soon spend every night together, eating pie, running errands, and talking about life. As she gets to know Heidi, Maggie, Eli, and all her new friends, she realizes that there might be more to her that even she realized. She found out that she can be smart and academically strong, along with having good relationships with her friends and Eli. Other people who change throughout the summer are her parents. Her mother realizes that Auden needs to be who she wants to be. She becomes open-minded and forms a stronger relationship with Auden than she ever had before. Her father, with the help of Auden, becomes less selfish and realizes that he has a responsibility to be there for his children, especially the new baby.

Theme Two: Don't Judge a Book by It's Cover

Throughout the story we witness the sense of stereo-typing. In the beginning of the story Auden sees her new stepmother Heidi as a preppy, air headed, girly woman who ran off with her dad. But later in the story Auden realizes that Heidi is actually a very organized and successful business owner. She also gives her advice about boys, friends, and her parents. Another person she miss-judged was her co-worker Maggie, who at first seemed much like Heidi when Auden met her. But over the course of the summer Auden became good friends with Maggie. Surprisingly Maggie was a very smart girl, and was even attending the same college as Auden, and she even jumped bikes with the guys, along with being an expert on all the latest trends and what kind of jeans were the perfect fit. Last but not least, Auden didn't even realize who her mother really was under all that perfectionist, stuck-up attitude. With the help of Heidi, Auden realized that even though her mother had many layers to her, she wasn't as cold heart-ed as she had thought. Her mother was just hard to pick apart, and if she was really that cold-heart-ed and mean, she wouldn't have been able to raise her wonderful kids.

How the Themes Relate

The themes of this book relate very well because they are both a trait of growth. As we grow older it seems we learn a lot of lessons from experiences we have had. When we first have an experience or meet someone new, we tend to make first impressions, either good or bad. If these impressions are bad we tend to judge people for who they are or what they did. Another thing that can happen is we make judgments against people based on what they do or have done, without getting to know the person first. We may even be mean or rude to those people, even though we have never talked to them before. But we have to realize that you can't really say you know about that person before even getting to know them, and also, people a lot of times change for the better, especially as they get older and wiser. A good lesson to take away from this book is that a person can have many more things to them then we might see, and we shouldn't judge people based on what they do or have done, because you don't know what they have been through. And the same goes with yourself. If you knew someone that you have never spoken to didn't like you, you would probably ask yourself, ¨what did I ever do to them?¨