I've now read all of Sarah Dessen's books and as soon as I was feeling good about this, my friend Tina gave me the news-Dessen has a new one coming out in the Spring. Bring it on, Ms. Dessen-I'm ready for it.
This is the story of Auden and her dysfunctional family. Both parents are college professors, accomplished writers but short on emotions. She has one older brother, Hollis who seems to have used up all their parental energy leaving none for Auden. This is the story of her summer; the big one set between high school graduation and her freshman year at a prestigious university. Her parents are divorced and she chooses to spend it with her father, his new wife and their baby. Luckily they live in a house on the beach and there is an extra room for Auden.
It is a perfect time for some reflection as Auden prepares to make the leap to college student, away from her mother. She is a complex character, silently suffering from her parent's divorce. She doesn't have a set of girlfriends to hang with and she seems to just be waiting for college and the comfort books and studying bring to her. She's is a night-owl, a loner and smart beyond her years. Her stepmother, at first glance, is flighty, girlish and struggling with her new role of mother and wife. Her dad is a self-centered poop who shuts himself off from those at home, those closest to him, making the same mistakes he made during his first go-round as a parent.
Auden spends her time running interference between her dad and her stepmother, Heidi, and trying to comfort the colic-y Thisbe-who knew this would be just like her own parent's marriage. To get away she spends time on the boardwalk. During one of these late night wanderings she meets Eli, a night time loner as well. I enjoyed the casual relationship between Eli and Auden, which develops more as they understand each other better. Eli has layers; he is worth getting to know which makes it difficult on both of them as neither is interested in spilling their sad secrets.
I loved the surprises many of these characters hold in store for the reader, making it easy to understand how not to judge a book solely by its cover or a person by their first impression. Speaking of book covers; the cover art on this one is cute, adorable-love the pink polka-dot dress BUT...who is that boy on the cover...that is not Eli, who is described "a tall guy with longish dark hair pulled back at his neck, wearing a worn blue hoodie and jeans."(41) Bike-riding guys tend to be leaner, less muscle-y in their arms and Eli is usually wearing a dark hoodie. Maybe it's just that Eli appeared to me in a different way and the guy on the cover seems more Jake than Eli. That's about the only thing I disliked about this book. What I liked: the shop girls at Clementine's, the quest to fulfill Auden's lack of normal childhood experiences and Heidi's transformation back to independent can-do woman. If you haven't read any Sarah Dessen books yet you are missing out on an author who really sees things from a teenager's angle.
"In truth, I hadn't expected my mom to care whether I was around for the summer or not. And maybe she wouldn't have, if I'd been going anywhere else. Factor my dad into the equation, though, and things changed. They always did." (19)Click Sarah Dessen for her author website.
Another point of view review:
Missie at The Unread Reader.
and Samantha reviews it at Someone like Samantha.
Find it at an IndieBound book store near you...Along for the Ride