What is a summary of Along for the Ride by Sarah Dessen?

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Tamara K. H. eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In Sarah Dessen's young adult novel Along for the Ride, Auden West struggles with insomnia. Her insomnia first began in high school after her parents' divorce. Her mother's house became such a social madhouse that it became easier for Auden to begin studying in a diner until 2AM. Since neither parent paid close attention to what Auden did, knowing her to be very "mature for her age," one night she decided to stay in the warmth and security of the diner all night long and just made it a regular habit ever after. Neither parent took the time to notice she wasn't sleeping.

After high school, before starting her new life at her prestigious college, Auden decides to pass the summer away at her father's beach home in Colby. Auden isn't wild about the idea because she knows she'll have to get acquainted with her father's new young wife, Heidi, and her newborn half-sister, Thisbe. And, once she has moved in for the summer, she becomes even more disturbed when she hears her father and Heidi fighting, which brings back all the memories of fights between her father and her own mother. To avoid hearing the fighting, she continues with her patterns of insomnia--sleeping during the day and staying up all night reading in Colby coffee shops.

On top of her insomnia, Auden has no experience with socializing because she has devoted her life to hard work. Being in Colby gives Auden her first taste of the challenges that come with socializing. At her first beach party, she winds up unknowingly hooking up with another girl's boyfriend. Things become even more uncomfortable for Auden when she begins working at Heidi's clothing boutique and finds the girl, Maggie, works there too. However, Auden is eventually able to make friends with her enemy.

In addition, she learns how to cut loose when she meets free-spirited fellow insomniac Eli. Through Eli, Auden does things she's never done before, such as shop in the wee hours of the morning in Park Mart and go bowling. Eli especially brings out a side of her that she lost due to growing up being such a serious person--her child-self. Due to Eli's influence, Auden even asks Maggie to help her learn how to ride a bike--something else Auden missed out on during her childhood.  

As her relationship with Eli develops, a complication emerges when Auden's "ex prom date" Jason shows up in Colby. When Jason invites Auden to a beach party, she accepts and breaks up with Eli because she suddenly feels overwhelmed by all the ways she has changed. However, when Jason breaks off the date, Auden asks Eli, who at first rejects Auden, but a conversation leads them to make amends. The novel ends with Auden, now a self-assured college student happy with her life, sitting in a coffee shop with Eli, now her boyfriend.

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