I have a complicated relationship with Sarah Dessen’s books. I dislike more of her books than I enjoy. I love her writing style and her characters are great. Her plots, however, leave something to be desired. The general formula of far too many of them (that I have read) is this: Girl is lost and unsure, cute boy comes to her aid. They start looking at one another. Girl makes more friends. Someone says something stupid and boy/girl gets mad. Eventually, everyone apologizes, makes up and the guaranteed happily ever after not far behind. That said, I give his particular novel a 4.5 star rating (lack of uniqueness in regards to the general plot layout is why it is missing that .5 stars.)
Now, I must give a disclaimer before going further into my opinion on this particular book. It did not follow a marvelously, much needed, unique route that finally differed from that of her usual books. In fact, its plot is right on par with all her others. Thus, looking back on the book objectively, I think that the only reason I liked it was because, for me, it was relatable. That is the goal most author strive for in their books as it makes you more sympathetic and forgiving to both the characters decisions and the plot. So, while I loved this novel and have reread it at least once every year for the past 3 years, I can recognize that I may be biased and of unpopular opinion.
***CAUTION! POSSIBLE SPOILERS AHEAD!***
The novel follows main character Auden. Auden is the good girl in a family with high expectations and she has never stepped out of line. As such, she is often taken for granted and largely left to her own devices by her mother (her parents are divorced). Auden initially planned to spend her summer readying herself for her classes next semester and spending nights at her favorite 24/7 diner. She spends a lot of time at the diner since, apart from having insomnia, she also can’t stomach her mother’s social gatherings; whereby her mother talks down to her adoring students over wine. Her father on the other hand is an absent writer who has recently remarried a woman most unlike her mother. Auden is not impressed, even when she hears that they’re pregnant. However, after an interesting conversation she decides to head over to stay with them for the summer, hoping to get some time with her father. Unsurprisingly, things don’t turn out how she had imagined and Auden finds herself with a part time job, on the hunt for a new 24/7 diner to spend her nights and more feelings than she has had to deal with in a long time.
Enter Eli, a mysterious boy who has caught Auden’s eye. He lives in the small town, has for his whole life. Things were good for him until his best friend died. Now, his friends are worried about him because he is pretty much avoiding them and he doesn’t smile often and laughing…How they miss hearing him laugh. He never comes out to go biking anymore either, although he does still work in the bike shop to keep paying his bills. When they find out that he’s hanging around with Auden and finally acting normal, they get scared because she’s only here for the summer and more loss will only leave him worse off.
I really enjoyed the trick riding aspect of the novel. Bicycling and bikes in general were a large part of the novel, from the shop, to as a hobby, to competing. I have nerer read a book that featured biking as a defining part of it. I also liked the friendships and how there were different ones. There are the acquaintances, strangers, we’ve-been-besties-since-birth, and we are new friends just getting to know each other. There are, we have been friends a few years now and though I can imagine a life without you I don’t want to. I like the mix of that this book can offer because of the new girl in a small town setting. I also appreciate how at first, Auden finds everything strange. That these people know each other so well and actually want to be around one another even when its not necessary. That they care what she is doing later and what she thinks and whether or not she likes them. She takes her time to join in because Auden has never really had friends and that is something one has to learn ow to do, how to live with.
This is the book you read when you’re feeling a little bit lonely at night and want to escape. It’s what you read when you’re alone at the beach in the beginning of summer and you are not ready yet to pack up and go home. It’s a book to pick up when you’re surrounded by strangers and you feel more alone than you’ll admit to even yourself and you would like a distraction, anything please. It’s a book for when you’re the last one awake at your best friends sleepover and you’re simply not tired yet.