Where We Belong/Along for the Ride

I’m doing something a bit bad. I’m sorry, my company was bought and I’ve been so busy I’ve barely had time to think let alone write, so I’m doing a two-for-one book review here.

The last two books I read were Where We Belong, the latest from Emily Giffin of Something Borrowed fame, and Along for the Ride by Sarah Dessen, which is, yes, a young adult book. Scoff all you want but I allow myself to visit the young adult section of the book store as long as it is for one of three things: The It Girl series (a spin-off of the original Gossip Girl, which reminds me I have to check if there’s a new one…), the Lauren Conrad L.A. Candy series (because, duh, The Hills), and Sarah Dessen, because she has quickly become one of my favorite authors second only to Meg Cabot. And aren’t I technically a young adult?

I liked approximately 100 pages of Where We Belong. It’s about a fabulous NYC TV-producer 30-something woman, Marian, giving up a baby girl for adoption 18 years ago and the girl coming to find her. This is slightly different from Giffin’s other stuff because it involves the whole adoption issue, but that part didn’t really click with me. What did click was the part about the girl’s father. In a nutshell: He was a bad boy musician, Marian was a good girl student, they met at a graduation party and slept together, stayed together all summer without really being together because he was a bad boy musician and she was a good girl student, and at the end of the summer she realizes she is “late” so she takes a pregnancy test, which is positive, but she lies and says it’s negative then runs away and never speaks to him again. The only person she tells is her mom, she plans to have an abortion, but she chickens out at the last second so she carries to term and gives the baby to a nice couple in Ohio, or something. The girl, Kirby, wants to seek out her true parents because she wants to know why she is so unlike the rest of her adopted family, but Marian doesn’t want to have to contact the father, so it’s a whole mishmash of Full House-like “family moments” and total awkwardness when all the “parents” are in the same room together at the end.

So it was good, but not great. I would have preferred if the focus had been on the relationship between Marian and the father, whose name I now forget, because they clearly had so much unfinished business and were meant to be together. Clearly. None of Giffin’s books have really lived up to Something Borrowed or Something Blue, but I continue to give her the benefit of the doubt and half-heartedly recommend this.

The Sarah Dessen book, though, now that’s another story. (Ha, get it?)

Along for the Ride is the fifth Dessen book I have read and fallen in love with within the first three pages. I’ve noticed that all her stuff has similar themes but I just don’t give a whoot because she writes her characters in such a compelling way that anyone — not just young adults! — can genuinely relate to and feel for them. This particular tale is about a very buttoned-up nerdy girl going to live with her father at the beach for the summer despite not liking his new wife and not being all that interested in their new baby. You immediately like this chick, Auden, because you can tell she has missed out on so much of what should be in a teenage life and she is about to experience all of it in a three-month period thanks to, of course, a boy.

But this is MORE than just a teen summer romance novel, you guys; first of all, the main characters are out of high school, so that’s something. Second of all, the boy, Eli, is not a corny over-the-top romantic but manly man, he is intriguing and mysterious in a very Angel-like way (but not quite so broody) because he doesn’t talk to anyone ever since his best friend died in a car accident. Until he meets Auden. (I eat this stuff up — two people who are weird and loner-y and they think they’d never fall in love with anyone let alone each other but then they do fall in love without even realizing it…So magical.) Third of all, they throw in some quality family drama. Auden’s dad pisses you off right away because he is a prick who doesn’t understand anything — his relationship with Heidi, the new wife, is quite rocky — as does Auden’s mom because she is a super-snobby professor who is obviously the reason Auden is a bit of a b!tch sometimes, so there are many levels. See? Not jus a teen summer romance novel.

But the romance part is the best part, obviously.

So this was not the best of the five Dessens I’ve read — Just Listen is, by far — but it served its purpose by being uplifting and enjoyable and distracting me from the horrible 4/5 train. I whole-heartedly recommend!

Next up: I’ve read too many happy things lately so back to weird-and-out-of-my-comfort-zone I go with Ruth Ozeki’s follow-up to My Year of Meats, All Over Creation. Stay tuned.

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