One of the best things about my job is that I get to open the "white box". My heart does a little leap, I get all excitable when I see it sitting next to my desk. In the white box are advanced reading copies from publishers, the books that aren't yet published, that they want us to know about. ABA (American Booksellers Association) member bookstores get these white boxes sent to them once a month and it's like a little birthday party every time.
One of the last boxes was opened in the presence of another children's bookseller, whose name is also Rene, and it was full of KID'S BOOKS! Books of all types are cool, but the YA box really thrills me- One of the best things in this box was a pink and white galley of Sarah Dessen's new book, Along for the Ride. I swooped in and pulled it out of the box, distracting Rene with clever dialogue about the other (almost as good as Sarah's) books that she might really enjoy. In my head, I was yelling, "MINE, MINE, MINE, MINE, MINE!"
Since then, many of us have shared the book and it is beginning to fray along the edges. I know there are at least two meal time mistakes coloring the pages and the cover is starting to curl. I love seeing how ARCs and bound manuscripts age as they get read and passed to the next person who would enjoy them. I often keep the ARCs I love up next to the finished copies of the book because all my memories of the story are in the reading copy.
I think Along for the Ride is Sarah Dessen's best book so far! She writes amazing stories about people who are just like us. Reading her books can let you see your life from the outside, giving you a little perspective on stuff.
She has written books about domestic abuse, teenage pregnancy, absent parents, crushes, pretty much everything you'd want to know about. In Along for the Ride, we meet Auden, her professor mother's perfect child, studious, serious, unable to sleep, wandering in the dark waiting for the next day to come and go. Auden decides to spend the summer away from her mother this year, going to live with her father, his young wife, and their new baby to see if she can separate herself from her regular, normal, life.
The moment Auden arrives in the little beach town, she begins to doubt whether this was a good idea. The baby won't stop screaming, her very young stepmother can't sleep and has no idea what to do, and her father is clueless about everything, putting his needs above all else. What is a girl to do? Well, Auden, being an insomniac and at loose ends, walks the streets of her little town all night, getting familiar with the locals, making a few friends, working at a little boutique, and getting to know Eli, another insomniac. Together, Eli and Auden prowl the town working away at their problems: Auden didn't have much of a childhood, she never learned to ride a bike, and Eli feels great guilt about the death of a friend.
Sarah's books have great characters and great plots, they deal with all kinds of relationships between teens and adults, they are funny and hopeful, and we can't recommend them highly enough. I would suggest a month's worth of Sarah Dessen books for this summer's reading. She has eight (nine?) or so books out, now, just enough to keep one occupied for a bit. Although you may want to whip through them all in a week you should savor them, read something else between, because she doesn't always write a book a year! She takes her time writing each one so it may be a while before the next comes in.
All of Sarah Dessen's books are published by Viking Books. Everything is in paperback now except for Along for the Ride which is $19.99. You adults out there who love a good story with great relationships will thoroughly enjoy Sarah's books. They make for very good Mother-Daughter book group fodder, lots of discussion points without the teenage angsty stuff that most adults seem unable to deal with.