Along for the Ride is my favorite Dessen novel to date. I could really relate to the story of Auden, a girl who hates not doing well the first time she tries something.
After deciding to spend the summer before college with her immature father, his young wife, and their newborn, she realizes that while she spent so much time achieving, she really missed out on a lot of life (okay, so I don't relate to that part).
I loved the minor characters: Maggie, a girly salesclerk that can do some serious biking, Auden's mom, a prickly and needy college professor, Auden's obnoxious, self-centered father...I could go on because they were all really well-developed and interesting. Colby continues to be a world that I am interested in visiting, especially now that I know there is an all night laundromat/pie joint.
After reading two of her novels in a row, I think I have figured out the formula for Sarah Dessen's novels:
Insecure girl with an interesting name (Auden, Macy, Colie) +
messed up parents +a cute boy who jerks the protagonist around +
seaside town (Colby, NC) +
cute, unassuming, artistic boy (Eli, Norman, Wes) +
a YaYa sisterhood of girls (the waitresses at The Last Chance, the Clementine's salesgirls, the Wish Catering crew) +
life lessons =
A book that I really enjoy reading