When we’re young, summers are supposed to be these epic months where we find ourselves and the moments in life where we change. Along For The Ride is one of those books about epic summers, written by Sarah Dessen. It’s a book of hers that I devoured, as many of us have.
Dessen’s books feel like you are peaking into someones life, learning all the lessons that you should learn in life, by watching someone else make their mistakes, grow through them, and survive. Dessen’s books feel as though they are written just for you.
And so I admit that I was hesitant to see a book that I loved so much translated to a movie. It feels as though so many people half ass young adult adaptations, thinking that people will watch them regardless, so it’s not necessary to invest the time and care in them that you would for an adult book.
But with such icons as Dessen, one has to wonder, do people understand that these books shaped people and they were essential to shaping the very thing that books like this talk about? Summers. Life. Working through issues.
Along For The Ride, tells the story of Auden (Emma Pasarow), an introvert who has spent her life trying to set everything in her life up for the future, being perfect as can be. She’s navigated the life of having divorced parents (Dermot Mulroney and Andie MacDowell) who are academics, and have raised her as though she’s already an adult. But she’s just a child.
Auden heads to spend the summer with her Dad, hoping to bond with him. But her father has remarried, and her new stepmom (Kate Bosworth), is giving him the summer to write his new book. Auden is left to figure out herself, and with the help of new friends and a mysterious boy, Eli (Belmont Cameli), she’s doing just that.
And she’s realizing that she’s not as over the past as she thought she was. But this summer, she’s changing and realizing that it’s okay to live life to its fullest. It’s good to have a six o’clock dance party, to stay out, to push others as the push you.
It’s okay to let others in.
The adaptation has the bones of Dessen’s book. It’s a story of growth and change. Where Auden in the book had a more difficult path to finding herself and opening up – allowing friendship and romance in – Auden on the screen seems for it come along easier. But that’s what makes it work.
Because Emma Pasarow shines. She conveys emotions with every movement, every action, every blink of an eye. Pasarow commands the screen, a reflection of every introvert, every girl who had to hold everything in and just needed a moment to live.
And a moment to set her feelings free. Pasarow and Cameli feel natural on the screen together – an effortless chemistry that rarely shines through these days in adaptations. But these two and their characters growth over every second on the screen just brings a smile to your face.
Netflix has established itself as a studio that understands the young adult genre. It doesn’t want to pigeon hole itself in one way, and it takes every book adaptation that it does seriously. Will it save the YA adaptation market? Probably not. But what it will continue to do is establish itself as a place that you can count on to do an adaptation right.
Along For The Ride has a distinct charm. It won’t leave you swooning over a ship, or asking for a sequel – but it leaves you with something better – joy. Joy that an adaptation was done with the heart and soul of a book. Along For The Ride is definitely worth the watch.