My Rating: 4 out of 5
From the summary "It's been so long since Auden slept at night. Ever since her parents' divorce-or since the fighting started. Now she has the chance to spend a carefree summer with her dad and his new family in the charming beach town where they live. A job in a clothes boutique introduces Auden to the world of girls: their talk, their friendship, their crushes. She missed out on all that, too busy being the perfect daughter to her demanding mother. Then she meets Eli, an intriguing loner and a fellow insomniac who becomes her guide to the nocturnal world of the town. Together they embark on parallel quests: for Auden, to experience the carefree teenage life she's been denied; for Eli, to come to terms with the guilt he feels for the death of a friend."
As my first Sarah Dessen novel to have read, I loved this book. I loved the main character, Auden. She seems like the type of person I would love to have around. She is this super smart girl that somehow ended up just trying to please her parents and forgot to do what she wanted to do and was denied a childhood. She knows she missed out on experiences but she doesn't let it deter her in a way that make her an annoying, obnoxious character. And I like that about her. It makes her a likeable and relateable character.
Auden is set for a prestigious college but before that, she has the whole summer ahead of her. She decides to spend her summer with her dad and his new family. Which includes a newborn, Thisby, her stepsister and Heidi, Auden's new stepmother. Heidi is struggling to deal with a new baby and an absent husband. So Auden volunteers to help Heidi with her clothes boutique and I have to admit I giggled at the awkwardness that was Auden with Maggie and the rest of the girls in the boutique.
When Auden starts hanging out with Maggie, Leah and Esther, she bumps into Eli who she had already met and they start talking. Flirting is more like it. Eli definitely had the mysterious aura that attracts girls to guys. What I loved about the Auden and Eli's tentative relationship is how they slowly came together and got to know each other. Their relationship didn't feel forced or rushed and how they both helped each other go out and embrace their fears.
But what I really enjoyed about the book, were the friendships that Auden made with Heidi and Maggie. At the start of book, Auden is this quiet girl who doesn't have the friends that she can be silly with. She has the friends or acquaintances that you can study with, or compete against, but no one that really knew her. Her friendship with Maggie was something I really for hope for Auden. Also, Heidi ended up being one of my favorites characters in the book. Learning about her former "cold bitch" days were definitely an eye opener and gave us more layers to understanding Heidi and her pink loving ways.
Another relationship I like that evolved was the one with Auden and her mother, Dr. Victoria West. I admit, in the beginning I was all "get away from her, Auden. Go and do what you want to do and don't let your mom's views and judgments stop you from forming your owns." But that surprise visit in the end totally changed my view on Dr. West. There's no stronger relationship than the one with your mother, so I'm glad Auden had that resolution with her mother.
This is definitely a book I would go back and re-read and I'm definitely going to read more of Sarah Dessen's novels.