Poster for Along for the Ride, with Eli and Auden walking on the beach with fireworks behind them


Title: Along for the Ride
Released: 2022

Source Material
Title: Along for the Ride
Author: Sarah Dessen
Published: 2009

Y’aaaaaaall! As a Sarah Dessen swimfan*, I have put the eager in beaver awaiting the Netflix adaptation of Along for the Ride, because it’s about damn time our girl got the Jenny Han treatment. (Like, literally, it’s the same screenwriter from TATBILB, Sofia Alvarez, who added a slash to her IMDB credit with Ride and directed it too.) The movie was released yesterday, and I am thrilled to report that it absolutely does the book justice. But don’t just take my word for it, I’ve got the science to back it up!

As with any strenuous FYA analysis, we must first fortify ourselves with booze. So whip up a beach cocktail, then meet me at The Tip the lab!

*Just ordered a shirt with our new “Sarah Dessen Twenty-Four Seven” design, in fact. LOUD AND PROUD over here!

The Official FYA Along for the Ride Drinking Game

Drink once every time:

  • A Colby staple is introduced (i.e. Gas/Gro, Last Chance, etc.)
  • You see Eli riding a bike
  • One of Auden’s parents sucks
  • There’s a dance party at Clementine’s
  • Jake is a tool
  • Auden accomplishes an item on her quest
  • There’s a montage

Drink twice every time:

  • A Sarah Dessen Easter Egg (i.e. reference to another book) is mentioned
  • Someone says “Tallyho”
  • Esther sings the song

Take a shot for:

  • Sarah Dessen’s cameo!
  • Auden riding a bike!
  • Eli in a tux!

Along for the Cast

Auden, a pretty brunette with a serious expression

Emma Pasarow as Auden

Dang, Emma NAILED it as Auden. She captured both the character’s intensity and insecurity, and I loved her immediately. While Sarah Dessen heroines are mostly cut from the same cloth (not a complaint!), there are nuances that make them unique and compelling, and Emma truly brought those layers to life.

Eli, a handsome white guy with curly brown hair and a warm grin

Belmont Cameli as Eli

Okay, I dunno about that name, but Belmont made for a hella attractive and intriguing Eli. I’ll admit I was skeptical when I saw the trailer, like, is he too bro-y? Too handsome? But after he rolled up on the pier for the first time, I, like Auden, was a goner. Eli is a classic Dessen MLD, and Belmont convincingly carries Eli’s secret pain along with his charming sense of serendipity.

Heidi, a pretty blonde, with her older husband, Robert, who is holding their baby

Kate Bosworth as Heidi, Dermot Mulroney as Robert

There are a few moments when Kate Bosworth’s Heidi (Auden’s stepmom) is a leeeetle too much, but that’s kind of what I love about that character? I mean, her Fourth of July outfit alone is AMAZE.

Dermot Mulroney takes on the relatively thankless role of Auden’s dad, and he does a great job of being low-key terrible while still making you understand why two different women have agreed to marry him.

Auden and her mom, an elegant older white woman, walking on the beach

Andie MacDowell as Victoria

Gotta say, Andie MacDowell was the perfect choice to play Victoria, Auden’s snooty intellectual mom. She does eventually earn some redemption, but for the bulk of the movie, she’s soooo patronizing and pretentious, and it’s really fun to despise her (drink!).

A Black girl, a brunette white girl, and blonde white girl, hanging out together next to a convertible

Laura Kariuki as Maggie, Samia Finnerty as Esther, and Genevieve Hannelius as Leah

I am total heart eyes over the Clementine’s gals. Maggie is probably the most well-drawn, with a fierce attitude and major BMX skills, but Esther and Leah are engaging in their own way, with Esther getting to dryly crack most of the jokes, and Leah giving me Elle Woods vibes, especially when it comes to snacks.

Along for the Adaptation

I must disclose, for the sake of science, that I have not recently reread the book, because we all know that almost always leads to disappointment when viewing the adaptation. (It’s like, a law of nature.) But I can tell you, when it comes to the spirit of Along for the Ride, that quintessential Sarah Dessen magic of summer and self-discovery, this film is pitch. perfect. From the exhilarating nights of Eli and Auden’s adventures to the quiet moments of solitude, with Auden writing in her journal or staring at the ocean, this movie feels, so very much, like slipping into the well-worn pages of the book. And that includes Sarah Dessen’s humor, which is gently sprinkled into her work in a way that often catches you off guard. (The line that made me chortle in the movie, Eli asking Auden: “So what was your favorite movie in the fourth grade, The Piano?”)

Also, experiencing Colby was a legit RUSH. My heart did a little jump when I saw the boardwalk, and the “Welcome to Colby” sign, and of all things THE GAS/GRO!!!!! Give this location scout all of the awards, because this person knows Colby, and it’s depicted just as I imagined it, in all of its easy breezy, sun-drenched glory. FYA ROAD TRIP?!!

Eli, with his bike, and Auden, walking together at night

Along for the Romance

It wouldn’t be a Sarah Dessen joint without the swoon, and Auden and Eli have cracklin’ chemistry. First, there’s the build-up of Eli biking towards Auden and then riding away on the pier, then there’s their trip to Clyde’s* secret pie shop (the way Eli opens the laundromat door? I mean), then there’s the Dessen Slow Burn™ of their increasing attraction and emotional connection. As Kristy would say, SA-WOON!

*The person who plays Clyde, David S. Bridson, is also the film’s art director! Great job on the pie shop decor, dude.

Along for the Montages

Sofia Alvarez makes plentiful but expert use of montages (drink!), which convey that heady summer-before-college vibe, particularly thanks to the music of Beach House, who were an inspired choice for the soundtrack. These scenes, from Eli and Auden breaking into the lighthouse to the epic food fight to the gals singing along to Santigold in the convertible, are intoxicating in their youthful, hopeful, liminal energy.

Along for the Easter Eggs

I probably missed one or two (darn, I’ll have to watch the movie again!) but here are the ones I caught:

  • A reference to restocking the Lock & Key necklaces at Clementine’s
  • Auden talking about her prom date, Jason, who had to go to an academic conference instead

Along for the Ride

Given all of these findings, my scientific conclusion is that Netflix did not let us down, and Along for the Ride is most deserving of its source material. I’m ride or die when it comes to Sarah Dessen, so obviously I’m relieved and so, so happy that this movie was exactly what I wanted. AND I’m over the moon that we have two more adaptations coming our way: This Lullaby and Once and For All. Now all we have to do is… wait. Impatiently. Anyone want to hit up Tallyho?

So, what did you think? Did I miss an Easter Eggs? And how lovely was Auden’s yellow prom dress (especially paired with Vans)?!

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Sarah lives in Austin, and believes there is no such thing as a guilty pleasure, which is part of why she started FYA in 2009. Growing up, she thought she was a Mary Anne, but she's finally starting to accept the fact that she's actually a Kristy.