62 pages • 2 hours readSarah Dessen
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Biking is a symbol of freedom, letting go, and determination. It functions as a thematic plot ingredient for both Eli and Auden’s character arcs. For Eli, biking was his passion and escape, an activity he loved that could earn him a living. Eli spent many hours biking and practicing his skills—until his closest friend Abe died in a car accident. As the driver, Eli blamed himself for Abe’s death, withdrawing into himself, becoming less social, and giving up biking. After losing his best friend and fellow professional biker, Eli’s drive faded. He couldn’t release the guilt, blame, and sorrow he felt over Abe’s death, despite the fact it wasn’t his fault.
Months after Abe’s death, Eli starts riding and competing again. Since meeting Auden and discussing determination with her, he has the renewed spirit to be competitive, letting go of his heavy grief to enjoy the freedom and childhood bliss of riding. Like her, Eli missed out on an activity he always enjoyed, and he must be brave like Auden to get back on his bike and enter competitions. This is his quest. When Eli wins the competition he attends on the night of the Beach Bash, he discovers that biking isn’t the same as before; instead of following a professional career, he chooses to let biking be his hobby, his release.
By Sarah Dessen