Friday, November 23, 2012

Ask the Passengers

Ask the Passengers by A.S. King (2012)

Astrid moved from the city to a small town with her family when she was 10 and her sister was 9. At 17, she still doesn't feel like she quite fits in, and now she has a big secret. She is falling for a girl she works with and can't tell anyone. She can't talk to her best friend, who is gay and will want to put her in a box when she still isn't quite sure if she fits there. She can't talk to her distant, perfectionist mother or her stoner father. So she spends hours in her backyard lying on the picnic table watching planes go by, sending all the passengers her love and asking them questions she doesn't feel comfortable asking anyone else. And she looks to Socrates for answers - Frank Socrates, who keeps popping up in the most unexpected places.

Short chapters revealed snippets of lives of the passengers flying above, an unexpected addition that worked well. I also love how King integrated a school project from Astrid's humanities class - The Socrates Project - which made her think a lot about her life and helped her work out her beliefs. Most young adult novels don't acknowledge the effects classes can have on teens' lives, and I loved that she included this.

Coming out stories aren't anything new, but unsurprisingly (if you've read A.S. King before), this was different and fresh and clever. Astrid was surrounded by people who wouldn't be upset that she was gay, but that wasn't the problem. The problem is that she didn't know yet and didn't want to be pressured to label herself so until she was ready so she had to hide her feelings (and her girlfriend). Additionally, her girlfriend Dee was very pushy, pressuring Astrid towards sex she wasn't ready for. So not only was Astrid confused about her sexuality, she was uncomfortable with the way her relationship was going.

Astrid's family is worthy of their own book about dysfunction. Her dad has an unsatisfying job and spends his free time smoking pot in the garage. Her mother is a workaholic who enjoys "Mommy and Me" evenings with Astrid's little sister Ellis, in which they dress up and go to a fancy restaurant and get drunk together. Ellis endures these bizarre outings because it's the only way to maintain a relationship with her mother and she's afraid of being left in the cold like Astrid, who their mother barely acknowledges anymore.

I pretty much ate this book. I read it in a day and it only took me that long because of pesky obligations like work. Here is my only problem with this author: as I read, I mark the pages I want to go back to later, pages with significant quotes, clever ideas, or funny moments. With A.S. King's books, going back to read what I've marked pretty much means re-reading the whole book. A.S. King, why must you be so awesome? Also, keep being awesome!

Ask the Passengers just came out, so go get yourself a copy now.

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