Title: Ask the Passengers
Author: A.S. King
Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary
Publisher: Little Brown Books for Young Readers
Release Date: October 23rd, 2012
Source: My local library
Astrid Jones desperately wants to confide in someone, but her mother’s pushiness and her father’s lack of interest tell her they’re the last people she can trust. Instead, Astrid spends hours lying on the backyard picnic table watching airplanes fly overhead. She doesn’t know the passengers inside, but they’re the only people who won’t judge her when she asks them her most personal questions–like what it means that she’s falling in love with a girl.
As her secret relationship becomes more intense and her friends demand answers, Astrid has nowhere left to turn. She can’t share the truth with anyone except the people at thirty thousand feet, and they don’t even know she’s there. But little does Astrid know just how much even the tiniest connection will affect these strangers’ lives–and her own–for the better.
Because Ask the Passengers is an A.S. King story, there’s an interesting balance here between believably teen concerns and unrealistically elevated self-awareness and language. I hope, for teens reading this book, that comes across as aspirational. It’s honestly one of the things I love about her books- her teen characters still teach me a thing or two about self-reflection and communication.
It’s a contemporary novel, and this author may be the only contemporary YA author I consistently like. But it does have relevance with the issues handled, and the way they’re handled. This is an LGBTQIA novel in that the main character is figuring out her sexual orientation. But beyond that, this is a story about love- love between romantic partners, love within families, love between friends, and loving oneself.
It’s not about the redemptive power of love or anything sappy, though I think it’s a very important lesson with multiple layers. It’s more about…trusting love. And the work necessary to foster and keep it. And how much you need it, especially when you live among close-minded, fearful people.
I really liked Astrid’s voice, and her approach to figuring herself out felt authentic. A.S. King definitely makes quirky characters unlike ones you read anywhere else. I love that Claire wasn’t just a type-A neurotic (the kind of flat powersuit businesswoman character you see a lot in movies set in NYC), but had her own depth that we (eventually) see created that fear-based mentality. I also loved Clay. And Socrates, although…where were philosophy classes when *I* was in high school?!
In short, I loved it and I recommend it. If I had to rank A.S. King novels that I’ve read (so far), this is definitely in the top 2. Also the narrator did a fantastic job.