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

by A.S. King

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3182734,897 (3.99)4
Member:sparklecookie
Title:Ask the Passengers
Authors:A.S. King
Info:Little, Brown Books for Young Readers (2012), Hardcover, 304 pages
Collections:Your library
Rating:****1/2
Tags:girl, seventeen, love, lesbian, gay best friend, coming out, high school, bullying, parents, family, sister, philosophy

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Ask The Passengers by A.S. King

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Showing 1-5 of 27 (next | show all)
This is an insightful coming of age novel about Astrid, a high school senior, who is struggling with her sexual identity. She is a very believable character, both thoughtful and mature. I feel I can better understand the anguish young adults might experience while questioning their sexuality. ( )
  dinelson | May 22, 2014 |
A lovely book about self- discovery & realization; I especially liked how the author used philosophy (mainly Socrates & Plato) in the story.
  deadgirl | May 7, 2014 |
See the full review at Short & Sweet Reviews.

Ask the Passengers is a pretty standard contemporary/issues novel, if you read a lot of those. I don't, so the chance to walk in the shoes of someone who has a life which I could easily imagine was a nice change of pace. Astrid has a ton of love to give, but she's afraid of what will happen if people in her small town find out that a lot of that love is directed towards another girl. So she imagines sending all of her extra love to passengers on planes high up in the sky -- someone might as well benefit from what she can't have, right? There's a bit of magical realism in the story, if you choose to read it as Astrid actually, literally sending love to these people. I think you can read it in a much less magical way, and regardless, it adds an extra bit of poignancy to the story when we occasionally hear from these passengers.

The resolution left me a little cold, which is probably the reason that's keeping me from giving this a full five stars. Astrid's girlfriend Dee is incredibly pushy towards Astrid when she doesn't get what she wants. I'm not going to let Dee off the hook for being manipulative just because she's a girl, and I dislike that the message of the book was "people can change" rather than "people who try to pressure you into moving too fast are usually no good". Sure, the book talked about improving communication, but I'm always uncomfortable when the story boils down to "if they really like you, they'll change". People also do and say horrible things to Astrid once her secret comes out, and no one really seems to face any consequences for it. Astrid is much more charitable and forgiving than I am -- maybe I'm just a pro at holding grudges, but I dumped friends for doing far less to me than Astrid's did over the course of the book. ( )
  goorgoahead | Dec 4, 2013 |
As good as everyone's been saying it is. A read where not everything is perfect and doesn't end up perfect. Very nice read. ( )
  Brainannex | Oct 25, 2013 |
Astrid Jones doesn't know how to feel about her life, so she sends her love to passengers in the airplanes that fly over her house. They're lucky because they have places to be, while she's stuck in Unity Valley. Her mom is a control freak, her dad is an escapist stoner, her sister inhabits a different sphere of small town girl acceptance. Her social life consists of tagging along with her more popular friends, Kristina and Justin, on their sometimes dates. Oh, and keeping their secret: they're gay, the dating is all an act to fend off the narrow minded views of their peers.

She has a secret of her own. She might be gay too.

What sounds like a standard sexual awakening/coming of age novel is...actually that. But with an A.S. King style flair of some supernatural-maybe-infused commentary, scads of familial dysfunctional dynamics! The part that this is a story that's really about Astrid's feelings about herself and the whole gay crisis is just sort of an obvious triggering point. So if you pick this up on a LBGTQ series expecting Annie On My Mind just know that the relationship is prominent, but not the centerpiece of the story. And you know what? I really, really loved that about the book.

Don't get me wrong. I'm a sucker for romances where the teens fall in love against all odds and that becomes their incentive to be true about themselves. But this one has it backwards. Astrid Jones, through the help of an imaginary Socrates and a lot of mistakes, finds the strength to be true about herself and then maybe we can talk on if she gets the girl. She is pressured by her girlfriend, pressured by her friends, pressured by the rumor gossiping in town to come out, to label herself, and she resists (and, yes, denies even when she knows better) it until she can sort the rest of herself out first. That is the story A.S. King tells best, and that is the strongest aspect of the book that practically beans you in the head since the first page has "Know thyself" and "Question everything" on it. And this is really a kind of questioning that teens/adults/children/house plants/aliens need too, because what happens if something about you doesn't fit by preconceived notions? Then how would you be so sure it's just one thing about you and not possibly everything?

Astrid's voice, her authenticity, is the unquestionable draw of this story. She has a wry kind of humor that she usually keeps to herself but readers have the privilege of seeing, and sometimes it's less of a privilege and more of a "oh god why" like her comparison to a hangover with a den of raccoons dysentery all over her head. She's introverted, sometimes painfully aware of it, and also so incredibly lost, which you see in glimpses and her own self-questioning doubts.

"Dee is dancing in place to imaginary music, making a bass sound deep in her throat. I admit I'm excited to go out to Atlantis again. An hour ago, I wasn't going anywhere tonight. I think: Maybe it's okay that people talk you into things. Maybe if they didn't, you'd never go anywhere."

Some people might be turned off with the interludes of the plane passengers, where Astrid sends love and questions about her life to the plane passengers and some of them respond in vignettes about their life, love, disappointments. I'll admit there were a few that were not as stirringly poignant as Astrid's struggles or didn't connect as well to the narrative as I wanted. But while the giving love to strangers in planes sounds a little too twee, almost like you're expecting Haley Williams to start chiming in on the vocals about wishing on airplanes (and please don't tell me I'm not the only one hearing that song throughout the whole novel). You sort of realize as it goes on that it is more for Astrid's sake than the strangers, even though they benefit from this cosmic outpouring of love in weird and indefinite ways. It is less about a girl who just has so much love to give and it's precious, and it's more about a girl who really had no idea what to do about love and felt like the only safe way she could give love was through a silent communication with a few thousand feet between her and the people she was sending her love to. And when I got to the end and read that's exactly what A.S. King had planned, I had a "Eureka!" moment myself. Which, yeah, wrong philosopher but any novel that can punch me simultaneously in the emotional and realizational cortex of my brain deserves ovation.

As for it being an Issues novel, it is and it isn't. It's sad that simply having a character dealing with the confusion over being gay still counts as an Issue now, but it does focus on that. However, it's much stronger simply as a novel that inhabits a time and place with these characters and issues occur. In this way, I believe it. In an issue novel I would question the lack of bisexuality mention, but in this particular one I don't because Astrid seems barely aware of sexuality at first and personally doesn't have enough grounding to claim she likes guys, not enough experience to know for sure if she likes girls at the start, and ergo she works from nothing. As for the surrounding characters? Everyone around her who she talks to about it is either 1. already stunningly ignorant about sexuality anyway, 2. kind of burned by the whole thing Like Dee's dismissive "she picked the wrong side" about an old girlfriend who dated her then another guy, or 3. very stoned. I think it's definitely a conversation that should occur and be more transparent in YA literature, but I'd rather A.S. King just wrote another awesome story where somebody was bisexual then have to fit it in when so many other things were happening.


Conclusion: I loved this story, even though it wasn't perfect. Because it wasn't trying to be, and in fact was telling me that nobody's perfect in bright neon sign letters. In a toga. There really have been few books that so embrace their imperfections that made me love it all the more. You may come out of it thinking it was great, thinking it was nice even though there were some serious moments where you wanted to facepalm (like I did), or simply moments where you felt jostled and confused but kept going to see the end, and even if this book doesn't rock your world there's love in it all the same. ( )
  gaisce | Sep 24, 2013 |
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Epigraph
"Question everything."
- Euripides

"The only true wisdom is knowing that you know nothing."
-Socrates

"Know thyself."
Ancient Greek Aphorism
Dedication
First words
Every airplane, no matter how far it is up there, I send love to it.
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Book description
Astrid Jones, who realizes that she is a lesbian, deals with the gossip and rejection she faces by sending love up to the people on airplanes as they pass over her.
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"Astrid Jones copes with her small town's gossip and narrow-mindedness by staring at the sky and imagining that she's sending love to the passengers in the airplanes flying high over her backyard. Maybe they'll know what to do with it. Maybe it'll make them happy. Maybe they'll need it. Her mother doesn't want it, her father's always stoned, her perfect sister's too busy trying to fit in, and the people in her small town would never allow her to love the person she really wants to: another girl named Dee. There's no one Astrid feels she can talk to about this deep secret or the profound questions that she's trying to answer. But little does she know just how much sending her love--and asking the right questions--will affect the passengers' lives, and her own, for the better"--… (more)

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