Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Undercover Wednesday: ASK THE PASSENGERS

Today in thought-provoking books...

Ask The Passengers

From GoodreadsAstrid 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.

In this truly original portrayal of a girl struggling to break free of society's definitions, Printz Honor author A.S. King asks readers to question everything--and offers hope to those who will never stop seeking real love.

Ask the Passengers is so unique; it's several different books rolled into one. A provocative issue book, a perfectly-voiced contemporary, a first-love romance, a family drama that feels alarmingly authentic, all with a sprinkle of unexplainable magic tossed in. Astrid, despite being a little abrasive and a lot noncommittal, is an easy protagonist to root for. She's sharp, dry, and impulsive, yet loving and loyal. And she's smart. She asks big questions...

Why does everything come with a strict definition? 

Is it okay to lie in order to be happy? 

Is love something that will always be available? 

Throughout the course of the novel, one of Astrid's biggest questions is this: Am I gay? Because, you see, Astrid is in a clandestine relationship with a girl who she has strong feelings for. But Astrid is hesitant to embrace a label, especially in her small, somewhat narrow-minded town, and especially because she's just not sure. She says this, which I think is fantastic:

I'm not questioning my sexuality as much as I'm questioning the strict definitions and boxes of all sexualities and why we care so much about other people's intimate business. 
Astrid finds some unique ways to cope with her uncertainties. She sends love (and questions) to airplane passengers 30,000 feet above her. She invents an imaginary friend, Frank Socrates, who becomes something of a philosophical confidant (also a source of comedic relief). And she finds ways to combat intolerance at school. My favorite: when she calls out a punctuation mistake on an ignorant, hateful sign. Subtle, but so impactful.

In my opinion, the best part of this novel is the way Astrid's relationships grow and change over the course of the story. She finds highs and lows at home with her mother and her father (who is kind of awesome), as well as with her friends (who all have an intriguing dynamic). My favorite relationship was that of Astrid and her younger sister, Ellis. They're just a year apart in school, and their bond is complicated, but true to life. Their developing relationship was captivating and sometimes heartbreaking, but in the end it gave me hope. So did this story. 

So, Ask the Passengers gets two thumbs up from me. If you're looking for a book that's thought-provoking,  sensitive, and truly original, I highly recommend it. 

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