Monday, March 25, 2013

Ask the Passengers, by A.S. King

From Goodreads:

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.

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.

King has great skill for crafting narrators who are a little bit weird, a good deal relatable, and a whole lot of awesome. Astrid Jones is a lot like many other of King's protagonists, except of course, she's totally different.

She has a lot of questions, and not a lot of answers, but the fact that she even asks makes her the kind of kid you can really get behind. She's a bit of a philosopher too, and a personal friend of Socrates, which along with her ability to send love directly to airplane passengers 30,000 feet overhead, makes for the magical realism elements of this story. Well, that and she's a teenager who gets out of bed before six o'clock on weekends.

Astrid's narrative voice is straight forward, and it carries the reader through her tale at just the right clip, following her from her job as editor of her school's lit mag, through her weekend catering job, and to her awkward attempts at a social life.

Like most of King's books, Ask the Passengers contains some very astute observations about people. It includes possibly the greatest introduction to and description of a minor character I have ever read:

"There is no doubt this woman has hit on at least three million women in her life. And though she looks a bit leathery, and is dressed like the biker from the Village People (leather vest, boot-cut jeans, leather biker cap and engineer boots), there's something attractive about her because she's her."

See what I mean? Don't you just know exactly what Astrid means when she describes this woman? Don't you just want to hug her?

Of course it isn't all love. Astrid and her friends (and her family) go through some pretty rough times. Growing up in small town middle America can be a hard thing to do when you have a lot of questions. Especially if you have questions to which the only answers are paradoxes, like:

Nobody's perfect.

I would recommend Ask the Passengers to any fan of thoughtful, observant YA literature, but especially to readers who enjoy a contemporary setting that includes just a hint of fantasy.

The author, A.S. King, can be found at:


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