Ask the Passengers by A.S. King
Published by Little, Brown Books for Young Readers, an imprint of Hachette
Astrid Jones has incredible difficulty connecting with her family – her mom and sister are two peas in a pod who leave Astrid out of everything, and her dad is too busy in his own little world to care about her – so instead she spends time lying on the picnic table in her backyard, confiding in the passengers on the planes that fly overhead. She tells them about how she might be falling in love with a girl, a secret she can’t even reveal to her best friend. As her secret relationship with her female coworker becomes more intense, Astrid knows she needs to be honest with herself and her family and friends about who she really is, but has no idea how to do that or what will happen once she does. So she continues to speak to the passengers, hoping they’ll give her the love and strength she needs to open up to the family she desperately craves.
Remember when I read Please Ignore Vera Dietz and loved it so much I couldn’t even really explain why? Well, my experience with Ask the Passengers was just like that but even more, if that’s even possible. King has such a gift for getting into the heart and soul of her characters, for creating these teens who are incredibly raw and real and so heartbreakingly honest it kills me. I loved Astrid from the first page, felt personally affronted whenever someone hurt her, and wished desperately for someone in her family to see her, really see her, the way I did.
The relationship between Astrid and Dee, her secret girlfriend, is one that I loved seeing in fiction. It was written in such an authentic way – Astrid is emotionally conflicted not about whether she likes this girl or not (she knows for sure that she does), but about how far, physically, she is ready to take their relationship. And Dee doesn’t get it, she thinks this means Astrid is questioning the relationship itself, she is hurt and offended, so she takes every opportunity to push the boundaries physically beyond what Astrid is comfortable with, and it creates this conflict between the two of them that is about different things to each of them. But once honesty is brought into the picture, it’s like a light bulb moment for both of them, and it’s so beautiful to watch it all unfold. It’s just so damn honest and true, that’s the best way I can describe it.
Sprinkled throughout this novel are snippets of other people’s lives – the lives of the passengers on the planes that Astrid talks to and sends love to while she’s lying on her picnic table. These sections of the book are genius, if you ask me. Each time Astrid sends love to a passenger, the reader gets to see how the person actually received that love and how it changed their life, at least for one moment. I beyond loved this aspect of the novel – it was so unexpected but so beautiful.
I don’t know what else to say. A.S. King is a master at telling real stories for real teens. I loved Ask the Passengers so much – this is one of those “drop everything and pick up this novel” reviews. Highly, highly recommended!