Review: Ask The Passengers by A.S. King

Title: Ask The Passengers
Author: A.S. King
Publisher: Little, Brown
My Rating: 4/5 Stars
Paperback, 304 Pages
Published October 2012

Summary: 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.

I didn't know much about this book (or about A.S. King) before I started it, but this book was something that I had an option to read for the summer for my college English program, because A.S. King will actually be coming to my school and hosting some writing seminars in the fall! So I was super excited to read this book and also meet the author, and there are even a few blogging friends that I know that have read and loved books by A.S. King before. 

As the summary explains, Astrid Jones is a New York City girl that finds herself moving with her family to a small town in Pennsylvania, where narrow-minded thinking and concern about appearances were the main attractions. She has a mother who is obsessed with her reputation, a father who is stoned all of the time, and a sister who barely speaks to her because she's so busy trying to fit into their new life. So, with nobody else to talk to or be loved by, Astrid spends a lot of her free time on her picnic table, looking up at the sky and sending her love to the passengers flying in the planes overhead. (Speaking of which, I really enjoyed those little inserts with the brief stories of some of the passengers. They were detailed enough to be interesting and for you to get a grip on the person's character, but just vague enough that you were always left wanting more.)

And of course, living in such a small, close-minded town, Astrid was pretty sure that everyone -- including her own family -- would hate her if she told them that she was gay. She could only imagine how the whole town would react, let alone her own parents. Her mother, Claire, is one of those people who spews ridiculous nonsense such as "I can't be a homophobe because I know gay people and I don't hate the." (*cringe*) 

But then something happens, and Astrid can't control the fallout. (What it is, I won't tell you -- read the book yourself! -- but I will say that it's pretty shocking and leads to some pretty messy stuff.)

My favorite character in this book was definitely Astrid. She had moments where she was so complex and acknowledged that she didn't want to label herself right away, and that she wanted to take her own time to find out how she was really feeling. She had several moments of such clarity where she realized that she wasn't going to conform to everything that everyone else expected of her. I was rooting her on in those moments and was glad to see all of that empowerment for sure. (Even if the people around her were really crappy in how they handled it.)

As for the characters that I really didn't like in this book, they would have to be Claire, Ellis, and Kristina. Claire was so concerned with appearances (and so was Ellis) that it made me disgusted at times to see that was the first thing she was thinking about when things went bad -- her reputation -- rather than her own daughter. She was definitely a pretty crappy mom -- but perfect for that small-minded town of Unity Valley. And as for Kristina, I felt like she used Astrid a lot, and lied, and did everything she could to save her own reputation rather than being a good best friend. She was definitely a pretty crappy one.

What I really liked about this book was how, despite the crappy life Astrid sometimes felt like she had, she managed to keep a level head and not get sucked into the Unity Valley image of perfection that everyone else was so desperately seeking. She knew who she was, even when it wasn't the most popular thing to be, and she stuck to it despite all of the rumors and hate and pettiness that was thrown her way. 

Overall, I really enjoyed Ask The Passengers. I'm glad that this book was chosen to be the summer read for my school's English program, because I probably wouldn't have known about it without it being selected. This was a quick, easy read that I breezed through and liked from start to finish. I'm glad that I've been introduced to A.S. King's work, because I'll definitely be reading more of it in the future!

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