Book Club Pick: May 2018
Title: Ask the Passengers
Author: A.S. King
Series: Stand alone novel
Country: United States of America
Publisher: Little, Brown and Company
First Published: 2012
Astrid Jones desperately wants to confide in someone, but her mother’s pushiness and her father’s lack of interest tell her that they’re the last people she can trust. Instead, Astrid spends hours lying on the backyard picnic table watching the 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 realize 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.
After Astrid Jones’s grandmother passes away she is buried in the small Pennsylvania town of Unity Valley, where she grew up. Following her grandmother’s funeral Astrid’s parents purchase her grandmother’s family home.
So at 10-years-old Astrid and her nine year-old sister Ellis and their parents pack up and leave New York City for Unity Valley.
When the novel opens Astrid is a seventeen-year-old high school senior. She does not have the best relationship with her parents. Her family is rather dysfunctional. Her father is getting stoned in the garage and her mother is taking her underage sister out for mother-daughter nights that involve drinking. Astrid’s mother is also very critical and judgemental when it comes to Astrid.
The town of Unity Valley is presented as being a small-minded and conservative town that is fueled by rumour and gossip.
Astrid’s best friends are Kristina and Justin, who are the high school’s power couple; most likely to be crowned Homecoming King and Queen. Except their relationship is a cover. Kristina is secretly dating Donna and Justin is dating Chad.
Astrid is also in a secret relationship. She is dating Dee, a co-worker at her part-time catering job. Despite knowing that her two friends are gay she is not ready to share her secret. She is also not comfortable with the label of gay. Astrid likes Dee but is reluctant to define herself as gay – yes she likes a girl but she cannot rule out dating a guy.
As Astrid feels she does not have the support of her family and friends she spends much of her spare time lying on the picnic table in her backyard. She looks up into the sky sending her love and thoughts to passengers flying aboard airplanes above.
The novel cleverly juxtaposes Astrid’s first-person narrative with short scenes about love and relationships from a passenger aboard the plane. These short scenes are stand-alone and in each scene we are introduced to a new character.
King also weaves philosophy throughout the narrative, such as the teachings of Plato, Socrates, and Zeno. Astrid even renames Socrates Frank and communicates with him (sort of an imaginary philosophical friend).
Ask the Passengers is a coming-of-age, coming-out story about love and discovering one’s self.
Source: I borrowed this book from my public library.