on April 14, 2013
When Astrid Jones was nine, her family bought the house her grandmother grew up in. In a small town called Unity Valley, it was originally intended as a vacation home for the family, but a year later, they left New York City, which Astrid and her sister Ellis thought of as home, and moved there.
Ellis seemed to adapt to her new life, but Astrid just couldn't. Even seven years later as a high school senior, Astrid feels like an outsider. Sure, she's editor of the school lit magazine, but she has no social life. Her best friend Kristina is a "townie", and a shoo-in for homecoming queen, with her boyfriend Justin a lock for king. Astrid had a boyfriend for a short while in her junior year, but it didn't last very long. Her favorite pastime is lying on top of the picnic table in the back yard and watching the planes go overhead.
Astrid works for a small catering business prepping food. Her co-worker Dee makes no secret of the fact that she's attracted to Astrid, but Astrid doesn't know what to make of it. Sure she's flattered that Dee thinks she's gorgeous, but she's not gay. Is she? Does it matter?
This is an amazing, touching, heart-wrenching story about a young woman struggling to establish an identity and be true to herself in a society that cares more about appearances than truth.
Teens should read this book to help them realize that it's okay not to have all the answers.
If I could, I'd give this book to all parents of teens, in the hopes that they might understand what it means when they tell their kids to be honest with them. (If I could, I'd go back in time and give it to my own parents...)
on May 25, 2013
This book was so refreshing to read-- smart dialogue, smart characters, important issues-- and nary a vampire in sight. I can really see this book helping girls who might be coming to terms with their own sexuality and/or even more importantly, students needing to get some tolerance for and perspective on, alternative sexualities. But beyond all that, it was a story truly and believably (and often humorously) told. Fine writing.
on August 15, 2013
This is my first review, so bare with me. I'm going to keep it short but direct. Astrid is the main character of this novel and she is a character to fall in love with, to root for, and to appreciate. It's almost as if she becomes a dear friend who's struggles you witness. This book is the an example of why most readers love to read. At the beginning of the book there are three quotes from three different philosophers, those three quotes are the basis of Astrid's journey of self-discovery, and self-acceptance. At 17 or 18 (I don't remember if it says) Astrid is one of the most resilient characters I've every had the privilege to get to know. She struggles with understanding her sexuality, but she also is struggling with finding her place in the world, and understanding who she is as a person. She goes through this brilliant journey with herself, her best-friends, her maybe girlfriend, and her family. This books puts a lot of things into perspective, even if Astrid wasn't gay, the message in the book is clear. We know nothing, accept that. And people's opinions don't matter as long as you know who you are. There are memorable quotes throughout the entire book. It's funny, sad, and thought provoking. It's definitely the best book I've read this summer. I don't think this is happening, but I read the book so fast and was so happy I read it that I figured I should try and encourage others to read it too. I hope you read it. It'll make you think about yourself, your friends, and your family and in the end, isn't that why we read. To gain perspective? To understand others? This book is pretty cool in those ways, when I teach, I'll want to teach this book as much as I'd want to teach 13 reasons why? Just greatness on paper. Astrid is a special character, and if you don't grow to love her, I'll be surprised. If you don't have one moment of deep thought about this book, I'll be surprised. Take the chance and read Astrid's story, you'll probably try to tell everyone else to read about her too once you're finished.
on April 9, 2013
The happiest surprise of this book for me was discovering that I'm totally enamored with this author's writing style. If writing style factors heavily into your overall opinion of a book, I'd recommend downloading a sample of this one and seeing if you find it as engaging as I did. There's wit, insight and, for lack of a better way of putting it, an effortless 'flow' that's lacking in a sad number of stiffly or pretentiously written books these days!
I also found the theme an interesting one, and thought the narrative was really well paced.
Be forewarned that this isn't one of those young adult books where a string of Very Dramatic Events occur. In fact, there aren't even many surprises or twists along the way. I can totally understand how that might make this story feel flat and lackluster to some, and if you're up for a twisty and plot-driven read, this probably won't prove too satisfying. I actually found the lack of melodrama to be refreshing, though, and appreciated that the main character, Astrid, was so relatable.
A couple of minor criticisms:
As many reviewers mentioned, random anecdotes about various flight passengers who in no way factor into the overall story are tacked on to the end of certain chapters. The point here seems to be 'look, see, all over the country, different people are confused about love and identity just like our main character!' But, honestly, it's kind of a stretch, and rather than enriching the book's themes, it just feels like a distracting, pointless gimmick to me.
I also agree with those who felt that some of the minor characters and relationships, while interesting, ultimately failed to resonate as deeply as they could have. For example, I found Astrid's mom amusingly and very relatably flawed, and give the author credit for creating that character. Her relationship with Astrid, however, was underdeveloped and ultimately without much change or depth. And the sister remained sort of a nonentity to me despite ultimately playing a fairly important role.
Overall, I'd recommend this book to teens and to those of us who enjoy young adult literature despite being past our own adolescence! And I want to stress that the fact that I'm straight in no way precluded me from relating to the book's themes and characters, so please don't feel that this book must appeal solely to the LGBT population. Anyone who's ever dealt with any confusion related to who we are and to the mysteries of love can relate to this book---in other words, pretty much everyone ;) Despite the minor, aforementioned flaws, I found it extremely well written, smart and compelling. Enjoy!
on January 9, 2016
Because this is A.S. King, there's an interesting balance here between believably teen concerns and unrealistically elevated self-awareness and language. I hope, for teens reading this book, that comes across as aspirational. It's honestly one of the things I love about her books- her teen characters still teach me a thing or two about self-reflection and communication.
It's a contemporary novel, and this author may be the only contemporary YA author I consistently like. But it does have relevance with the issues handled, and the way they're handled. This is an LGBTQIA novel in that the main character is figuring out her sexual orientation. But beyond that, this is a story about love- love between romantic partners, love within families, love between friends, and loving oneself.
It's not about the redemptive power of love or anything sappy, though I think it's a very important lesson with multiple layers. It's more about...trusting love. And the work necessary to foster and keep it. And how much you need it, especially when you live among close-minded, fearful people.
I really liked Astrid's voice, and her approach to figuring herself out felt authentic. A.S. King definitely makes quirky characters unlike ones you read anywhere else. I love that Claire wasn't just a type-A neurotic (the kind of flat powersuit businesswoman character you see a lot in movies set in NYC), but had her own depth that we (eventually) see created that fear-based mentality. I also loved Clay. And Socrates, although...where were philosophy classes when *I* was in high school?!
In short, I loved it and I recommend it. If I had to rank A.S. King novels that I've read (so far), this is definitely in the top 2.
on July 22, 2015
Ask the Passengers really grew on me. For awhile there, it was a bit hard to connect to this but this is my first A.S. King book and I've heard nothing but good things about her work so I wanted to keep reading to see what all of the praise was about - and I'm glad I kept reading! As I continued, I started to connect more and more with Astrid as she tries to navigate being gay and being in the closet in a small town that doesn't take too kindly to anything different while also living in a household that claims to be liberal but in reality, lets society's standards rule and reign.
By household, I mean Astrid's mother. Astrid's mother is all about appearances and controlling the perfect family appearance rather than actually working hard to create/maintain a truly happy family. She doesn't seem to care at all about the heart of the matter with any of her children. Astrid's mother needs to have all of the answers and when they're not all there and not delivered in the way that she envisioned, everyone but her is at fault. Basically, Astrid's mother is quick to judge and dismiss what's not made plain to her. But the world isn't plain and everything can't be fit into boxes and I loved the scene when Astrid talks about things that can be put into boxes.
The thing about unconditional love is...it's boundless. And until this true understanding, this thoughtfulness, this respect for another human being is had, there will be issues with people like Astrid's mother receiving and giving such a gift. What a fascinating character study on Astrid's mom there. All of the characters are really fascinating actually. Astrid's mom resents her husband who could have gone to law school and that strain just adds to the disconnect in the home, leading them to not being on the same page more than usual when it comes to parenting Astrid and Ellis. Not really having their priorities all together there period.
Astrid is well aware of just how broken her family, her home is. While Ellis, a year younger, is still in denial, holding onto the few good things she still can. It's rough. Because Astrid and Ellis are in completely different head spaces, Astrid can't depend on or honestly talk with her sister. And because she's still in the closet and isn't ready to talk to her closeted friends about her sexuality, she doesn't really have anyone to talk to. So she talks to the passengers in the airplanes that fly overhead.
She sends love to the passengers and asks questions to the passengers, questions they'll never hear from her but do hear within themselves during the many varied circumstances that are leading them across the nation. And this, this is so beautiful the execution of this element of traveling doubts because we've all done it. We've all looked up into the sky and wondered about the lives of the people in the airplane passing by or been in a plane, looking below at the people wondering how they get through their day. A.S. King has nailed it on paper. It's fantastic. It's seamlessly intertwined into the story and really is a joy to see. I wish there were more passenger stories!
No matter where in the world, people have flaws and conflicts and relationship issues whether with family, friends, significant others, etc... and this story so effortlessly lays it all out for the reader to see as we follow Astrid on her journey of self-acceptance as she discovers what unconditional love means and realizes that people, even our closest loved ones, make a choice to give it. Ask the Passengers is a solid coming of age story, yes, but it's also a story that anyone can and should read if they want to be challenged on what it means to love without borders and what it often can be like for the person whose being closed in by them.
This one was enjoyable and I read it very quickly. I have read a few books which focused on boy couples so I figured it was time to read one about a girl/girl couple. For the record I am a straight adult female but I love books with diverse characters.... be that racial or sexual orientation diversity or otherwise. I was very intrigued by the idea that Astrid send passengers of overhead airplanes her love and I liked the idea of little interludes with those (imaginary?) passengers.
However I had some concerns about this novel. I loved that Astrid had a disfunctional family because honestly many families are living amidst some degree of disfunction. Most of the book is about Astrid trying to come out to herself and to her family and friends. When she finally does tell her family, the book ends...we are to believe things are going to be ok and everyone is just fine and dandy but it was abrupt and not very believable. I also found it hard to believe Astrid's sister did a complete turnaround so quickly. This was a bit of a disservice to the overall story. I did like the fact that Astrid questioned her identity and let people know that they couldn't pressure her into a decision on her orientation. People shouldn't be stuffed into predefined boxes...humans are not so neat and tidy.
One other piece bothered me more than it should have I think. When the kids at school start to gossip about Astrid being gay, they start a rumor that Astrid and her sister are involved in a perverse relationship. That is utterly ridiculous as was her sister's reaction to that rumor. It was creepy and I am not sure what was trying to be said with that little plot revelation.
Now my problem with Astrid and her girlfriend: Other than the intense sexual attraction between them, I can't figure out why Astrid and Dee are together. I felt a serious lack of real chemistry between the two and we never see them do much but make out and talk about whether to have sex. It would be nice to see a rare lesbian relationship in a YA novel focus on the actual love and friendship between the two ladies.
I loved that Astrid had an imaginary friend hang around when she needed him and I loved the idea of her sending her love to the planes. I also really liked the part of the ending which tied up that idea a little bit. That was really cute. I want Astrid to be herself, it was a nice read being stuck inside her head. She wasn't annoying in the least and I felt for her quite frequently. Her family was so odd and distant and I really liked how she tried to find some reason to send love to people who were being unlovable.
This wasn't a perfect story in my opinion, but it was engaging enough that I would recommend it to others interested in the subject matter and personally I will read other books by the author.
on May 21, 2014
A few years ago, I read Please Ignore Vera Dietz and said it was one of the best books I've ever read and I stand by that. A.S. King is an auto-buy author for me, and ASK THE PASSENGERS only re-confirms that. When I want contemporary YA that will make me think, and struggle with emotions, and latch onto and love a flawed character, I pick up an A.S. King book.
In ASK THE PASSENGERS, Astrid struggles with her identity, being true to what she feels, and how to share herself with the world. She's coming to terms with her sexuality and dealing with a dysfunctional family on top of the usual teenaged high school troubles. She spends a lot of time lying on the picnic table in her backyard sending her love to the passengers of planes as they fly by overhead. The book jumps into the planes for a quick glimpse into different passengers' lives, which sounds like it might be distracting and pull the reader out of the story, but it's actually done really well. The connections made between Astrid and her struggles, and the passengers to whom she sends her love, are interesting, sometimes poignant, and add an extra dimension to the story.
Astrid's family is odd, and yet it's basically reflective of how every family has its own issues and ways of dealing with things. Her mom talks at her, her dad is pretty checked out, and her younger sister is reputation-obsessed. She struggles to find anyone to confide in and uses her time sending love up to the passengers above as a way to cope with what she's going through.
ASK THE PASSENGERS is as fantastically written as one expects an A.S. King novel to be and will take you through feeling both hopeless and hopeful, and wishing you could help Astrid out. The only problem with the book is it makes you remember you'll have to wait a while before the author's next is available (Glory O'Brien's History of the Future -- October 2014).
[See this review & others like it @ StoryboundGirl.com!]
on April 13, 2015
This was a worthwhile read. Dad was a pot smoker. Mom was a workaholic. No wonder their daughters were having a hard time. Especially Astrid, who just couldn't decide whether of not she was gay. A lot of the townfolk weren't overly fond of gays.
Astrid finally decides she is gay. She just happened to visit a gay bar one time to many, and the police raided it. That made it somewhat imperative that Astrid out herself, finally, to her parents. And the parents weren't too upset about it.
You could argue that the story isn't very realistic, but that's what fiction is about sometimes; making the unbelievable credible.
My only complaint is that the story ended too soon and rather abruptly, in my opinion. But that was the author's call, not mine.
on November 16, 2012
King has scored such a success with Astrid Jones, she has the indomitable spirit, but she doesn't know it yet. When she has questions about life, she wants to trust her best friend Kristina. But how can you trust your best friend when she talks to your mom about you on the phone? How can you trust your sister when your mom has girls night with her and never asks Astrid to join? And how can you ask your father anything when he is so busy getting high. Astrid and Ellis lived a wonderful life in a big city before their mom, Claire, moved them to perfect little Unityville. Astrid has a few friends and works many weekends at a catering company where she is an expert at deveining shrimp. It is here that she meets Dee and they find time to hug and kiss one another in the big freezer. Dee knows what she wants, but Astrid is just not sure. It is when Kristina comes up with a plan for Astrid to act like she is dating a guy and then after the date, Kristina and Astrid will go to the gay bar in town. Even though they are underage, they get in and it is not until much later, that their worlds come tumbling down when the bar is raided. Everyone is in trouble, but somehow Kristina convinces Astrid's mom that it was all Astrid's idea. Astrid still does not come out and tell everyone about herself and Dee. This hurts Dee but Astrid is continually working her way back to real truth and it is through her many talks to the passengers who fly overhead as Astrid lays on the picnic table in her back yard and questions imaginary Phil Socrates that she is able to accept and love herself. Astrid mends fences with her parents and sister, but they are flawed and it is when Astrid realizes this that she can accept their shortcomings. Astrid doesn't buckle under peer pressure but it takes most of the book for Astrid to berate Kristina and rebuke Dee. Until she does this, Astrid uses boys to hide who she really is and she feels very badly. Astrid never likes keeping secrets but she has not become strong enough to combat the lies until the night at the bar when they are all arrested. It is through all the LOVE that Astrid sends out to the passengers on the planes that she is able to march forward, happy with who she is, loving her imperfect life, verbally sparring with herself and Phil Socrates that we get an empowered, happy Astrid who will continue to question herself and others and above all, like herself for who she truly is.