Thursday, January 10, 2013

Ask the Passengers

Ask the Passengers by A.S. King. Grades 9 and up. Little, Brown Books for Young Readers, October 2012. 293 pages. Review copy provided by my local library.

Astrid Jones is not gay.
Astrid Jones is gay.
Astrid Jones is in love with a girl, but she's not sure if that makes her gay or not.

Since love is so complicated for Astrid, she often finds herself laying on the picnic table in her backyard, watching planes flying by high above and sending them her love (since at least then her love will be free). As she navigates junior year with a girlfriend? (sorta?), a boyfriend? (not really), a closeted best friend, and a family that seems to be falling apart since they moved from New York City to a small town, a philosophy class and the nameless passengers that Astrid sends love to are her only solace. But as Astrid starts to question the world around her and to demand answers to her own questions, she'll slowly start to figure everything out.

This is a coming out story, but more than that, this is a story about questioning. It's a story about paradoxes. It's a story about the pressure Astrid feels to put herself in a neat, labeled box. And it's about Astrid's fight to break down those walls.

Astrid is messy. Astrid is unsure. Astrid is telling lies, sometimes accidentally and sometimes on purpose. And that's what makes Astrid such a real character. Astrid is Everyteen, a girl dealing with pressure from her family, from her friends, from her girlfriend. She's in love, but she's not ready to have sex. Being gay is not all about the sex. She knows that her best friend is gay and might be able to help her through this, but Astrid needs to come out on her own time, her own schedule.

I just loved the characters. I loved that Astrid was questioning, not only herself but eventually everything around her. I loved that secondary characters get fleshed out well, too, especially Astrid's family. They may be a mess, but it's easy to see why, and it's easy to see that they're all trying (even if they fail sometimes).

This is a compulsively readable contemporary novel that will appeal to thinking teens as well as teens looking for GLBT (and especially "coming out") stories. But don't put this one in a GLBT box. It would make a great readalike for The Sky Always Hears Me and the Hills Don't Mind by Kirstin Cronn-Mills, but I would also suggest it to teens who love John Green, Libba Bray, and other literary YA.

Check out a dual-review of Ask the Passengers by Kim & Kelly at STACKED.

Ask the Passengers is on shelves now!