Astrid Jones is hiding a secret from her friends and family, and it’s eating away at her. Popping Rolaids helps some, but she has another habit to ease the burden. Astrid watches the planes fly by above her and sends love she has to spare to the passengers. She can’t trust the people around her to accept her as she is on the ground, including the secret that she’s questioning her sexuality. But the selfless act of sending love to strangers flying overhead is freeing to her. That the passengers actually receive the message is a quirky detail that let’s you know you’re reading an A.S. King book.
Astrid’s family moved from NYC to a small town where you run the risk of bullying if you are the least bit different. Astrid has feelings for another girl but is still processing her sexuality and not ready to confide in anyone, including her own gay (closeted) best friend. Even though Astrid’s mother considers herself a tolerant person, she contradicts herself frequently and Astrid finds it easier to pretend to be straight. But secrets don’t stay hidden forever.
Reading this book I was hoping so many times that Astrid would confide in her friends and family, especially when she was questioned directly about her sexuality. But this book did open my eyes to how difficult that is, and that everyone needs to do what feels right for them and on their own timetable. And I also liked the discussion about physical love and taking the time to get to know someone first. I enjoyed following Astrid’s journey and seeing her growth throughout the story. Considering all of the challenges she faced at home and at school she remained remarkably positive.
There is some quirkiness in the story as we see some of the passengers on the plane when they receive Astrid’s love from the ground and hear snippets of their stories, some of which mirror her own experiences. And, as Astrid is studying Socrates in Humanities, she invents the character of Frank Socrates. He’s someone who appears with a nod or a frown here and there during important moments in Astrid’s life. (He wants her to be honest too) I liked the whimsiness of the magical realism and it gave the heavy story a light touch.
I really liked this coming of age story, maybe even more than King’s Please Ignore Vera Dietz. The story provided food for thought about labels and questioning and I found Astrid’s voice to be very authentic. Ask the Passengers is an emotional and ultimately hopeful story. I’m eager to catch up with King’s other books soon.
Ask the Passengers is A.S. King’s fourth novel and it came out in October 2012. I borrowed a copy from my local library, and renewed it twice. Sorry, library patrons! Read more about the book on Goodreads.