Ask The Passengers

I know when a book is good because it’s full of check-marks, underlining and dog-eared pages.  And the latest from one of my favorite authors, A.S. King, Ask the Passengers, has 14 page corners that I turned down and boatloads of check-marks and underlining throughout.  It’s full of funny quips, true-to-life sarcasm, poignant revelations, and emotional truths that kicked me in the gut.

With an emotionally vacant set of parents (workaholic rarely-leaves-the-house mother and a pot-smoking dad), a younger sister who is a mystery to her, friends who have a secret life Astrid has sworn to protect, a rampant small-town rumor mill, and secret yearnings for her co-worker, there really isn’t much in Astrid’s life to love.  So she’s created a game for herself to play: she secretly sends love to everyone she meets.    From the crabby woman at the drugstore, to a cashier at the convenience store counter, to the people flying in the airplanes that pass high above her town.  It’s a chance for Astrid to feel a connection to humanity, without any expectation that she receive love in return; because if she freely gives away all her love, than maybe no one can control it, telling her whom it’s OK to love and whom it isn’t.

I love the way King captures the teenage experience in all its reality, from raw and bracing to hopeful and expansive.   In Ask The Passengers, Astrid Jones’ day-to-day slog through high school – trying to find love, figure herself out, and be free of the conveniently defined boxes everyone else exists within – is brilliantly developed and exactingly portrayed.  Just like the worldly-wise yet bitingly fierce, gun-toting ants that plagued Lucky, Astrid has her own very real, annoyingly perceptive visitor: “Frank” Socrates.  AP Philosophy has brought Socrates and the Socratic method of questioning reality into Astrid’s loveless life, and now “Frank” (as she lovingly calls him) frequently drops in on her, reminding her to question, question, question and leave no assumptions unexplored.

A.S. King is among the few young adult writers of considerable perception, remembering how it feels to be confused and insecure, who also has brilliant writing skills and a sense of humor that all combine into creating stories with characters whose truth is so real you can’t help but feel and see your own humanity on every single page.

  • Posted by Cori

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