Thursday, January 17, 2013

Ask the Passengers by A.S. King

Astrid Jones lives in the kind of small town where rumors abound, so when Astrid thinks she might be falling in love with a girl, there's no one she feels she can talk to to help her figure things out.  Not her distant father or her overly-concerned-with-appearances mother.  Not her closeted gay friends.  Not even Dee, the girl who she thinks she might be in love with.  The only people she can confide in are the passengers in airplanes, flying thousands of feet above her head.

This was excellent, while also being hard to read.  It was hard because sometimes I like to pretend that "things aren't like that anymore" even though I know that's a load of crap.  You read articles all the time about some kid getting beat up at school for being gay, or parents demanding that their child stay in the closet until they're out of their house.  This was one of those towns.

Two of Astrid's friends are in an elaborate deception where they're dating each other to cover up for the fact they're actually both gay.  And have significant others.  And go to a gay club.  Astrid knows this, but still does not feel comfortable telling her best friend that she's kind of in love with a girl.  Maybe.  She's not sure what that means.  She's dated boys before.  Does this now mean she's gay?  She has no one to work things out with.
Astrid's mother made me want to rip my hair out and scream.  She was infuriating.  She's one of those people who likes to talk about how accepting and open minded they are, but they aren't actually in practice.  She has convinced herself that she has to focus on her work at all times and has no time for anything else.  She favors Astrid's younger sister, Ellis, and Ellis goes along with her because she's afraid of loosing her mother's love like Astrid has.  Astrid's father smokes pot and is constantly high, which is his way of dealing with his wife and his family.

Astrid has no one to go to with her confusion and her questions.  There isn't anyone who she feels close enough to to trust.  Astrid's feelings of isolation and confusion were so heart wrenching and true.  She's a bit of a doormat, really, something which she figures out herself.  She lets people influence and take advantage of her.  She's always just gone along with things and never fights back.  Some of those people she really cares about, but they still take advantage of her.  Astrid's decision to not let people make her decisions anymore is the beginning of her making some realizations about herself.  I was so happy when she started fighting back!  You deserve better, Astrid!

The whole airplane aspect was kind of weird.  I wonder about A.S. King's choice of putting it in.  Astrid either can't or is afraid to give her love to anyone, so she gives it away.  She lays on top of a picnic table in her backyard and watches for airplanes, and when they fly by, she sends her love and her questions up to the passengers.  Then we'd have a short little story from a passenger on the airplane, where they suddenly feel whatever Astrid has sent them.  I didn't mind it, but it was still a little odd.

I loved the philosophy angel, however.  Astrid is taking a philosophy class and learning about different philosophers.  She takes a liking to Aristotle, and as she feels more isolated, she starts talking to him.  It helps to figure out that she's in a cave (as in Plato's Allegory of the Cave) of her own, and so is everyone n the town.  Everyone is secure in what they know and scared to venture outside.  Astrid is determined to free herself from her cave, venture outside, and never come back.

There was an appropriately realistic ending.  Astrid is moving forward, which is great and satisfying, but it's not like everything is fixed and perfect.  Some people are trying harder, and others are going to stay they way they've always been.  Because that's life.

Highly recommended.  I'll put it on my non-existent short list of things I think should be considered for the Printz.

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