on September 10th 2013
Genres: Contemporary, LGBT, Romance, Young Adult
Amazon | Book Depository | Publisher | Angus & Robertson
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How do you give your love away when no one seems to want it? You send it to the sky and hope the right person catches it.
Astrid Jones spends hours lying on the backyard picnic table watching airplanes fly overhead. She doesn't know the passengers inside, but they're the only people who won't judge her when she asks them her most personal questions... like what it means that she's falling in love with a girl. Astrid can't share the truth with anyone else in her life - her pushy mother, uninterested father, and over-interested friends wouldn't understand. But little does Astrid know just how much even the tiniest connection with the people at thirty thousand feet will affect their lives - and her own - for the better. In this truly original portrayal of a girl who refuses to be labeled, Printz Honor author A.S. King offers hope to those struggling to break free of society's boxes and definitions.
If you’re looking for a quick LGBTQ+ story, this is the one for you. Ask the Passengers was a wonderful book about a girl who’s discovering herself and trying to break free from the labels that others place on her. Astrid is still discovering who she is. She’s attracted to a girl she works with but isn’t sure if she’s really a lesbian. And surely, she doesn’t need to put a label on herself right? Her family, friends, and the rest of the community have different ideas though, and Astrid feels like she’s being pushed and shoved in different directions, when she just wants some time to figure everything out for herself.
I really connected with Astrid and her story. Her inner turmoil came across to me so clearly and I really felt for her. She lives in a small town where everybody wants to be perfect and those who don’t appear to be perfect (ie. rich, straight, completely normal) are gossiped about or ignored. Everything needs to be defined or labeled and Astrid faces this pressure as she tries to figure out who she really is. When others find out that Astrid may be gay, this pressure to be labeled and identified increases tenfold. She has her friends and who she considers to be her girlfriend pushing her to come out and just say that she’s a lesbian. Her family is pressuring her to either admit that she’s a lesbian or deny it. Astrid is accused of lying when she wants a bit more time to think about it because she should just know.
“Some people will always be a pain, but all in all, it’s easier to be yourself, I think.”
What impressed me the most about this coming out/self-discovery story is that Astrid really took her time to explore who she was and wanted to be. As overwhelming as it was, she didn’t let the pressure get to her and force herself to do something that didn’t feel right to her. Sure, she felt misunderstood and unloved by everyone around her at times but she came out on her own terms. I feel like so many people who are questioning their sexuality could relate to Astrid’s story. The exploration of her desires and her sexuality was what made this book a standout for me. Astrid is attracted to one girl but does that mean she’s attracted to all girls? Or only girls? People don’t have it all figured out and it’s fine to question who you are before placing a label on yourself. This book conveys this message perfectly. What I also appreciated about Ask the Passengers is that the book isn’t only about sexuality. The messages in this book can extend to any aspect of identity and can be relatable to any reader.
Every airplane, no matter how far it is up there, I send love to it.
There is a little bit of what I could call magical realism in this book. Astrid spends a lot of her time watching the sky and sending love to every plane that she sees. When she’s feeling particularly troubled, she asks the passengers questions, and in this book, we see some of their replies. The passengers answer Astrid’s questions indirectly through their own little anecdotes. At first they seem like entirely separate stories that just happen to have some relation to Astrid’s questions, but then we find out that some of these passengers are feeling the love and questions that Astrid sends up. Though none of these stories had any real impact on Astrid’s journey, I enjoyed being able to listen to their stories too. There are different kinds of love and ways to love, and all of these shorter stories showed that.
The characters in this book were mostly dislikable. Astrid was the only character who I really liked. Nearly all of the characters in this book were homophobic and extremely hurtful in their actions. And the situation was almost the same at home. Astrid’s family is definitely dysfunctional. Her mother is extremely pushy and controlling, and treats Astrid and her father like they’re losers who have no ambition. She ignores and disrespects Astrid because Astrid no longer shares the same opinions as she does, while doting on Astrid’s younger sister. Astrid’s best friend, Kristina, was also a terrible best friend who was incapable of thinking about anybody but herself. She didn’t respect Astrid’s wishes and pushed her to do many things that she didn’t want to do.
Things definitely did improve for Astrid as the book progressed but my small criticism is that the issues that Astrid had with her family and friends weren’t resolved as much as I would’ve liked. However, I can see why the author may have decided to leave a few things unresolved. Problems in real life aren’t always tied up neatly. Life continues on and people continue to work on their issues. You get a good sense of this feeling of continuation at the conclusion of Ask the Passengers.
Despite not liking most of the characters, I really enjoyed the coming out story of Astrid Jones. It was a beautiful book about rejecting labels and not being caged in by the expectations of others. I thought this was a fantastic diverse read and highly recommend it.
Rating: 4.5 out of 5
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