Ask the Passengers

by A.S. King

Astrid Jones hates the small-mindedness of her community: the constant gossip, the... read more

Astrid Jones hates the small-mindedness of her community: the constant gossip, the concern about status, the hypocrisy. And she hates what it’s done to her family since moving there when she was ten: Her younger sister, Ellis, seems to thrive on conformity. Their mother has become rigid, controlling, and shallow. And their unhappy dad spends more time stoned than not. Astrid’s best friend is one half of a super-couple with a secret: Kristina and her boyfriend Justin both are gay. But Astrid has a secret too: She’s falling in love with Dee Roberts, a girl from a neighboring town with whom she works. Astrid isn’t ashamed, just uncertain about her sexuality, and resentful of pressure to define herself with a label. In her AP Humanities class, Astrid argues against Zeno’s paradox: the idea that motion does not exist. It’s a resonant subplot in a story in which motion and stasis—both literal and symbolic—are huge. Astrid is also fascinated with Socrates, whom she starts using as a sounding board in her life (she gives him the nickname Frank). And then there is Astrid’s habit of sending out her love to the passengers in planes flying overhead. It’s a way to feel connected to the larger world. Individual passengers receive her love—feel it in the moment, this unexpected brightness. It matters as they grapple with issues in their lives that echo Astrid’s own questions about loving others and loving herself. A. S. King’s fearless, beautiful novel is populated by characters who are messy and human, full of poignant imperfections. King has penned a work of realism that is magical in the telling. (Age 13 and older)

© Cooperative Children's Book Center, Univ. of Wisconsin - Madison, 2013

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