Friday, September 14, 2012

Soaring with Ask the Passengers by A.S. King

Ask the Passengers
October, 2013

I started my September ARC (advanced reader's copy) challenge with a bang!  This book seriously blew me away with how wonderfully-written it was.  Carrying just enough sarcasm, wit,and angst mixed with profound love; it made me smile, laugh, shake my head, and cry in rapid secession, it gave me such HOPE!

Ask the passengers is Astrid Jones' story.  She's a high school student in a small town where her parents have settled her after a major move from New York City.  Her parents craved the hometown experience without realizing the affect it would have on their two young girls; Astrid and Ellis.  Astrid feels she's never quite fit in to this small-town, small-minded community. Ellis, on the other hand, seems to have made a life with the popular kids. In a way each  member of the Jones' family struggles with new identity after the move and they've gotten stuck in crisis mode. Eventually they come to realize it is just another way to not accept themselves. A.S. King weaves this drama around this family's journey back to each other.

But first the gossip.  Lots of gossip.  Small towns are never as idyllic as they seem. Astrid's family feels rocky and she takes her life cues from this.  She's busy keeping a major secret for her neighbor and best friend, Kristina, and her boyfriend, Justin.  They fool everyone into thinking they are the perfect couple-prom couple perfect. But when Kristina and Justin go out on  their cute weekly Friday double dates they actually are dating the other person.  Yep.  Kristina and Donna, and Justin and Chad have it all worked out.  Nicely.  Modern set up.  Astrid keeps their secret.  See how small towns are not what they seem to be...

What Kristina doesn't  know is that Astrid has her own secrets and she's not ready to share at all.  Instead she sends her love out to passing airplanes. Better to give it away than store it up or throw it away.
"So I send my love, and I ask the passengers: Where are you going? Can I come with you? I could finally feel at home."  (98)
When she talks to the plane passengers we get a message back, showing us the profound effect an outpouring of positive emotion can have.  So while Astrid misses the big city idea and what that represents the plane people are having their own problems thousands of feet above her. And the small town people might catch her off-guard; people are filled with surprises as she discovers along her journey. Through her narration we hear odd angles like her humorous thought-process of small town gossip:
"They say: I bet her and that Justin Lampley will have some damn pretty kids.   They say: I can't figure out why she hangs out with that weird neighbor girl.That's me. (Astrid)" (4)
The proverbial "they" is always a fear; whether in her mind or truthfully being told it's hard to bear the fact that in small towns people are watching your every move.  And one night the double daters and Astrid are caught in their secret world, busted, and tossed back to their families.  Do they recover from stepping outside the small-town boundaries?  Maybe.  Yes.  No. Out of negative we know that good often occurs and this book has so much good mixed in with everything. I could read it all over again!

I let a friend borrow it today-she sent praises within the hour!  This book deserves much attention as a story filled with love, redemption, and what it means to be yourself where ever you live. I'm curious about A.S. King's other titles-what wonderful messages might be revealed within their covers.

ARC received from Little, Brown, and Company.  Thank you Zoe! 

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