Ask the Passengers by A.S. King
Astrid has so much love, and no one to give it to. She can't give it to her parents who have disconnected from her, each other, and reality. And she certainly can't give it to the girl she's been making out with in secret (and maybe really does like, in *that* way, but she isn't sure). So she sends it to the passengers in the planes that fly overhead. It's easier that way. The passengers won't judge her. They won't talk about her behind her back or pressure her into maintaining the facade that everyone in her small Pennsylvania town seems to hold onto so dearly.
So many things about this book worked for me. I absolutely adore King's writing. She creates strikingly real characters who struggle with real problems in real ways. Astrid truly isn't sure about her sexuality, and her confusion and questioning are palpable, as are the frustrations of those around her who feel betrayed by her silence and withdrawal. Lots of novels have LGBT characters. This one has them too, but is also has Astrid, who isn't sure. She's really unsure. Even more, she's not sure how to be sure. I loved that she was studying philosophy in school and how her growing understanding and appreciation of Socrates were worked into the story. I dug that when Astrid sent her love to airline passengers in the sky we were granted a tiny peak into their lives and the struggles they faced. I came away from reading very satisfied with the story and impressed with the character development.
But there were some things that nagged at me. Between "Frank" Socrates, Astrid's imagined friend who help guide her through difficult decisions, the "they say" one liners where Astrid anticipates the comments made about her and family behind her back, and the vignettes where readers listen in on the thoughts of a passenger from the flight to whom Astrid has just sent her love, there was just a lot going on. I think King really needed to pick one device and stick with it. I could have done without the "they say." We all know that in their small town people talk about each other and have a pretty good idea of what "they say." Frank I could have taken or left. It was a cool idea and I really enjoyed seeing Astrid come to terms with herself through her philosophy studies. But if I had to choose one device to keep, it would've been the passengers. The passengers, while not essential, seem like they had the most right to be worked into the story, what with it being called "Ask the Passengers." Sorry Frank, I liked you. Sorry "they," you were unnecessary. Passengers, you've made the cut.
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