Ask The Passengers by A.S. King
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
When I was young, my parents divorced and my father married a flight attendant. My mother remarried shortly thereafter, and my stepfather took a job in Nebraska. My father lived in California and I didn't get to see him very much, or even really talk to him much, so I took to watching airplanes. Every time I saw an airplane flying overhead, I specifically thought about my father so that even though I didn't see him or talk to him, I would still be close to him, somehow.
Astrid feels like she doesn't fit in. Her mother Claire (a successful art director) moved Astrid and her sister Ellis, along with their pot-smoking mostly non-working father from New York to the suburbs, to live in the house Claire's grandmother lived in. Astrid's best friend is hiding a secret and Astrid may be as well, but she's just not sure.
There's a lot of small-town gossip, peer-pressure and confusion in Astrid's life. There's a lot of separation - of what she thinks she is (or might be) and what her friends say they are (or might not be). She tries to get her parent's attention but her mother is more interested in Astrid's sister Ellis and their "Mommy and Me" nights and Astrid's father is more interested in sneaking out to the garage, so she's mostly left alone.
Astrid spends a lot of time on her back on the backyard picnic table staring at the sky, sending all of her love out to the passengers on the jets flying far overhead because she feels like she just doesn't need it. She concentrates and sends everything she has, sometimes with a question or just "I love you." The idea of sending everything she had out there with no expectations really resonated with me, having concentrated so much on planes when I was a kid.
This is a book that's really more than being about just labels. It's more than "are you gay or aren't you gay?" It's about thinking for yourself and about giving yourself the opportunities to figure things out, without putting labels where they don't need to be. Astrid imagines Socrates (Frank, to her) helping her (or not helping her) as she navigates her way through her life, and King intersperses Astrid with small moments with the passengers. The passenger sections were really touching and it was really interesting to see how they related with Astrid's story.
Astrid learns that she may never know what's right or not right in life, but she can figure out what's right for her, and that's what everyone should have the chance to do.
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