I’ve come out of retirement (aka working full time and not having a summer vacation to read and blog) to post about this lovely, wonderful book. I’m going to make this one short and sweet, but more reading and posting to come in the next two weeks…yay!!!
Verdict: Pure love.
Perfect for: Fans of AS King’s other books.Fans of philosophy and gray areas. Fans of love (not in the romance novel sense but in the sense of Love. L-O-V-E. And how it is a human essential.) Fans of books that know how to handle family and friend dynamics in a realistic way. People who are teens. People who used to be teens.
Summary: If you read the inside flap of the book you would get the impression that this is a book “about” a seventeen year old girl who is having a difficult time sharing that she is a lesbian with her family and friends. And it that is true, but not the whole truth. It’s the main part of the plot, but not the whole story. I think this book is more generally “about” honesty – honesty with yourself and honesty with others.
I also don’t think it would be fair to say that this book is a book “about” unconditional love, or that it even has a Major Theme about unconditional love, but it is in that general neighborhood. What WOULD be fair to say is that I think it is true that many of us unconditionally love certain authors and are therefore predisposed to unconditionally love any of their books and overlook any flaws because, I mean, it’s AS KING, y’all! Dust of 100 Dogs (King’s first interesting-but-uneven effort) aside, AS King writes totally wonderful books (Please Ignore Vera Dietz and Everybody Sees the Ants). The kind of books that I feel like are written just for me, but that I also feel like could be just for you. Or you. Or YOU! I think Ask the Passengers might be my favorite of them all.
Part of the charm of AS King’s book is the appearance of inanimate or potentially imaginary objects or creatures who provide commentary to the reader or the main character. In Please Ingore Vera Dietz it was a municipal pagoda on top of a hill overlooking the town and in Everybody Sees the Ants it was, of course, a group of ants holding up placards with messages for the main character. In Ask the Passengers, Astrid carries on conversations with both Socrates (yes, that Socrates) and the passengers in the planes that she gazes at from the picnic table in her back yard. She talks to them hoping they will have answers to her questions, and also because she doesn’t know who else to talk to. Another reason to love AS King: in the author blurb on the book jacket she says, “Some people don’t know if my characters are crazy or if they are experiencing something magical. I think that is an accurate description of how I feel every day.”
Want another thing this book isn’t “About” but kinda is? A big aspect of this book has to do with the importance of questioning. And questioning is related to truth-telling. People might want to demand answers of you but they might not be asking you the right questions, and you might not be asking the right questions of yourself. I know this is sounding a bit philosophical, but the appearance of Socrates should tip you off that this is a philosophical book, in the very best way possible.
The book takes place in a small rural town, and there are definitely appearances of intolerance or prejudice towards people with differences. But the town and the characters in it are not some lazy caricature. King manages to convey the challenges of being different in a close-knit community without painting small towns, or the people in them, with a broad brush.
As you can probably tell by now, this book is “about” many things: Love, honesty, sexual identity, tolerance, questioning, philosophy, family, and reputation. But the book avoids being an “issue” kind of book. The book doesn’t want to teach you something, although it probably will anyway. It is a book filled with wisdom and generosity and one of the best YA books I’ve read in a while.