Author: A.S. King
Rating: 3.5 / 5 stars
Ask the Passengers has all the elements and the potential to be a breakout standalone novel in the YA genre. Unfortunately, it falters with its characters and character development and the execution of its plot. While King still delivers a story worth reading that can hold your attention to the end, you might find yourself wondering why King stretches the realism so far the story almost feels unrealistic.
Perhaps it is because of the subject matter on hand. Astrid is a high school student in a small, overall narrow minded town. She is unsure with her sexuality, which is what the premise of the story revolves around. And as equal rights and homophobia are both still major issues in today’s society, I can see why King makes such a huge deal out of them.
Now, perhaps it is my perspective that is off. After all, I had high school friends that struggled with their sexuality and then struggled on coming out to not only their family but their friends. But I never found myself in that position, questioning myself and what I wanted. So maybe I’m not in any position to judge. But to me, King presses the issue so far that it makes the story feel fake, and takes a bit of the sympathy I feel towards Astrid away.
Astrid doesn’t just have to worry about what her parents will think, though that is certainly one of her top worries. Her mother hardly ever leaves the house, but likes to dress up in fancy clothes and high heels for her telecommuting position. In addition, her mother has written her off as a lost cause and instead focuses her attention on Astrid’s younger sister. Her mother also has little patience or love for her father, who’s only reaction is apparently to spoke copious amounts of pot. And even Astrid’s younger sister turns into a huge prick as the story unwinds.
And if that isn’t even to make you feel sorry for Astrid, let’s focus on her friends next. Her friends have a secret of their own, one they use Astrid to help cover up for. And though Astrid is understanding of them and in no way judgmental, they don’t exactly return the favor for her. And her friend that she might have more than just friendly feelings for? Well, that friend pressures Astrid so much that it’s amazing Astrid stays friends with them at all. Even Astrid admits how much of a pushover she is. And then, just in case that isn’t enough, there’s everyone else in the small little gossip town that Astrid lives in.
As you can see, Astrid’s life pretty much sucks. So no wonder she prefers laying on the picnic table in her backyard, staring up into the sky and sending love and thoughts to the passengers on the planes that fly overhead. As someone who works in aviation, this is the part of the novel I liked the most. Even though the mid-life characters on the planes still sound like pissed off or confused teenagers, I loved the bond between them, and the power that Astrid’s good intentions have. I also like the philosophical side of the novel, as Astrid contemplates if motion is possible or not.
Overall, I don’t think Ask the Passengers is an award winning novel. But it is a coming of age story written well enough to hold my attention. I only wish the characters weren’t written to have such extreme characteristics and personalities.