Wednesday, March 26, 2014

[Review] Ask the Passengers by A.S. King

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Publication (dd/mm/yyyy): 23/10/2012
Publisher: Little, Brown and Company
Pages: 290
Source: Bought
Genre: YA (14+) - Contemporary, GLBT

Violence | Sexual ContentProfanity

Book Tunes
Lilyjets - Perfect Picture

My Rating: 
Startlingly honest and bold
My thoughts

I'll just come right out and say it. I loved this book hardcore. I devoured it, one of those nothing-else-exists-until-I-finish-this-book kinds of books. Of course, I expected nothing less of A.S. King. I kind of have a golden track record with her novels (see below).

(The Dust of 100 Dogs | Please Ignore Vera Dietz -- still haven't reviewed because there were too many things to say that I was overwhelmed and now I'd have to reread it so there. | Everybody Sees the Ants)

Ask the Passengers was insightful and felt wholly unique and fresh in this glorious way that only A.S. King seems able to achieve. The writing is raw and punchy; if you're no stranger to King's writing you'll know what I'm talking about. The main character, Astrid, reminded me of Daria from the MTV show Daria: smart, kickass, sarcastic, kind of an oddball but awesome in her own ways, and most importantly she takes it upon herself to not give a damn what other people think because they're all morons.

Ask the Passengers spoke incredible truths to me. I loved the philosophical aspects of the book, because Astrid is a total philosophy geek and doesn't hesitate to shove Socrates ideas at us. It was interesting, made me think, and also my perception on philosophy will never be the same. (Question everything.) I liked the embodiment of Socrates, how he appears in her life and becomes an active part in it.

But Astrid isn't perfect. She's been keeping secrets, and they're going to start unraveling soon enough. She's been with a girl--her coworker Dee at her catering gig--for months; she hasn't even told her best friend Kristina yet (who is also in the closet), and she and four star Unity Valley High School Homecoming committee members (Kristina, Justin, Donna, Chad) are becoming regulars to the only gay club in town. She sends her love up to the passengers on passing planes, because it has no use where she is, where her family rejects it and her love for Dee is impossible.

Speaking of the passengers, King breaks up the story by providing us brief snapshots of a few passengers' lives, each ending in some sort of revelation that somewhat foreshadows Astrid's own ending.

I love how Ask the Passengers addresses labeling and the idea of perfection, belief and opinions. "Gay" is something that Astrid struggles with for like 70% of the story--she just doesn't know if she is, or if she wants to fit into this label that seems to ostracize or alienate. That leads her onto the issue of labeling in general, why society feels the need to put everyone into perfect categories: race, belief, sexual orientation, etc, etc. I love how Astrid finally comes to terms with herself in this way (rant with a few F-bombs-fuelled thrown in in the school hallway and a resulting suspension).

The exploration of love--all forms of it--runs wild in Ask the Passengers. Astrid feels her love has no use down here in Unity Valley, so she sends them to passengers on passing planes. Her mum, Claire, a control freak wife and mother who gives all her attention to Ellis. Her dad, who's always so stoned off his ass that he stopped being any real help to anyone. Her sister, Ellis, who is so concerned about being the perfect small-town girl and maintaining her image that their sisterly bond fell apart ages ago. Her best friend, Kristina, who won't stop pushing Astrid around. Her girlfriend, Dee, who won't stop pushing Astrid for sex. I soaked all of it in. The progression of the story, the relationships, the situation--A.S. King, with ease and without fail, keeps it all realistic, relatable and engrossing.

I have so many things to say about this book but it's all kind of a mess right now. This was about the best I could do in terms of coherency. So I hope it makes sense. Bottom line is, read this book. It is good.


First paragraph: Every airplane, no matter how far it is up there, I send love to it. I picture the people in their seats with their plastic cups of soda or orange juice or Scotch, and I love them. I really love them. I send a steady stream of it--love--from me to them. From my chest to their chests. From my brain to their brains. It's a game I play.

Favourite quotes:

"Anyone looking on might think I was smoking Dad's pot, I bet. Lying here, grinning.
But it feels good to love a thing and not expect anything back. It feels good to not get an argument or any punishment or any rumours or bullshit. It's love without strings. It's ideal.

"And then I send the love up. It's as easy as it always is, and it's hard too, because I really don't know the answer to this mystery. Is love something that will always be available? Will it always be confined and untrustworthy like it feels today? Is there enough to go around? Am I wasting mine on strangers? (215)

AUSTRALIA: A&R | Readings | BookWorld

INTERNATIONAL: Fishpond | Book Depository

All opinions written here are entirely my own. No one paid me to read this book!

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