Ask the Passengers by A.S.King
Published 2012 by Little, Brown
Source: the library
Rating: 5 stars
From the blurb: Astrid Jones desperately wants to confide in someone, but her mother's pushiness and her father's lack of interest tell her they're the last people she can trust. Instead, Astrid spends hours lying on the backyard picnic table watching airplanes fly overhead. She doesn't know the passengers inside, but they're the only people who won't judge her when she asks them her most personal questions . . . like what it means that she's falling in love with a girl.
I’ve been meaning to read A.S. King’s books for some time now, I even own Please Ignore Vera Dietz, but for some reason I haven’t read it yet. Thankfully our book club pick for March was Ask the Passengers and it was brilliant.
Astrid lives with her younger sister Ellis and her parents in a small town called Unity Valley. They used to live in New York but moved when her grandmother died and her mother bought their family home. Their mother works from home and is a stickler for rules. She favours Ellis and picks on her husband. Astrid’s dad lost his job and now works at a job he hates, he smokes a lot of pot and thinks no one notices.
I adored Astrid, she’s like any teenager: a little lonely, not sure of who she is, and in need of love. She enjoys sending love to people who serve her in stores, to her family, and to the people in the planes that fly over her backyard. Astrid thinks she might be gay and is spending a lot of time with a girl from her part-time job, Dee. Dee tries to pressure Astrid into coming out to everyone, and to be more physical with her.
Speaking of pressure, Astrid’s mum made me livid. Nothing Astrid does is good enough, and when she suspects that Astrid is gay, she tries to force her into admitting it. It infuriated me that a parent would treat their child in the way that she did. Her dad was a little better but still tried to pressure Astrid into telling them, and even when she did give them an honest answer, they wouldn’t take her word for it.
Astrid is also keeping secrets for her friends Justin and Kristina. Astrid doesn’t tell Kristina about Dee or that she’s questioning her sexuality and when Kristina finds out, she turns on Astrid. It comes from feeling betrayed and untrustworthy, that’s understandable, but she could have been a much better friend.
I really felt for Astrid, she’s under pressure from everyone around her and the only comfort she gets is from sending love to the people in the planes. Included in the story is the perspective of some of the passengers aboard these planes, often their lives tie in with what Astrid is feeling at the time, and it was a good addition to the story.
The writing was perfect, it conveyed so clearly the claustrophobic small town vibe, feeling boxed in by the residents who are always watching and gossiping. I was so absorbed in Astrid' story I felt as though I was there.
This is a really wonderful look at family dynamics, and a realistic take on the life of a teenager, struggling to figure out who she is.