Publisher: Little, Brown
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. (Summary from GoodReads. I've never used a GoodReads summary before, but I found it impossible to properly summarize this book.)
Ask the Passengers is everything you could want in a YA contemporary novel. It's moving, beautiful, incredible.... just fantastic. I really can't get across to you how much I loved it. This is one of the reviews that is so hard to write (but unlike Please Ignore Vera Dietz, which I loved SO MUCH and, thus, still have to write a review for, I'm actually reviewing it promptly. Progress!).
Let's start with characters, because this book has an amazing cast. Astrid is an absolutely wonderful narrator with a voice that stayed with me long after I'd finished reading. She's intelligent and emotional, with a way of thinking that's whimsical and deep at the same time. While she isn't perfect and does make mistakes, she's real and has a huge heart. Astrid is the type of narrator you'd want to be your best friend. There are a lot of other great characters, but I don't want to say too much about them. (I don't want to ruin your experience if you choose to read this book. And you really, really should.) I do want to mention Astrid's mom, Claire. Claire is cruel, if unintentionally so, and self-absorbed. Honestly, I resented her throughout the whole book. Despite that, I think there's a bit of Claire in everyone, even if we don't realize it or don't want to admit it. Heck, there's a bit of Claire in Astrid. And on some level, Claire is a sympathetic character. Deep, deep down. On a somewhat random note, my favorite character is Frank. He's completely hysterical.
As for the plot, it's simultaneously heartbreaking and uplifting. A.S. King has a way of making everyday life completely magical, yet realistic. She doesn't shy away from how harsh the world can be, nor does she shy away from how beautiful it can be, too. Tidbits from Astrid's philosophy class are weaved throughout the book, and if you think Socrates is boring, you've never been so wrong. Ask the Passengers will definitely make you think; not only that, it will make you question everything from the way our society works to your own view of the world. It will make you laugh and make your heart hurt at the same time. The passages from the passenger's perspectives that are scattered throughout add something really special, as well, and each one is more poignant than the last.
I think the sign of a really good book is that when you finish it and you've read the Acknowledgements page and the About the Author flap and there's nothing more to read, your heart hurts because it's over, but in a satisfying way. That's exactly how Ask the Passengers made me feel.
Other Books by A.S. King: Please Ignore Vera Dietz, Everybody Sees the Ants
Have you ever had a hard time reviewing a book because you loved it so much?