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.
This is one of the few young adult books that I have truly enjoyed as of late. I has happy to read a book that really delved into an issue that many young people have today, which is, what happens when I start falling for someone of the same sex? This question becomes an even bigger issue when living in a small town.
King’s depiction of small town living is very realistic. Having lived in a small town in high school, but not necessarily being a small town girl, I could identify with how Astrid felt about those around her and the town in general. I found that the way she depicted small town thinking and gossip to the actual reality of a situation was accurate.
In general, I thought that Astrid was a really interesting and highly relateable character. Her voice was mature, but not unrealistically so. Her feelings are totally understandable, and not once did I feel like she was thinking or doing something uncharacteristic of a teenage girl.
What I was truly impressed by in this book was how King not only depicted the feelings of small town people about homosexuality (the scandel!), but she also showed us that even those who call themselves allies (or as Astrid ironically calls her mother, Friend of the Gays, or GOTG) can sometimes fall into the pit of ignorance and intolerance. While Astrid’s mother claims that she is an ally, she becomes worried when rumors of Astrid’s sister’s sexuality start flying and is insulted by the allegation. This occurs again later when Astrid gets busted at a gay bar, and somehow, getting caught at a gay bar was worse than getting caught in a regular bar. I’m glad that King was able to convincingly and subtly show how even those who claim to be open-minded about sexuality can hold similar prejudices as those less open-minded.
I also appreciated how Astrid struggled with the fact that everyone around her, including her friends, were pushing her to label herself and come out to her family. Really all Astrid wanted, and needed, was some time to figure out how she felt about her girlfriend and her sexuality. I felt that this rings true for many teens who are just trying to make sense of what they feel. Emotions get complicated, and I thought that King did a great job of depicting how difficult it can be to sort through those emotions when you are feeling pressure from those around you to make-up your mind, so to speak.
This book felt real to me, and I believe that King did a great job of really getting into the head of teenage girl who just wants to love her girlfriend and do away with the pressure that society tries to put on her. Ask the Passengers is a great read, and I hope that books with LGBTQ main characters will gain the attention that they deserve and become less uncommon than they are currently.