Saturday, August 25, 2012

Ask the Passengers

     Yes, I hope to soon be able to post an interview with A.S. King, author of Everybody Sees the Ants (YALSA Top Ten Books for YA, Junior Library Guild selection, many starred reviews), Please Ignore Vera Dietz (Printz Honor Book 2011, Kirkus Reviews Best Books for Teens), and, most recently, Ask the Passengers, due out on October 23 and the subject of the interview.  Here's my review.
     The people of Unity Valley, Pennsylvania, like most people who populate our planet, think they know everything there is to know, at least about their community.  For example, they all know that Kristina and Justin, the most beautiful, popular couple in the senior class, are going to get married someday and have beautiful, popular children.  But Astrid Jones, Kristina's best friend, knows the truth: Kristina and Justin will never marry each other because they're both gay, and are serving (with great success) as each other's beards.
     Astrid, on the other hand, isn't gay.  Last year she had a boyfriend she was crazy about, until her mother started rumors that broke them up.  Well, Mom couldn't let it go on too long between her daughter and a fat boy, now could she?  What would people say?  Mom's answer to living under a microscope in Unity Valley is to get perfectly dressed, groomed, and made up each morning, and then never leave the house.  Dad's answer is to disappear into the garage each evening in a haze of pot smoke.  And Ellis, Astrid's younger sister, has an extremely demanding 24/7 job called Trying to Merge Into The Crowd.  All of which leaves Astrid on her own, except for the passengers in the airplanes that fly overhead.
     It's a real relationship that Astrid has with the passengers, although it's a bit one-sided.  Astrid lies on a picnic table in her back yard and sends love up to the people in the planes, because her love is not a popular commodity in her family, or anywhere in Unity Valley ( a place name which the reader soon learns to surround with air quotes).  And Astrid also directs  her questions to the passengers, because she has to ask someone, not because she expects them to answer.  How would the passengers know, for example, why Astrid's mother loves Ellis, but not Astrid?  How would they know where Astrid's life is headed?  And how could they possibly know why, if Astrid is straight, she's lately been deriving such intense pleasure from her kissing sessions with Dee, her female co-worker?
     The only thing Astrid knows is that everyone, including Dee, wants to put her into some kind of a box, to categorize her, to assign her a number.  She doesn't know what she wants, but she knows she doesn't want that, nor does she want to live a lie like Kristina and Justin.   So she doesn't have much choice but to set about learning who she is and where she belongs, no matter what it costs her.
     A.S. King gets her hands dirty.  She gets down into the trenches with her characters, down where she can't fake it or look away, because they can't.  I can see this book saving a life or two.  Please read my interview with her when it posts, and in the meantime, pre-order the book.  Then, in the two months until it arrives, read up on the Greek philosophers.


  1. This sounds like a relatively emotionally dark book. Certainly weighty subject matter, and I would think, not easy to write!

  2. Donna, I'm sure this book was painful to write, because it's so emotionally honest. Makes me think of that Dorothy Parker line: "Writing is easy. Just sit down and open a vein." Thanks for your comment, and for your friendship!

  3. Replies
    1. Thanks, Pam! I just checked back with A.S. KIng, and it's "simmering!" Soon to become soup, I hope.