Ask the Passengers Summary

A.S. King

Ask the Passengers

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Ask the Passengers Summary

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Ask the Passengers is a 2012 novel by A.S. King, an American fiction writer the New York Times Book Review has called “One of the best YA writers working today.” She has received the Los Angeles Times Book Prize and the Michael L. Printz Honor Book award.

Protagonist Astrid Jones struggles with the difficulties of her high school years. She deals with friendships, emotional distance from her sister, issues with her parents, being a city-bred girl living in a small town, and romantic feelings for another girl. Astrid calms herself by standing outside and looking as planes cut across the sky. She thinks about the people aboard the planes and imagines sending love to them. In so doing, she finds a way to set loose the frustrations she feels for the world around her. Some of the passengers become characters in the narrative as they receive Astrid’s energy. Two of these people are a middle aged woman returning to live with her mother and a young man about to propose to his girlfriend.

A juxtaposition of sorts concerning personal and more global issues takes place in Astrid’s mind. In her philosophy class, she attempts to sort out the universal questions that face human beings while in her mind, she tries to sort out her attraction to a girl named Dee. Dealing with emotions and intimacy is just as significant to the story as grappling with feelings of sexuality. It is also about fitting in while all the time trying to develop a sense of self. When Astrid comes out as gay to her father he tells her that the family has friends who are gay. She tells her father that it is not the same thing as having a daughter who is gay. Astrid has a close friend named Kristina, a popular girl in school with a popular boyfriend, who are dating each other to cover the fact that they are both gay. Although Kristina has confided this to Astrid, Astrid keeps her own sexual orientation private. When Kristina finds out that Astrid kept this from her she becomes hurt, but Astrid explains that she needed to figure everything out for herself before telling anyone else. When Kristina and Astrid are caught in a gay bar and busted for being underage, they are “outed” to everyone at school. Kristina lies and says Astrid brought her there even though it was Kristina’s idea. Astrid’s mother believes Kristina. The friends eventually reconcile.

Although everything gets more difficult when their relationship becomes public, Dee stands by Astrid. Dee pressures Astrid to take their relationship to the next level even though Astrid does not feel ready. Dee comes to realize that intimacy is best left for a time when both are ready. At school, Astrid stands up for herself in the face of gossip and homophobic incidents. At one point, she is suspended for useing offensive language while defending herself in the presence of the school’s vice principal.

A final passenger that is introduced is a young girl who is traveling to a camp designed to “cure” her of being gay. She, in a manner that reflects Astrid’s method of coping, “drops” the love she has for the girl she is being taken from out the plane window. Astrid is the one who receives it, reflecting the love she finally is surrounded by after releasing hers for so long. Kirkus Reviews said of the novel, “King has created an intense, fast-paced, complex and compelling novel about sexuality, politics and societal norms that will force readers outside their comfort zones…Quite possibly the best teen novel featuring a girl questioning her sexuality written in years.”