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|Ask the passengers|
Author: King, A. S.
Astrid Jones copes with her small town's gossip and narrow-mindedness by staring at the sky and imagining that she's sending love to the passengers in the airplanes flying high over her backyard. Maybe they'll know what to do with it. Maybe it'll make them happy. Maybe they'll need it. Her mother doesn't want it, her father's always stoned, her perfect sister's too busy trying to fit in, and the people in her small town would never allow her to love the person she really wants to: another girl named Dee. There's no one Astrid feels she can talk to about this deep secret or the profound questions that she's trying to answer. But little does she know just how much sending her love--and asking the right questions--will affect the passengers' lives, and her own, for the better.
|Accelerated Reader Information:|
Interest Level: UG
Reading Level: 3.90
Points: 9.0 Quiz: 154838
|Reading Counts Information:|
Interest Level: 9-12
Reading Level: 4.50
Points: 16.0 Quiz: 59248
School Library Journal (00/10/12)
The Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books (00/10/12)
Full Text Reviews:
Booklist - 09/15/2012 *Starred Review* Astrid has a lot of love to give, and she gives it freely to schoolmates, friends, and even her dysfunctional family. But most of all, she sends her love to the passengers in the planes whizzing high above her small, gossipy, intolerant town: “Because if I give it all away, no one can control it.” But she does love her coworker Dee and her best friend Christina, whose biggest secret she keeps. Printz Honor Book author King (Please Ignore Vera Dietz, 2010) continues to expertly plumb the lovely numbness of a young person struck by emotional paralysis. Afraid to come out, afraid to be boxed in, and afraid to fall under the scrutiny of her town, Astrid lives a rich inner life, which King depicts with deft magical realist conventions that recall Everybody Sees the Ants (2011). Astrid’s consciousness is exemplified by Socrates, an agent of truth and logic who silently judges her for not owning up to her personal truths. King also incorporates the first-person narrations of the passengers in the planes, whose stories unknowingly parallel and carry Astrid’s affections and desire for escape. Another thoughtful, and often breathtaking, achievement for King, whose star is ascending as quickly as one of Astrid’s planes. - Copyright 2012 Booklist.
Bulletin for the Center... - 10/01/2012 Love is a complicated thing for seventeen-year-old Astrid. On the one hand, she’s silently sending it to people who merely cross her path, and she’s particularly focused on floating up warm feelings to the passengers in the planes flying over her backyard. On the other hand, reciprocal, real-life relationships are much more difficult. Her small, ironically named town of Unity Valley engages in harassment and ostracism of those outside what’s considered the norm, and secrets lurk behind its homogenized exterior. Astrid’s best friend, Kristina, is officially the longterm girlfriend of yearbook editor Justin, but they’re both gay and using double dates as a front for their real relationships. Astrid herself has fallen for her coworker, Dee, but she hasn’t mentioned this to Kristina, who believes Astrid is straight. Then there’s Astrid’s tense life at home, where her overcontrolling mother notices only Astrid’s younger sister, Ellis, while Astrid’s father retreats from life behind a constant haze of pot smoke. All these façades of unity shatter, however, when Astrid and her friends get publicly busted for underage drinking—at a gay bar. This isn’t simply a coming-out-among-the-homophobes tale, however. Its main topic is really finding and owning your own truth, which King authentically depicts as a painful process. Astrid’s nearly buried under a multitude of expectant and judgmental voices, whether they’re coming from the townsfolk, her own “brain people,” or even friends who are supposed to be on her side, like Kristina and Dee. Astrid counterbalances this input by taking her questions to less invested sources: those same passengers to whom she sends her love, and an amiable, imagined Socrates (modernized into Frank Socrates), who waits patiently for Astrid to flounder her way toward truth. That process has more than a few bumps, of course. As Astrid tries to find what’s true for her—is she gay, does she want to have sex with Dee—she sometimes overlooks the equally legitimate travails of those around her. Dee struggles with waiting for an uncertain girlfriend’s commitment, being tacitly disowned at every turn; Kristina, who trusted Astrid with her own secret, feels betrayed that Astrid kept the truth from her in turn; Ellis, already negotiating the gender stereotypes of being on the field hockey team, suffers harassment as a consequence of her sister’s new reputation. In fact, King gifts every character with validity: they all have their own hopes, fears, and ways of coping, and readers can see how they got to where they are and where they might go next. And even amid the brutality of small-town judgment, little decencies abound: the boy who Astrid dated to cover her tracks amiably shrugs off her deception; Ellis’ biggest tormentor is matter-of-factly challenged on her own terms by her peers. It was Astrid’s Humanities class that brought her the bolstering companionship of Frank Socrates, and it’s also there that she finds her central metaphor, that of Plato’s famous cave. When all you know is the dark place with shadows, it’s hard to emerge to a reality of light and dimensionality, so hard that you might go back into the cave. Astrid knows this well, as she repeatedly contemplates coming out of her “Unity Valley suit” to let her real self out, only to turn back at the last moment. That’s understandable, since she’s not wrong about the judgment she’ll encounter, but she also sees glimpses of the light-filled life beyond it, where this small-town teen pettiness looks as trivial as it really is. And when eventually she takes that step to stand or fall as who she really is (and does it so loudly—“I’M GAY! Okay? I’m fucking GAY!”—that she earns a suspension from school), it’s a glorious, freeing mess that really does make things better. For kids still struggling with their own truths, it can be hard to believe how much light there is once you come out of the cave. This is a book that knows and understands that, and it’s one that readers will believe. (See p. 92 for publication information.) Deborah Stevenson, Editor - Copyright 2012 The Board of Trustees of the University of Illinois.
School Library Journal - 10/01/2012 Gr 10 Up—Astrid Jones is a high-school senior in a small, Pennsylvania town. She's a top student and loves philosophy. (She gives Socrates a first name-Frank.) Her favorite pastime is to lie on the picnic table she and her father built in the backyard and send her love to passengers in the airplanes as they pass overhead. The teen sends her love off to strangers, because she has no use for it at home. She has an agoraphobic, type-A mother who wears business suits and heels when she works from home. While emotionally unavailable to her first born, she regularly plans boozy "Mommy and Me" nights with Astrid's younger sister. Her mother also has a texting relationship with Astrid's best friend. Astrid's father is underemployed and smokes pot all the time. Her sister just wants to fit in with small-town life. And Astrid herself is ambivalent about her sexuality and is being pressured by her lesbian work friend to come out. Her school friends, members of the homecoming court, are pretending to be a couple but are actually gay. The townspeople are small-minded and gossipy. Astrid's overwhelming need to send messages of love to anonymous passengers sometimes appears to touch those passengers, who are also leading lives of quiet desperation. And, sometimes, maybe they can send love to Astrid. King's thoughtful, sad, funny, and frank book is finally about paradox and will appeal to any mature teen resisting the pressure to conform or rebel; anyone who wants to define herself on her own terms; and anyone whose family life belies the 1950s sitcom myth.—Nina Sachs, Walker Memorial Library, Westbrook, ME - Copyright 2012 Publishers Weekly, Library Journal and/or School Library Journal used with permission.