In the second decade of the 21st century, some might argue that there shouldn’t be a need for young adult novels exploring the angst and liberation of coming out as gay. However, as long as teens still seem deeply in need of initiatives like the “It Gets Better” project, novels like Ask the Passengers—especially one as compassionate and complex as this one—will be essential reading for all people, regardless of how they label themselves.
Astrid Jones is a senior in high school, a brainy, wordy girl whose favorite hobby is lying on the backyard picnic table, sending her love to the airplane passengers overhead: “It feels good to love a thing and not expect anything back,” she thinks. Astrid and her family have recently moved from New York City to a small town in Pennsylvania, where they may always seem like outsiders and a “fog of gossip” seems to surround everything they do.
Keeping secrets is hard in a small town, and Astrid has plenty—both her own and other people’s. When Astrid’s secret comes to light, she must decide whether and how to start telling the truth, and to whom. Like A.S. King’s previous novels, Ask the Passengers can hardly be considered a “problem novel”; instead, it perfectly blends philosophy, emotion and even a little magical realism in a smart, sympathetic story that is as relevant and compelling as ever.