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Book Review: Ask the Passengers by A. S. King (reviewed by Jenny Torres Sanchez)

It was author Jenny Torres Sanchez that introduced me to the marvelous writings of A. S. King, so I thought I would let her review Ask the Passengers for us today.  Besides, you probably already know that I love the book.  So here is another point of view.  Stay tuned at the end and enter to win a chance to Google+ Hangout with A. S. King.
Kingism- A short narrative from the point of view of a seemingly odd, out of place, or nonsensical object/subject but which holds incredible meaning and is interjected throughout an awesome novel. Ex: including narrative from the point of view of a pagoda in a story decidedly not about pagodas (Please Ignore Vera Dietz).
Ask the Passengers by A. S. King
October from Little, Brown and Co.
ISBN: 978-0-316-21824-5

I like Kingisms, not just because my rebellious spirit appreciates this break from the norms of writing and what most writers are cautioned not to do, but because I know there’s a reason for it. It demands your attention.  It makes you question why? Why include the point of view of passengers in this story, passengers we meet only briefly, if this is really a book about a girl named Astrid Jones who is trying to figure out who she is, how she fits in her family, her town, the world?  Why?

Because it’s a Kingism.  The passengers in ASK THE PASSENGERS receive the love Astrid sends them from her backyard as they fly overhead.  We see it hit them. We see how it affects them. We see how it changes them.  And this connection between Astrid and the passengers, a connection they are not even really aware of, made me think of how we are all connected. How what we feel, think, wish on others is this very real energy that goes out into the world and can impact others.  It made me wonder about what we wish on others and if we knew our energy was to directly impact someone else, what kind of energy would we send? It makes you look inside yourself and wonder what you have to give. Love? Hate? What? Why?  I love when books do that, when they become so much more than a story, when they become a vehicle for self-reflection. There’s some deep stuff going on here. I mean Socrates kind of stuff, speaking of which. . .  he’s a character. 

I am partial to stories with famous dead people as characters, but I especially love Socrates in this novel, just chilling in his toga, his wisdom present in Astrid’s tumultuous life even as he says nothing to her and makes Astrid rely on herself, her thoughts, her ability to question everything.  I love that King respects her readers enough to throw Socrates in the mix and know teens will get it. They’ll understand. We can talk about art and philosophy and some deep, deep ideas and teens will not only GET it, they’ll appreciate it and apply it to themselves, their view of the world, their lives.

The novel also deals with Astrid trying to understand her sexuality, it’s both central and secondary. I know that doesn’t make sense. What I mean is, yes, Astrid trying understand her sexuality is a central part of her struggle, even more so because Astrid is trying to understand her sexuality without falling victim to standard black or white definitions of you’re either THIS or THAT. And that’s what this book is really about. Trying to understand who we are, who others are, without necessarily having to define ourselves or force ourselves into society’s neat little boxes and definitions. Absolutely there are aspects of this novel that I think will certainly speak to LGBT teens. But I also think it’s a novel that will speak to every teen. To every one. Because there’s always so much more to a person than what fits in a box.

There is so much to love and appreciate about this novel. I love the imperfections of the characters, the pot-smoking dad, the sister who seems to have betrayed Astrid unintentionally by becoming a product of a town Astrid doesn’t respect, the mom who is both neglectful and overbearing. I love Astrid’s friends even though they unintentionally cause her grief by pressuring her to define herself as gay. I love Socrates. I love Astrid who finds the strength to love even when she feels unloved. I love how it made me think and feel and understand and lift my eyes from the page and close the book and view the world a little differently, in a way that stays with me, in a way that makes me want to be a better person. I love this novel. I think you will too.

Jenny

After reading this novel, I can’t help but picture AS King in her writing cave wearing a toga.  Doesn’t it seem fitting? I think maybe King was Socrates in another life. Thanks, AS King, for another novel that makes us think, ponder, and makes us want to live life in a toga . . . knowing only that we know nothing.
And now you will understand the Toga Optional aspect of this contest . . . To enter, fill out the Rafflecopter form.  Please do take a moment to make sure you have the system requirements you need to participate in a Google+ Hangout, including a gmail account.  If you don’t, they are free and easy to set up.  Requirements.  Because we can do a Google+ Hangout with anyone, this contest is open to all.
The best contest ever! Inspired by Felicia Day and her online bookclub.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Win this ARC! Ask the Passengers by A. S. King

So, I read this book on Mother’s Day and had a moment.  Maybe you read about it.  If not, read about it here: A LETTER TO A. S. KING.

Anyhow, I LOVE this book. Stephanie Wilkes loves this book. Christie Gibrich loves this book.  We were all amazed by the writing and the message.  So here’s what we are going to do – give you a chance to read it too!

Good Reads Summary: 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.

Entering to win is super easy. 
Just leave a comment and tell us why you love A. S. King or any of her previous books (you have read them, right?).  And, if you Tweet about the contest and leave a link to it in the comments – boom – you are entered to win again.  Be sure to leave either an e-mail or a Twitter @ so we can contact you if you win. Thanks and good luck!
This contest is open to people in the U.S. and you have until Wednesday, August 15th to enter and win.
KEEP YOUR EYES OPEN – ANOTHER A. S. KING CONTEST IS COMING!

Because we have another fun contest coming up soon with A. S. King.  We are going to do a live Google Chat with this fabby fab author and one lucky winner will get to join us.  The fun part, we’re going to do it wearing togas! It makes sense if you read the book, trust me.  So sometime soon look for the announcement so you can enter to win to be a part of our online Google Chat with the award winning A. S. King.  The chat will be recorded and posted for everyone to see.  Like I said, details will be coming soon regarding this epic contest.
More A. S. King at TLT:
Author Jenny Torres Sanchez discusses Please Ignore Vera Deitz as part of our Why YA? series.  She will soon be doing a review of Ask the Passengers for us, so keep your eyes out for that, too.  And be sure to check out her debut novel The Downside of Being Charlie.

A letter to A. S. King

This morning I went for a walk.  Headphones in my ears, arms pumping, and there stood one lone yellow flower in a field of green grass.  Technically probably a weed.  But I looked at it and slowed . . . marveled for a moment.  In the midst of all those green blades of grass sat this burst of yellow sunshine, staking its claim.

On Friday I read Ask the Passengers.  All day long I sat around and read, turning the pages furiously.  I thought of all the teens that I have worked with over the years, how hard they fought to be able to love themselves – for their friends to love them.  For their parents to love them.  For me, for us – the adults in their lives – to love them. Unconditionally.

I remember being a teen.  It sucked with a raw sewage suckage that makes us all gag and cough and squirm and hide the truth of us in our hearts because we just want someone – anyone – to tell us that we are special.  That it is okay to be truly ourselves.  That’s all most of us want, to find a way to be at peace with ourselves.  To find a way to be a bold yellow flower that stands out in a field of green.

To be honest with you, I went to a conservative Christian college and have an undergraduate degree in youth ministry.  I am still trying to work out my thoughts and feelings about some of the issues you present in Ask the Passengers.  Even as an adult, I am still a work in progress.  Still learning to love with abandon, still learning to accept others, still learning to be a positive force in this little home to 7 billion people we call the Universe.

But . . . I found Ask the Passengers to be truly amazing.  It touched me and made me think, really think, about these games we play in life.  This is a book I will read again and again and like Pandemonium, which some people may have heard I love, it makes you think and ponder and reflect – and then you have to make choices.  Who are you going to choose to be?  How are you going to choose to live in this world?  I hope that like Astrid, we all choose to truly accept ourselves so that we can be in the position to live in the world with love.  i think that we can’t really love others until we can be at peace with ourselves.  That is why the good Lord says that we must “love others as you love yourself” . . . it’s hard to love when the core of you is full of self loathing.

You really hit the nail on the head of truth in your book: “Everybody’s always looking for the person they’re better than.”  Or how about: “What matters is finding the truth of our own lives, not caring about what other people think is the truth of us.”  I loved the way you incorporated Socrates into this work and discussed the shadow self; sadly, many of us – many teens – are living in the world of shadows.  I hope that they read Ask the Passengers and choose to step into the truth of self.

So, anyhow, until the next book – I send my love to you and out into the universe.

Karen

Ask the Passengers by A. S. King comes out in October of 2012 and is published by Little Brown.  I think that everyone who works with teens and is a teen should read this book, even though many people will struggle with some of the issues presented.  This is a thoughtful contemporary piece and a great addition to the GLBTQ bookshelf, although it is so much more than that and I hope that everyone will read it.  I have not yet read Everybody Sees the Ants – I know, I know – but Stephanie assures me that it is one of the best bullying books out there and everyone should read it, too.  And, of course, just Friday author Jenny Torres Sanchez told us all that we should read Please Ignore Vera Dietz.  So what are you doing sitting here?  Get reading!

Karen’s Edit: 6/05/12

It has been almost a month now since I read Ask the Passengers.  In the days following I took my tween for a walk and showed her a little yellow flower in the midst of a field of green grass and we talked about what it meant to be comfortable being yourself; how it was important that she allow herself to be the yellow flower and be at peace with it no matter what the green grass told her she should do or be or think or feel.  She seemed to really get it.  Every day when I take my walk I snap pictures on my cell phone and think of this book.  I was going to Tweet all the pics to A. S. King, but that is more annoying than even I am comfortable being (she probably thanks me for that).  I am re-reading Ask the Passengers though to find an amazing quote to put on one of my pictures though to print off and frame for my tweens room.  As she begins her journey into the tween and teen years, and we all know how difficult that journey can be, I want her to be inspired by Astrid’s journey and come to a place where she can say “I’m f@*king gay”, or whatever it is she needs to say for herself.  And whoever it turns out she is, I want this world to be a safe place for her.  I want this world to be a safe place for all my teens, who in many ways all become my children.  In case you were wondering, I am still loving this book.  There is deep, important truth in the pages. Remember to share the love.