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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

Felicia Day and her joyous geeky ways, a model of an online book club

So, I woke up super early this morning and didn’t know what to post and was feeling amazingly uninspired.  Then, suddenly, someone (I don’t remember who, sorry but thank you so much for the entertainment this morning) Tweeted about this online book group by Felicia Day called the Vaginal Fantasy Hangout.  All hail the power of the Internet.

Two things:
1) I love Felicia Day, she is a geeky gem and I love her geeky ways.  Just last night I watched her go all glitchy on the newest episode of Eureka.  Everyone should see her in the most fantabulous Joss Whedon’s Dr. Horrible’s Sing A Long Blog.
2) I didn’t name it that, sorry to those with more delicate sensibilities.

So I spent the morning doing extensive research for you (you’re welcome), and am really impressed with the format and think to myself – self, this would be a great way to do a book discussion group with teens and create some online content.  I’m not going to lie, it would be helpful to have some good personalities involved.  You may have noticed, but I am not a particularly funny person.  But we all know and love some teens who wear snark well, get them involved.  Bonus points if you can get them to read the book, too.

So here is what they do:

1. They have an online book discussion via Google+ Hangout.
2. They record it.
3. They upload it (to YouTube)
(Note: you could also just all meet in the same room and just record it)

Here, for example, they discuss Gabriel’s Ghost
[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lDv72DuJHwo]

They do have an online webpage and forum for the group powered by tumblr.  They post in the Goodreads forum.  They Tweet.  Basically, they are using the power of the web in all the right ways and are talking about books.  They really do talk about the books.

This is such an excellent example of how you can get teens into tech and discussing books.

As for vaginal fantasy, it appears to be fantasy with sex.  I am not sure if they made that term up themselves or if it is a real genre that I just somehow missed.  Maybe someone can clear that up in the comments for me.