Thursday, January 17, 2013

Ask the Passengers

I could list a multitude of reasons to read Ask the Passengers by A. S. King, but it's already been done by Sarah Couri in her post for School Library Journal. She writes, "Ask  has all the good stuff we've come to expect from King: strong and complex characters; fascinating, true to life relationships; intricate, rich themes."

I love that Socrates is mentioned in the novel, and is even a character. Important questions haven't changed since ancient times. For instance, the notion that we can know others only indirectly, as if we are all shadows cast by a fire on the wall of a cave and we see only the shadows. In other words, truth is different than what we see.

In fact, seventeen year-old Astrid Jones learns that what she believes in the beginning of the novel about her friends, for instance, is a complete lie. They aren't what she thinks. In the small town of Unity, her friends know that people are placed in boxes and there is no middle ground for those who don't exactly fit. Concerning sexuality, better to be placed in a straight box and be accepted than finding yourself in a gay box, even if it involves lying about who you are.

But Astrid doesn't want to be in any box in the town of Unity. She finds she loves a girl named Dee, but it confuses her. She needs more time to sort out what it means. When the topic of Astrid's sexuality comes up Mom asks:

"YOU'RE GAY NOW?" she says. . . "You're sure? You're gay?" Her frown wrinkles two deep vertical lines between her eyebrows. "Because last time we talked you weren't gay, remember?"

Mom need categories as much as Astrid needs time. Truth does not lie neatly in categories and boxes.

Astrid has to establish boundaries with Dee who is more settled about her sexual identity. Though it is difficult, Astrid decides for herself what she wants and what is good for her during her senior year. The same theme about teen sexual identity was suggested by Green and Leviathan in the novel Will Grayson, Will Grayson. 

Ask the Passengers will encourage kids to think for themselves, which is why I include this YA novel here.

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