Ask the Passengers by A.S. King
“Justin and Kristina have been doing this dating thing since mid-sophomore year, so the people-being-overly-nice-to-Justin thing extends to her. Sometimes, it even extends to me, too, if I show up at times like this when they are mobbed in the parking lot, but today I don’t feel like it. They’re all probably saying, “Hope you win Homecoming king and queen! You’ve got my vote!” and stuff like that. I decide to get in my car and wait for the activity buses to leave. I reach into the glove compartment for a bottle of Rolaids and shake out three to chew on.”
Astrid and her father used to build picnic tables and birdhouses. Now she lies on the picnic table, sending her love to the passengers on the planes overhead and making up stories about them. Life at home right now is pretty loveless. Her mother is the ultimate workaholic bitch; her father is dealing with life through marijuana; her younger sister is the ultimate daughter/soccer player.
Astrid herself is an honors student with two gay best friends, disguising themselves as the ultimate boyfriend/girlfriend/Homecoming king/queen while having affairs. Astrid is concerned about herself turning inward much of the time, articulating this nicely. She loves Dee, a girl with whom she works, but doesn’t necessarily want to be forced into the “gay corner.” She is confused with no one to turn to.
The story is thorough and subtly satisfying. Within her dysfunctional family, Astrid is able to cope, even knowing she needs help, and love. She wants to understand her life and those around her while not adhering to any stereotype. Although she thinks she might be gay, Astrid has teen reactions to sex at too fast a pace. Teachers’ reactions to Astrid, and students’ reactions to teachers are sometimes blatant, and sometimes subtle. This all forms a great mix of important issues and memorable characters.
A teen’s search for identity, self-discovery, and love are themes incredibly well done, with humor and understanding. Ages 12 and up.