Ask the Passengers is an interesting look at one teen girl’s struggle with coming out. Astrid lives in a small town in Pennsylvania. She feels alienated from her family; her mom is a bitch, her dad is stoned all the time and her sister Ellis isn’t interested. Astrid’s two best friends are gay, but pretend to date each other as a cover. Astrid has been sort of seeing Dee Roberts, a girl she works with, for a couple of months. She isn’t sure how she feels about being gay and doesn’t really want anyone to know. After she finally comes out to her friends they get busted for being underage at a gay club. Now Astrid is completely alone as rumors fly and relationships deteriorate. She struggles with whether she should label herself as gay and what she should tell her parents.
The thing I liked about this book was how realistic it was. It can’t be easy for someone living in a small town to come out. Astrid is feeling pressure from all sides. Dee is out so she is uber-pushy in wanting Astrid to come out; she is also pushy to increase their physical relationship which pisses Astrid off and makes her uncomfortable. Her friends want to know all about her sexuality even though they keep theirs hidden. Her mom seems only interested in her sister and her sister enjoys the attention. Dad has checked out, sneaking out to the garage to get high all the time. As Astrid studies the philosophers, particularly Socrates (who she renames Frank), she starts questioning everything and having imaginary conversations with Frank. The title of the book comes from Astrid’s habit of watching planes and sending her love to them. She doesn’t feel like she has a place to give her love so she sends it off to those flying above her.
I like Astrid; she is sarcastic and snarky and unsure. She doesn’t want to be part of the rumor mill. She just wants to be herself, without labels or questions. I thought her family’s response to her sexuality was pretty typical. I also thought the response of the town was pretty typical. Equality is not a given, even in this day and age. People are still small-minded and filled with hate. I think the message of acceptance in this book is a good one and something we should all strive for.