"Outside a dog a book is man's best friend, inside a dog it is too dark to read!" -Groucho Marx========="The person, be it gentleman or lady, who has not pleasure in a good novel, must be intolerably stupid." -Jane Austen========="I don’t believe in the kind of magic in my books. But I do believe something very magical can happen when you read a good book."-JK Rowling========"I spend a lot of time reading." -Bill Gates=========“Ahhh. Bed, book, kitten, sandwich. All one needed in life, really.” -Jacqueline Kelly=========

Monday, January 21, 2013

Review: Ask the Passengers by A.S. King

So far I have read twenty-three books in preparation for the 2013 Mock Printz Workshop (which I will be hosting on January 28th in my library.) I know, that is the day that the actual Printz awards will be announced but I had to pick that late date because of school related conflicts like "Finals Week" and the Poetry Out Loud School-wide Contest. (Needless to say I will have to go on an Internet blackout that day or I might accidentally bump into the results before my workshop, and that would blow the whole thing.) Anyway.... I've been reading like crazy and I keep adding books onto the already too long list to try and consume in this ninth hour. Ask the Passengers by A.S. King  is one such book. It came out in late October, well after our Mock Printz list was established.  I started hearing good things about the book as soon as it was published. With budget issues and then the holidays, I didn't even get a copy for the library until early January.  By that time there was a strong chorus of voices singing it's praise.

With all that build-up you will be surprised to learn that my initial reaction was "meh." When I read books deserving of the Printz Award, I want something special, super special. Hadn't I read this book before or a variation of it? You know the book I'm talking about, where the main character is confused about sexuality but the parents and friends all are too messed up or distracted to be emotionally available to help? Or the book that is set is such a small (minded and/or sized) community that the people are all in everyone's business and carry with them stereotypes and judgments reinforced by the rest of the community. And lastly, a tale of woe where the main character has friends and seems fairly well adjusted until one critical error causes everyone's opinion to turn on a dime.  I hate that. Where are the adults when the kids need them and all the harassment is happening in the halls? Couldn't a story about a questioning teen ever be set in a supportive community with parents and adults who understand that navigating through adolescence is difficult and often requires TLC and in a world where school personnel who do their job to keep kids safe?  *Sigh. Guess you can tell that is a big deal for me.

Lest you think I'm being a bit harsh, remember I am judging this book against the "special standard" in my mind for potential award books. And my first reaction was "no, this book doesn't meet the specialness standard." But what about the interesting conversations that Astrid has with socrates? And how about the passengers on the airplanes that receive her love? And why did I care so much about what happened to Astrid in her hour of need? Hmm...maybe there really are quite a few special aspects of this story.

I really enjoyed the blog post by A.S. King where she talked about the book along with her influences and inspirations. This post actually helped me see the book in a new light. She said that she really wanted the story to be about love.  Please go read the whole post but here is just a snippet:

In Ask the Passengers, Astrid Jones has a lot of love. And like many people her age (17) she would like to find love, too. Except that she’s very confused about a lot of things. Because she thinks she might love a girl…and she’s a girl. And that’s complicated in her town and in her family and in her society and in her world. But it really isn’t. Love is love. Nobody can tell me it isn’t. Nobody can tell me that my love is more important, real or relevant than another person’s love.

She also talks about philosophers and her motivation for including them in the book:
So, when Astrid Jones explores philosophy during her time of questioning, she has that same mix of love and hate I experienced when I was first introduced to philosophy. On one hand, Zeno infuriates her because he seems to be complicating something simple. On the other hand, Socrates and his need to question everything and open minds helps her open her own mind and see the world the same as The Allegory of the Cave, and in so doing, he helps her realize that very simple fact—no matter what the shadows in the cave say, love is love. -A.S. King on Book Smuggler
Gives one quite a bit to think about. One of my teen readers, a male, returned the book on Friday with this comment: "Wow, this book is good. I'd give it a 9 out of 10. I think it should be considered for our Mock Printz." Sounds good to me.  What are your thoughts on the book?



  1. I haven't read this one, though I would like to, meh or not. I have read The Dust of 100 Dogs and LOVED it!

  2. Great reading your thoughts on this one. Please Ignore Vera Dietz is one of my favourites, and this one fell short of my expectations. HOWEVER! King's writing is so beautiful, so assured, and there is so much greatness within the book.

  3. I tried to add this book to my TBR list today and it was already there! I keep hearing good things about it. Interesting that you weren't really sold on it until you'd thought about it some more and read the author interview. I still want to read this one.


    Great Books for Kids and Teens

    Book By Book

  4. I haven't read this one yet, but I'll make sure it's in our library and prominently displayed


I look forward to your comments and interactions! Join in the conversation.