Having grown up in New York City, Astrid is feeling suffocated by her new home in a too-small town where most of her family just can’t seem to fit in. Her mother works from home and rarely leaves the house, lest she hear the whispers of the neighbors, and Astrid’s father has chosen to manage his stress by smoking pot instead. Astrid’s younger sister embraces her new surroundings, but Astrid herself can’t stand them.
Small towns are full of secrets and rumors, and this one is no exception. Astrid’s been keeping secrets for her best friends, Kristina and Justin, the town’s golden couple, who are more than they appear. But Astrid has her own secret even Kristina doesn’t know: she’s been dating a girl for a few months. Surrounded by closed-minded people and pressured by her girlfriend to just “come out already,” Astrid is struggling with her identity and which label she feels fits her best—if any labels fit at all. Astrid plays out these questions in make-believe conversations with Socrates and by imagining the lives of the passengers in the planes flying overhead. Unfortunately, secrets can’t be kept for too long, and Astrid is running out of time.
Ask the Passengers is very enjoyable and full of memorable and vibrant characters. Astrid’s fears and questions are real and valid and treated as such, which is not always the case in the usual questioning and coming out stories. There are a lot of connections to philosophy and Socrates that allow the reader to wonder about the truths of the universe as well. The interludes with the passengers are very creative and help keep the story fresh and moving, while still connecting to Astrid’s life. There are a lot of strong emotions in this book, which shine through thanks to A. S. King’s strong writing and the narration by Devon Sorvari in the audiobook edition.