Ask the Passengers by A.S. King

Astrid Jones desperately wants to confide in someone, but her mother’s pushiness and her father’s lack of interest tell her they’re the last people she can trust. Instead, Astrid spends hours lying on the backyard picnic table watching airplanes fly overhead. She doesn’t know the passengers inside, but they’re the only people who won’t judge her when she asks them her most personal questions . . . like what it means that she’s falling in love with a girl.

As her secret relationship becomes more intense and her friends demand answers, Astrid has nowhere left to turn. She can’t share the truth with anyone except the people at thirty thousand feet, and they don’t even know she’s there. But little does Astrid know just how much even the tiniest connection will affect these strangers’ lives–and her own–for the better.

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The title of the book stems from Astrid’s practice of expressing herself and sending love to the passengers of overhead planes.  In turn, passengers share their love and lives with the readers. Their stories are interspersed between Astrid’s narration. Astrid herself has some really interesting family dynamics. Astrid’s pot-smoking father, her self-involved, workaholic mother, and insecure younger sister, all play a huge role in the telling of this story.  Throughout the book, Astrid’s connection with Socrates and his philosophical beliefs was a unique element. She begins to imagine him everywhere and nicknames him ‘Frank S’.  She admires him because he ‘rejected all the boxes’ and questioned everything.

However, I question why bisexuality was not further explored.  Astrid questions her sexuality, and when her parents confront her, they urge her to choose a gay or straight box. She comes to realize that we cannot force tidy labels on complex things like sexuality. Sexuality cannot always be simplified. However, in the end, she very loudly comes out as a lesbian.  Why couldn’t she be bisexual? Why did she have to choose?

Overall, I think Ask the Passengers is realistic of a girl struggling with her own sexual identity and the difficulty of coming out to her family, friends, and small town. I have several friends that went through similar situations, and ones that continue to struggle with their sexual identity. Despite the one issue, I think this book would provide comfort to those on a path of self-discovery.

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Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Sáenz

Aristotle is an angry teen with a brother in prison. Dante is a know-it-all who has an unusual way of looking at the world. When the two meet at the swimming pool, they seem to have nothing in common. But as the loners start spending time together, they discover that they share a special friendship—the kind that changes lives and lasts a lifetime. And it is through this friendship that Ari and Dante will learn the most important truths about themselves and the kind of people they want to be.

aris

Wow. What a beautiful book.  I’m so happy its receiving recognition as one of the best LGBTQ young adult novels out there.  There is so much honesty in the characters and story that readers can’t help but become emotionally involved in Ari and Dante’s relationship.  It is truly a coming of age story of two Mexican American teens trying to find their place in the world.  Told from Ari’s perspective (and a couple of letters from Dante), readers feel Ari and Dante’s love, pain, and heartache. Although the book explores sexuality and identity, Saenz also includes important themes of family and growing up. Both Ari’s and Dante’s family’s played a huge role in their lives. It was so heart warming to read about open, accepting families with unconditional love for their sons. It’s no wonder the boys were ‘crazy’ for their parents- I would be too!

Overall, this moving book will appeal to anyone who has ever felt different. There are many mysteries in life; one of the biggest is figuring out who we are and how we fit in the world.  I think this quote from the book sums it all up nicely:

 “Somewhere toward the end of the shift we all started singing U2 songs. “I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For.” Yeah, that was a good song. My theme song. But really I thought it was everybody’s theme song.”

Review- Every day by David Levithan

Every day a different body. Every day a different life. Every day in love with the same girl.

There’s never any warning about where it will be or who it will be. A has made peace with that, even established guidelines by which to live: Never get too attached. Avoid being noticed. Do not interfere.

It’s all fine until the morning that A wakes up in the body of Justin and meets Justin’s girlfriend, Rhiannon. From that moment, the rules by which A has been living no longer apply. Because finally A has found someone he wants to be with—day in, day out, day after day.

 

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Every Day is a wonderful story about love, and acceptance.  Over the course of the novel, I really began to feel for A.  I felt sorry for the way A wasn’t able to connect and grow with other individuals or experience family and love (until Rhiannon that is).  The book is written so that every chapter details the different physical body A inhabits.  Readers journey along with A as he/she transforms into different body sizes, genders, and orientations.

Although the concept of being trapped in another’s body has been done, this book felt fresh.  I enjoyed the glimpse into other people’s lives and respected that A chose to never really muddle or intrude in the lives of the bodies he inhabited.  Kudos to Levithan for making me like a character that existed without a physical body, gender, or sexual preference.  Despite not identifying with key factors, I still pictured A as male. So for the remainder of the review, I will refer to A as he.  Did anyone else picture A as male?

At times, I felt like Leviathan was coming on a bit strongly in his effort to demonstrate his own viewpoint (gender roles/sexuality as a societal construct).  For example, A mentions that he wanted to call out Rhiannon on being more attracted to him when in a male’s body.   I don’t think that is fair.  Sure, it’s the person inside that really matters, but you can’t help if you’re only physically attracted to men. It just felt judgemental in a book that is supposed to be about tolerance and understanding.

Overall, I really enjoyed this page turner of a book.  The ending was heartbreaking, but true to A’s character. Although we all have full and ‘blank days’, this book reminds us to not take our love and relationships for granted.

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