Ask the Passengers/A.S. King: Reflections

Monday, November 19, 2012

When I read the books of writer-friends, I read differently.  This can't be helped.  The book isn't my friend, and my friend isn't the book—but.  I can hear her in the pages.  I can somehow see beyond the pages.  My writer friend has told writer stories—how she changed the end, how she wasn't positive, how she's her own gnarly radiator of love (okay, truth:  I called her the gnarly radiator of love)—and these writer-at-work stories are embedded, their traces can be found.  The making is at one with the made.

And yet.

The best books are always more than.  This is abundantly true of A.S. King and her newest novel, Ask the Passengers.  Astrid Jones, the novel's teen star, lives in a gossip town among They said-ers, in a household so simultaneously rigid and lax that it may just be falling apart.  Astrid could very possibly and positively be in love, but she's not sure.  Well maybe Astrid is sure, about the love part, but she doesn't know what loving another girl means.  Does it define her?  Box her?  Label her?  Does it make her worthy of a gossip town's gossip?  Can Socrates and his paradoxes save her?  Can her own love, sent out into the universe, be boomeranged right back?  And can a bunch of bronzed, skinny cheerleaders spell the word TOLERANCE?

That's Ask the Passengers, in a paragraph. But it's also not.  Because the reason this book has so many stars and so many people talking is that it all goes deeper than that.  King has allowed herself to love her characters; she has also (fiercely) relinquished them, which is to say she has not hidden their faults, lies, worst hours.  She has refused to judge them, or to sell them short, or to make them one-dimensional for the sake of plot.  She hasn't written a gimmick of a book.  She hasn't merely shown us how deep her talent runs.

Instead, A.S. King has set out to remind us of important things about how we treat both the world and ourselves.  Which is to say that she has given deeply of her truest and most radiating, radiant she-self.


Sarah Laurence said...

Wow, that sounds great!

A.S. King said...

Oh Beth! I'm so glad you enjoyed it.
That's really all that matters. :)

Liviania said...

I loved Ask the Passengers so much. It might not be all about A.S. King's talent, but that's only because she's good enough to disguise how good she is.

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