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  • kjoannerixon

Ask the Passengers

Ask the Passengers is, in some ways, a formulaic Lesbian YA: people get outed, people get girlfriends, people kiss people who aren't their girlfriends, someone's parents are disappointed in them, someone's father is a disappointment. There's a Tolerance Day at school and parents who are angry that their kids are being exposed to The Homosexuals and a gay bar.

(My god, the gay bar. How I long to be in a crowd of sweating queers dancing drunkenly in a too-small room with a too-loud sound system and a DJ who plays too much Lady Gaga. How I long to go back in time to the days when I could let a stranger sweat on me without worrying about The Plague.)

The 'quirk' of this book, which sets it apart from the other Lesbian YA novels out there--surely a delightful club to be in, and a small one--is the magical realist passages, which I won't spoil, but which I loved. I love the passengers flying over head and I loved the image of Astrid laying on the picnic table(s) looking up at the sky as people soar past, so far away.

For that and other reasons, I think Ask the Passengers might be the most relatable book in this niche subgenre that I've ever read. Astrid's intense uncertainty and insistence that there is no box that can hold her felt so authentic, and I found in it a core struggle that I wish I saw more in queer media: the struggle not to just have a seamless coming out party where you pick a label that suits you and tell everyone to use it and then everyone does and it works for you because you found who you are. To me, that's the opposite of queerness. Queerness is a world without boundaries or limits, a place of transformation and change without end. Not stagnation. Not cages.

So I love that for Astrid, and I hope to share this with a young person in my life who also, like Astrid, hates being put on the spot and labeled. I just hope that the debates in philosophy class about whether gay marriage should be legal, in a school with (I'm pretty sure) no out queer students before The Astrid Situation, won't feel too out of date to the kid I'm gifting this to. They attend an urban school where, as far as I can tell, at least half the kids identify as queer or possibly-queer-if-they-meet-the-right-person. The tensions there, which do still exist, are, I think much different.

And I'm looking forward to the Lesbian YA books written by kids who grow up this way, without the sorrowful, angry loneliness of my generation. I'm really looking forward to that.



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