Ask the Passengers by A.S. King
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
As in Everybody Sees the Ants, A.S. King has created a lead character who doesn't quite fit in and who has a very strong internal voice. Astrid was born in New York City but by age 10 she and her family have moved to Small Town Pennsylvania because it's where her mother's family came from (and is somehow a healthier environment than NYC). Of course, like every small town, Unity Valley is filled with gossip, hate mongering and small minds.
Astrid's father has lost a succession of back-office jobs and smokes pot to escape, her mother is a work-from-home art director who dresses as though she's going to the NYC headquarters every day, and her sister has embraced sports. Astrid finds her escape by lying out in the backyard, looking at the sky at the overhead planes and sending her love to the passengers. She has two friends in school, both of whom are gay but are a couple (to cover for each other, of course) and perhaps a girlfriend at her weekend catering job.
Much of the book deals with acceptance of self, of sexuality, of ideas (Astrid is in the humanities class, struggling to understand Xeno and making friends with "Frank" Socrates). When Astrid and friends are part of an underage drinking raid at a gay club, everyone - family, friends and schoolmates - reacts in predictable ways, with all the gossip and fear and incomprehension that go hand-in-hand with small town life.
What saves this book is what saves Ants: Astrid's inner voices (usually, the voices of the gossip mongers, but sometimes those of others), her conversations with Frank, and what happens after she releases her love to the passengers flying in the air above her. It would have been helpful to have more on Xeno's theory of motion and the Socratic method, but that's a minor quibble.
ARC provided by the publisher.