Earlier this summer, I had this grand plan to finally catch up on all of A.S. King‘s backlist, because I knew that Glory O’Brien’s History of the Future was coming out and I feel compelled to read things in order. So I read Ask the Passengers, which was her fourth novel but only my second of hers, and clearly this plan was not well thought out from the beginning but I had good intentions, and then I got caught up in all the other books that came out this summer and I was like, eff it, I’ll catch up later, give me my teenagers drinking dead bats.
Because, um, that’s kind of the thing that happens in this book. Not the only thing, obviously, but the thing that everyone’s talking about because weird.
There’s no real reason why Glory and her friend Ellie drink this bat, except that there’s this bat, see, and it’s dead and kind of mummified and there’s this beer, see, and it’s beer and makes all sorts of ideas seem good, and also Glory’s not really sure Ellie is her friend and she’s not sure what her future holds, having not applied to any colleges and having no plan for her “gap year”, and she’s got a dead mom and an absent-ish father and you know, you gotta try everything once, right?
And that, that right there, is why I am in love with this book. There’s the weird-pants conceit of the story, which is that Glory drinks this bat and starts seeing the past and future of every sentient creature she looks at (except for herself), but there’s also this completely realistic base for the story, in which people are people and they have issues and also Issues and they do things and stuff happens and sometimes it’s important.
But also I love the weird-pants part of the story, in which Glory sees people’s pasts and futures and realizes that a) everyone’s got a messed-up life, not just her, and b) that if she gets off her indecisive butt, she can help make the world a lot less messed up. Because as she looks into everyone’s future, she pieces together a world not dissimilar to the one in The Handmaid’s Tale, in which women are legislated into, like, absolutely-last-class status and the country finally splits apart over the issue and there is war and horror and it’s… not great, is what I’m saying. And I’m not sure exactly when King wrote certain parts of this book, but some of the events she has leading up to this awful future have already, recently, come to pass and it’s a liiiiiittle creepy.
I know that at least my corner of the internet is saturated with anti-misogyny rants and pro-awesome-women posts, and it is possible that you are already like, I am not going to read this book that thinks all men are terrible, but let me assure you that this future business is just a small part of the novel, and that “we shouldn’t hate women” is not the only take-away from this story. Glory’s path leads to the realization that she is important in her own way that has nothing to do with her family and the legacy left by her mother’s suicide, that friendship is an imperfect science, and that life is more complicated than anyone wants it to be, among other small lessons learned. Her history of the future could just as easily be about climate change or racism or a world in which teens fight each other to the death, but I am both not surprised and happy that King chose ladies and their rights to write about. Though “A.S. King writes The Hunger Games” is a thing the internet needs to get on right away. I’ll be right here.
Where was I? Oh, right. Glory O’Brien is an awesome kid who is going to do awesome things, and I kind of wish she were real so I could say I knew her when.
Recommendation: For lovers of realistic but not too realistic teen fiction.