author: Kimberly Pauley
date: Soho Teen; April 2014
main character: Aria Morse
Ask Me is the most recent offering from Kimberly Pauley who self describes as “half Chinese half everything else”. She was born in California and now lives in London. Pauley is the founder of YA Books Central, one of the largest teen book websites in the world.
Ask Me is a the story of Aria, a paranormal teen growing up in Florida with her grandparents. Like her grandmother, Aria has the ability to give and honest answer to any questions she hears. She provides an answer whether or not the question is directed at her. And, the answer is sometimes more of a riddle. This ability came to Aria at the age of twelve. Imagine being a 12 year old girl living with your grandparents who struggle to make ends meet and you suddenly find yourself blurting our answers to every question you hear. Aria was not very popular.
As a defense mechanism, she chose to wear earbuds as much as possible to block the questions. But, when Jade, the one classmate who defended her turns up dead, the questions fly so fast that Aria cannot avoid hearing or answering them. She hears herself speak truths that she does not know how to handle. And she actually begins connecting to people.
She gets to know Will and Alex, the two boys who had been involved with Jade. Each of them warns her about the other and Aria follows her instincts in deciding who to trust. Readers wonder who will bring harm to Aria and who may be behind the murders but Aria trusts that she knows. Pauley maintains the intrigue about who really killed Jade until the very end.
Aria was meant to be a weak character, one with no friends and little confidence in herself but in giving her so little support, Pauley neglected to develop her beyond her supernatural ability. She was simply a girl who answered questions. When she finally begins to have a relationship with Will, he manages to speak to her in a way that doesn’t ask questions; that allows her to have a choice in what she says. While this had to be so empowering for her, why did this freedom have to come from a male friend?
Nonetheless, Pauley wrote this scene so well that readers will feel the flip of the switch when Aria becomes turned on to him.
The ability to answer questions is an usual talent in which Pauley explores the power of truth and coming of age by embracing both our talents and our voice. Ask Me is a fun, smooth read that keeps you wondering to the end.