Friday, 14 June 2013
Review: Paper Aeroplanes by Dawn O'Porter
Publisher: Hot Key Books
Released: May 2nd, 2013
I just can't imagine me without you... It's the mid-1990s, and fifteen year-old Guernsey schoolgirls, Renée and Flo, are not really meant to be friends. Thoughtful, introspective and studious Flo couldn't be more different to ambitious, extroverted and sexually curious Renée. But Renée and Flo are united by loneliness and their dysfunctional families, and an intense bond is formed. Although there are obstacles to their friendship (namely Flo's jealous ex-best friend and Renée's growing infatuation with Flo's brother), fifteen is an age where anything can happen, where life stretches out before you, and when every betrayal feels like the end of the world. For Renée and Flo it is the time of their lives.
I read Paper Aeroplanes in a few hours; it's a compulsive read with well-drawn, realistic characters and situations and writing that drew me from page one. If I didn't know better I wouldn't have pegged Dawn O'Porter as a debut novelist - it doesn't show at all, but that's what she is. As far as debut novels go, this is a great one she should be very proud of.
Paper Aeroplanes is quite a simple story when you analyse it, but sometimes the simplest stories have more heart than giant elaborate ones. It's about two fifteen-year-old girls, Renee and Flo, living in Guernsey in 1994. Told in alternating narratives, each girl's story unfolds equally and soon I couldn't help but love both of them. I love books that include two points of view, and this one does it well.
Friendship is at the heart of this story, though family is also a huge part of it. Any girl will know exactly what Renee and Flo are going through, it took me back to being fifteen and sometimes feeling more alone than I actually was. It's a time of change for any teenagers and Dawn O'Porter has embodied that so well here, thanks in part to her own teenage diaries she unearthed and used as inspiration when writing the book. There are plenty of embarrassing, cringeworthy moments that girls will be all too familiar with (sigh), but there's also a sense of belonging and that everything really will be ok in the end.
Loss is a major theme running through Paper Aeroplanes, which is something that a lot of readers will be familiar with. Although it isn't my favourite subject
to read about, I do think it's important to include it and get it out there, as who knows how many teenagers a book like this will help and comfort. Losing anybody is heartbreaking and difficult, and this book captures the subsequent feelings perfectly.
I enjoyed getting to know Flo and Renee and being in their lives for this most important snapshot of their teen years. Paper Aeroplanes is an honest portrayal of what it's like to experiment and discover new things, as well as shining a light on the feelings of fear and despair when life doesn't quite go to plan. Here's another YA author I'll be keeping an eye on - I'm expecting great things to come!