Author: Dawn O’Porter
Published: May 2nd, 2013 (Hot Key Books) (first published April 23rd 2013)
Genres/Themes: Young Adult, Realistic Fiction, Friendship, Family, Death
Rating: Three Stars
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.
With graphic content and some scenes of a sexual nature, PAPER AEROPLANES is a gritty, poignant, often laugh-out-loud funny and powerful novel. It is an unforgettable snapshot of small-town adolescence and the heart-stopping power of female friendship.
Purchase: Barnes and Noble / Amazon / Book Depository
Cover Thoughts: The cover is cute and eye-catching. The color choices and font style were interesting too. I love how the girls are in uniforms.
First Line: Flo
“You look fine. Hurry up.”
Paper Airplanes is different from any book I’ve ever head. This is putting aside the fact that it takes place in 1993 Guernsey. Paper Airplanes doesn’t shy away from usual Western offhand topics in YA Fiction like menstrual cycles and sex. Paper Airplanes is told in alternating points of views between Renee and Flo. Renee has a harder exterior that is often seen through Flo’s eyes. In Renee’s own point of view, we see the issues she’s dealing with and why she acts the way she does. Flo is a much more quiet girl who’s over-shadowed by her friend Sally. From the first line, it’s easy to feel for Flo as she gets pushed around by Sally.
Both of the girls have somewhat dysfunctional home lives. I found the home life and friend situations to be realistic. Renee lives with her grandparents and younger sister after her mother dies. Her grandparents don’t speak of Renee’s mother which causes a strain between the family. Renee also has a younger sister she lives with. Flo lives with her mother and brother. Her mother has a bitter relationship with Flo’s father and doesn’t care for him at all. Flo loves her father and this causes problems. Flo’s mother also makes Flo take care of her younger sister Abi and doesn’t take Flo’s feelings into account at all. The home lives of the main characters were relatable, but I wish they were expanded a bit more.
Flo is in a toxic friendship with Sally and has low self-esteem and confidence due to this. Renee is friends with two other girls named Carla and Gem. Carla and Gem are more like best friends than Renee is. They’re a lot closer to each other and Renee feels left out. I found this especially relatable because when two people are already great friends, it can be hard to make yourself really known to them.
I would have liked to see more of Renee and Flo’s friendship. I know that’s the focal point of Paper Airplanes and although they didn’t begin as friends, I wasn’t completely invested in their friendship. It seemed to be a bit rushed and they didn’t seem to spend much time together before connecting. Renee and Flo connect to each other over their bad family backgrounds and lack of real friends.
Paper Airplanes showcased a lot of issues, from the dysfunctional families, to pregnancy, death, abuse, toxic friends and newfound friendship itself. I think for the most part Porter portrayed it all very well. I will say I wish Renee and Flo didn’t face the same obstacle, but I liked that they could relate to each other through that obstacle.
Something I liked about Paper Airplanes is the setting. I loved that it took place in the 90s and in an area I hadn’t previously heard of. I rate Paper Airplanes three stars, I wish it had been longer and there was a bigger focus on the friendship. I thought the rushed ending was wrapped up a bit too neatly, unbelievably.. I’m glad there was definite closure in it though. On the other hand, I didn’t like how some problems weren’t addressed fully, such as an issue involving Renee’s younger sister. I wish Sally and Julan, Flo’s brother were better fleshed out as they seemed a little one dimensional. It was a bit of a struggle to finish Paper Airplanes. it wasn’t bad, but I liked it okay. It was definitely very authentic and felt true to life.
Renee and Flo’s friendship was ultimately touching and I could relate to both girls and felt badly for them. I would recommend Paper Airplanes even though I didn’t love it as much as I thought I would. I love how the author, Dawn, used her own diaries she kept as a teenage for inspiration for Paper Airplanes.
Fans of character driven novels
Fans of friendship in stories
“I feel like a waste of space. Like my whole life has been building up to the moment I failed. Like I don’t have the energy to make up for what I’ve done, or to start again, or for anything. I feel like I want to be someone else.’
“I have two choices in life: I either try to do the right thing and get accused of being selfish, or I just do what is right for me and get called selfish anyway. This time, it’s all about me.”
“You don’t have to tell me you’re fine. I’m not fine. You’re not fine either. We can be honest with each other about that, can’t we?’