Tuesday, 23 December 2014

Paper Aeroplanes - Dawn O'Porter

Published: May 2013
Publisher: Hot Key
Pages: 261


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.


I was forced to read Paper Aeroplanes by a friend of mine who absolutely adored it and was convinced I would too. She was partly right , I didn’t love it as much as she did, but I did really enjoy it. Paper Aeroplanes is Dawn O’Porter’s first novel, and I must say that she has got her writing career off to a flying start.  The book follows the lives of two teenage girls, Reneé and Flo, as they grow up on the the island of Guernsey in the nineties. While Paper Aeroplanes is a real bildungsroman, it’s not necessarily a teenage or YA book. I enjoyed it, being reasonably close to the girls’ age, but I think anyone who grew up in the nineties , or anyone who has ever been a teenaged girl ( as Caroline Flack nicely put it ) will love this book.

The first major thing I noticed in the book was Flo’s relationship with Sally. Flo is scared stiff of the domineering Sally, but doesn’t seem to realise that what they have isn’t a real friendship. Sally keeps Flo around for the sole purpose of putting her down and criticising her to make herself feel better. Their relationship is completely dysfunctional, but quite realistic. I feel like it is a relationship that many girls have once or twice in their life, but it never seems to be dealt with in any YA literature, and O’Porter deals with it very effectively here.

In contrast, the relationship between Flo and Reneé is a real one. Despite the fact it’s super important, I found that the way O’Porter portrayed the relationship a bit soppy, but I’m probably the only one who thinks that.

The book is filled with complex relationships, and Julian and Renee’s is just one of them. I’m extremely confused as to if Julian is taking advantage of Reneé or not. I finally came to the conclusion that O’Porter uses their relationship to highlight the fact that just because someone’s up for some sex stuff, doesn’t mean they’re up for or ready for ALL the sex stuff and that you still have to be careful.

We also see examples of how people deal with grief and loss. Renneé loses both of her parents, her mother dies of cancer and her father runs away to Spain leaving Reneé and her sister Nell with their grandparents. We can still see the after effects of her mother’s death years previously on the family and the way they are still struggling , all these years later, to come to terms with it.

On a lighter note, I loved the nineties stuff. As someone who grew up during the explosion of electronic media , mobile phones etc I found it really interesting to see the way teenagers interacted without all these things. I love that they throw paper aeroplane notes to each other, they use payphones and landlines to call each other, and the fashion they talk about being cool you wouldn’t be caught dead in now. I’m sure anyone who was around back then would enjoy this blast from the past.

Overall this is an extremely decent contemporary coming-of-age story and I would recommend everyone who wants an easy but fulfilling read, that is really hard to put down once you start reading.
Four Stars ****

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