I have JUST THIS SECOND finished reading Paper Aeroplanes. I’ve been sitting in a car in the most uncomfortable position in the world, at first stopping every few seconds to adjust the small cushion protecting my back from the sticky-out bit in the door (I just bought this car, why on earth did I think sticky-out door bits were a good idea?), but then forgetting all about the discomfort as I drew towards the ending. What a fantastic book.
Plot and Characters
I know it might seem like I set up this blog in order to give positive reviews to everything, or to only review books I liked, but I am reviewing them as I read them and have genuinely liked everything I’ve read in this time.
The plot was great. I loved that the story was about love, but about that special kind of love that only teenage girls have for a best friend – the one who sticks with you through everything. Romantic relationships featured (obviously – I mentioned teenage girls, right?), but they were not the be-all and end-all of the story. Massive kudos there.
One thing I found quite difficult in this book was telling the difference between the two families. I liked the dual narrative – I thought it gave a unique insight into both of their worlds – but I did find it very difficult to differentiate between Renee and Flo. I kept on having to crawl, bleary-eyed, out of the story in order to figure out which family I was with – Nan and Pop, or Mum and Abi. There, that’s the only negative thing I have to say about this book out of the way. Phew! And I do have quite a track record for being pretty rubbish at keeping characters in my head.
Despite my difficulty in figuring out who was talking, I did love the characters, and again find myself wanting to find out more about the ‘villain’ of the piece. Who actually is Sally? Why did she get that way? Is her dad violent at home as well? Why does her mum apologise for him? Why is she so preoccupied with her appearance? She’s a great character and a great antagonist who helped me learn more about Flo, but I am just intensely curious about her, and just intensely curious about the lives of villains in general. I’m sure you can tell where I come down in the Angel/Spike argument, can’t you?
The plot was pieced together beautifully. Thinking back on it now, so many different things happened. It’s a difficult task, to keep a reader interested throughout an entire academic year and not leave any weird gaps in time, but O’Porter did it fantastically and with such delicacy. Nothing felt over-done or glossed over, it just moved at the pace of normal life.
I can never quite decide whether my favourite kind of writing is that in which you don’t even realise you’re reading a story it runs so smoothly, or in which you feel you have to have a notebook by you to write down all of the little snippets you want to keep with you the entire time. I’m looking at you, John Green. For me, Paper Aeroplaces is the former of these two styles. I was hardly aware I was reading a story because the writing was so fluid. Nothing felt unnatural, and O’Porter has absolutely nailed the teenage voice. I was a teenager in perhaps the last ever generation to pass notes as a regular form of communication (now it’s all texting underneath the table) and so I loved all of the little bits and pieces from this era. It benefitted from a modern eye (don’t think I didn’t catch that comment about computers – a definite laugh out loud moment), and just took me right back to my school years. I attended a girls’ school as well, and it took me a while to work out why it was so familiar to me but as soon as I realised, I couldn’t not realise. The writing is incredibly true of my experience, and I like that from the reaction I seem to get from teenage girls today, they can identify with it as well. I think it’s very important to understand how people grow up differently, from different neighbourhoods to different schools to different eras – it’s all part of understanding our place in the world and understanding how other people think. This book is such a gift in helping current teenagers understand what it was like to be a teenager 20 years ago.
I do think this is an important book in teaching young girls that friendship is the most important thing you can have in your teenage years – even more important than relationships. I have never visited Guernsey and wasn’t there in 1994, so bear in mind that this is an uneducated comment, but a comment nonetheless: this is not a diverse book. The characters are never described as anything other than white, straight and able-bodied. If I could have one wish for this book, it would just be some more diversity. Give me the gay! Screw historical accuracy, I just want the gay!
I just wanted to make a quick, spoiler-free mention of a paragraph that gave me shivers. The part where Flo looks back at Renee and wonders how to greet her just instantly reminded me of when Renee is doing the exact same thing, and both of their reactions are just absolutely fantastic. You’ll know it when you read it, and I hope you get goosebumps like I did!
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Manipulative relationships, sexual assault, statutory rape, parental death, neglectful parents.