2013: Hot Key Books UK
2014: Amulet/ABRAMS US
Paper Airplanes is the debut novel from columnist/journalist Dawn O’Porter, set on the small British island of Guernsey in 1994. The story focuses on two girls, Renée and Flo, and the friendship that develops between them after they both suffer great personal losses.
I was really intrigued to read this novel. Usually contemporary is far from my favorite genre, but the idea of a uniquely British friendship story (set in the 90s at that!) drew me in. I appreciated that Renée and Flow went through struggles and setbacks that were portrayed realistically – one of this novel’s few strengths.
It was…ok. O’Porter did a great job of representing some of those completely unique moments of being a teenage girl, and also the way families cope – or rather, don’t cope – with loss. However, that’s where Paper Airplanes‘ strengths end. The rest of the novel was underwhelming, to say the lest. The whole subplot with Renée and Flo’s brother Julian felt cheap, because it exploited both the “having a crush on your friend’s sibling” and “losing your virginity” tropes, and badly at that. Renée’s “relationship” with Julian isn’t exactly believable, and it gets to glossed over at the end that I had to wonder what was the point of it even happening. Sally’s entire storyline (spoilers: she’s awful and ends up preggers!) similarly felt pointless and verged well past cliché. And since I’m putting my cards on the table here – the ending really took the cake. All this happens to and between the girls, and then miraculously everything is great! Flo’s mother becomes present and starts taking care of her family, Renée’s aunt shows up and magically solves all of her problems. It was just…too much. For a book that starts out as such a true depiction of being a teen girl, it ends on a cookie cutter note that felt completely lacking.
This book is a great example of what I have trust issues when it comes to contemporary YA.
…but now I’m really craving cheesy chips from Hassan’s in Oxford. Great.
Overall: 2.5 stars