Paper Aeroplanes (Paper Aeroplanes #1) by Dawn O’Porter
Published May 2, 2013 by Hot Key Books
Source: ARC from Michelle and purchased a finished copy
Rating: 5 stars
From the blurb: 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.
It’s not often I re-read books, these days it’s because I do not have the time and because I fear my reaction to a 5 star read the second time around – what if I don’t like it as much? What it if re-reading it totally changes my feelings? I chose to re-read Paper Aeroplanes because I never reviewed it when I read it six months ago, and because I have the sequel and wanted to refresh my memory. I’m happy to report that Paper Aeroplanes did not suffer from a re-read, if anything I loved it even more.
Paper Aeroplanes by Dawn O’Porter is set in Guernsey, an island off the coast of France, in 1994. Renee Sargent and Flo Parrot are fifteen year olds attending Tudor Falls, an all-girls high school, and this is the year they become best friends.
The story is told from both Renee and Flo’s perspective and each girl provided a distinct voice and point of view. Renee’s mum died from cancer eight years ago. Since then her father left them and she and younger sister Nell now live with their grandparents. Her Pop is always putting her down and harassing her, usually before she’s had a chance to actually do the things she’s being accused of. Nell seems to hate her but won’t talk to her. School is an escape for her, somewhere she can be herself. She enjoys making jokes, playing tricks, and skiving classes. Flo lives at home with her mum, older brother Julian and baby sister Abi. Her mum kicked her father out and now taking care of Abi falls to Flo as her mum just doesn’t care. Her father, who she loves dearly, lives in a rundown house and now drinks a lot, she feels as though she’s the only one who loves him and that he’s the only one she can talk to. Her so-called best friend is atrocious. Sally is one of the meanest girls I’ve read about, she constantly puts Flo down but Flo doesn’t want the hassle of trying to ditch her.
Renee and Flo are perfect for each other and watching them become best friends was a highlight of this book. They have different situations but they are also so similar – they both have unhappy home lives, they both have friends who aren’t really their friends, they both understand the grief of losing someone close to you. Their friendship wasn’t perfect, they had ups and downs, but that was so realistic of any friendship, teenage or adult.
The author loosely based this story on her teenage diaries and it really lent such an authentic atmosphere to the book. I could picture the island, how it made the girls feel so hemmed in. Their houses too gave off such a strong feeling of sadness and tension. Dawn was also not afraid to write honestly about so many topics from periods, sex, and masturbation, to family and friends. Her writing perfectly captured teenage life and there is so much here for teens to relate to no matter how different their lives are to Flo and Renee’s.
The story wraps up perfectly, there is resolution for every plot line, and a sense that these two are ready to move on and tackle their next year of school together. The first time I read this I didn’t know there’d be a sequel, but now that I know, I am so keen to read more about Renee & Flo.
This is a fantastic book for teens and adults, and not just girls even though it does focus on more girl-related issues. I’d recommend this for anyone who loves honest, realistic contemporary stories, the 90s, and for fans of My Mad Fat Diary.