Paper Aeroplanes by Dawn O'Porter
Author: Dawn O'Porter Website|Twitter
Published: 2 May 2013 (Hot Key Books)
Buy the paperback: Amazon|BookDepository
Buy the e-book: Kindle|Kobo
Plot Summary (from Goodreads):
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.
I have been wanting to read this book for a long time, and the author Leakycon was the kick up the backside I needed! Paper Aeroplanes tells the story of Renée and Flo, classmates who end up drawn into a fast friendship.
I LOVED this book. There are so many things I loved about it but the characters - oh my gosh - they were fantastic. The book is told in first person, alternating between the two girls point of view. Renée and Flo are so recognisable, realistic and genuinely brilliant. The two of them are quite different which I loved. Renée is the rebel, smoking and skiving off school, whereas Flo is the more level-headed, quiet one (I'm totally a Flo not a Renée). They're not friends at the beginning of the book so their friendship is one we get to see grow and develop. I adored how they just sort of gravitated towards each other. They were totally meant to be friends. It was great to see how Flo and Renée's relationships with their other friends play out as well. I absolutely loathed Flo's friend Sally who is an absolute cow (in my book journal where I make notes whilst reading I actually wrote EVIL SALLY in all caps) but it made me root for Flo even more. Plus Renée's friends are just on a different planet to her. I just want to talk about how much I love Renée and Flo and how much I ship them as friends. It's so refreshing to get that invested in a friendship! I need a Renée in my life.
From the beginning it's clear the two girls each have quite a lot going on in their home lives. Renée has lost her mum and is living with her clueless grandparents and a sister who is struggling to cope. Flo on the other hand is dealing with her parents separating and having to look after her little sister, who her mum seems to have abandoned. I just felt so much for both of them and how they battled through their rubbish situations. Seeing them bond over their crappy lives was just so heart-warming, because they needed each other.
I've mentioned how realistic the characters but the whole book is just filled with relatable situations. The book is set during the girls' GCSE year, and all those worries from that time in my life came flooding back to me! There are boy worries, exam worries, body worries - all those things that make you look back on. I got so nostalgic reading this book! What I adored about Paper Aeroplanes is that it doesn't shy away from anything. There's all the grizzly teenage awkwardness that most books gloss over or omit completely. Yes there's sex and swearing and booze but it was so refreshing to read a book that talks about body hair and periods. Because those things, embarrassing as they may be, are things that happen to teenage girls and I was so happy to see that actually addressed for once!
Talking of embarrassing, this book absolutely had me with all the embarrassing situations Renée and Flo end up in. If you've ever looked back on your own teenage years and cringed then reading this book will make you feel 100% better. I would read these scenes and laugh, because I know those feelings and those situations. Even the more serious moments, like Renée thinking she's totally in love with a useless boy, my heart just went out to her because we've all been there! There's this one scene where Renée and Flo are discussing their embarrassing body problems and I just grinned and then wished I'd some one to discuss things like that with. Plus I love that these girls eat chips and crisps and make tits of themselves and do things that real teenage girls do.
And if that wasn't enough nostalgia then the fact the book is set in the nineties brought a few smiles. I was very young when this book was set, but things like reading Smash Hits magazine and playing cassettes and VHS tapes always make me smile. Plus it's so awesome to read a book set in a time before Facebook and mobile phones. The title comes from the paper aeroplanes the two girls use to share notes with each other, and Renée keeps a load of notes of what's been happening in her life. Remember a time before Facebook statuses? I miss that time!
The book is set in Guernsey (somewhere I'd love to visit!) and I loved the setting and how it provided that close-knit way of life. As a Brit, the pop culture references were all comfortingly familiar, like the mentions of Wotsits and Sunny Delight (ugh I remember when that stuff was big in the 90s and I thought it was vile!) and Blur coming on in the car.
I loved all the attention to detail and how even the smaller characters had big roles to play. I was really drawn to the storyline with Renée's sister Nell, and Flo's relationship with her mother and brother was just as gripping. Even evil Sally had my jaw dropping with some of the moments she has.
Whilst the novel had amazing characters and was very character driven, the plot always had my attention. There was so much drama and plenty of moments that I just did not see coming. Flo and Renée's friendship didn't always run smoothly and so I was sitting there flying through the pages to see what would happen and whether things would work out. I was hooked to the drama happening in each of their families. There were moments that tugged at the heartstrings and shook me up, as well as those that made me giggle. It was just a book I could completely lose myself in. I honestly want to recommend this book to everyone. It's such a clever, witty, brilliantly executed novel that I want you all to go and buy it right now. It will make you relive your teenage years (or comfort you if you're still going through them!) and draw you in to the lives of two incredible characters.
I'm looking back on this review and I'm sure there are things that I've missed. For a three hundred page book it left me with so much to talk about. I can't wait to re-read it, which I'm sure I will do again and again. Plus there's going to be a sequel! I'm so freaking overjoyed about that. I can't wait to spend more time with the girls.
What to read next: Goose by Dawn O'Porter is currently in the works.
Books like this: Undone by Cat Clarke, Looking for Alaska by John Green