Paper Airplanes by Dawn O’Porter ( web | tweet )
Publication Date: September 9, 2014
Target audience: Young adult
Keywords: friendship, parents, school
Format read: ARC from Publisher via NetGalley.
Summary: Even though they are students at the same school, Renee and Flo meet at a party. Kind of. Flo saves Renee from an already embarrassing situation, and soon they find themselves stealing away to have an open friendship with one another. Both are at a place in their lives where they are feeling cast aside and nothing is truly in their hands. Together, they form an honest and undeniable bond but secrets force to break it all open.
Female friendship as the focal point in young adult books? We all know it does not happen a lot, and this is why I was so anxious to read Paper Airplanes by Dawn O’Porter. (Added bonus: all the British-isms since the book takes places there.) Unfortunately, this book (deemed gritty and powerful) did not win me over as much as I wanted it to. I’m breaking this one down with a list.
- This book truly depicts what it is like to fall in love with a friend. Even though Renee and Flo keep their friendship under wraps at first, I loved how they were able to be so honest with one another even when it sucked and especially because they didn’t have many people in their lives they could count on. The adventures, the notes, the encouragement: it was real and it was fantastic. I adored the way they loved each other.
- The author conveys a very normal teenage life filled with tests, drinking, parties, and yes, sex. I thought it was great but because of other books I’ve read that have done it just as well, it did not feel quite as groundbreaking to me. (Though Renee’s “relationship” with a guy who obviously adores her and she can’t figure out why she doesn’t feel the same way? Great, great addition; happens so much and it’s difficult to explain to others and to ourselves.)
- The time period. Hello, 1990s. Adios cellphones and the internet. So refreshing not to have an interruptions from texts and emails and focus more on how we communicated back then. Calling people on landlines, writing notes on paper airplanes, and sometimes having to wait to talk to someone because you never got their number. Ah, the joys of radio silence.
What didn’t work for me as much:
- Something in the book truly irked me. It’s a big deal and I don’t want to reveal it here but it was so serious and I thought, not dealt with the way that it should have, especially as readers see how the book is wrapped up. I was so angry on behalf of one of our characters, and while I know not everything is going to be resolved completely, it seemed like it wasn’t taken as seriously as it should. Now maybe that’s just a reflection of our culture today? But still. Bothered. Angry.
- The pacing. The action in the book truly picks up in the last third of the book, and, by then, it felt way too late. The middle dragged a bit and by the end, when things revved up, I wanted the book to be longer. It felt a off balance and didn’t keep my attention as much as I would have wanted it to.
In the end, Paper Airplanes was a toss up as far as a rating goes. I did get emotional when it came to these characters, and if you want to meet some of the most infuriating families in the history of literature, you will find it in this book. Not to mention one of the shittiest best friends ever. Oh gosh. I wanted to punch her in the face multiple times. I was so relieved Renee and Flo found each other, despite all the complications, because they needed someone on their side badly.