Book Review: Paper Airplanes

Paper Airplanes
By: Dawn O'Porter
Published By: Amulet Books
Publication Date: September 9th, 2014
Page Count: 272
Source: ARC Kindly Provided By Publisher
Audience/Genre: YA Fiction
 Buy it at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, or Indiebound.

A US release of a book that's been well-received in the UK (first published in April 2013), Paper Airplanes is one of the most engrossing pieces of YA fiction I've read in recent memory. Dawn O'Porter creates two authentic, honest, and gorgeously flawed young women who live and breathe within the pages. Dealing with the (sometimes soul-crushing, sometimes soul-lifting) realities of female friendships, both teens and adults will recognize parts of themselves in Flo and Renee in this character-driven story.

Flo is a dedicated student, suffering from social invisibility and self-doubt at the hands of a shrew-like BFF who constantly puts her down and belittles her. Renee is a girl with a somewhat undeserved reputation around school, desperate for love that she can't get from her lukewarm boyfriend, her anorexic sister, or her financially struggling grandparents who became her guardians when her mother died. The girls bond over the death of a parent when Flo's father dies and seem an unlikely pair at first, but over the course of the novel Flo and Renee develop a friendship in secret that eventually becomes larger than either of them. As there often is, both minor and devastating secrets are kept, and the two girls must decide what "true" friendship is.

O'Porter expertly captures the highs and the lows of the teenage experience in a way that will appeal to teens and adults alike. And even though the novel is set in 1994, the experiences ring true to 2014. I actually found the 20 year throwback refreshing (no technology!), and she includes enough small details to establish the time period, but not make it the focus. The same can be said about the setting location, an all girls school in Guernsey; she includes just enough Brit-centric details (ex. crisps) to remind the reader of the setting, but not so many that it becomes cumbersome or an obstacle to understanding. The universality of women's friendships is at the center of the novel, and a somewhat foreign (to a US audience) time and place actually help reinforce that universality.

Summary via 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.

With graphic content and some scenes of a sexual nature, PAPER AEROPLANES is a gritty, poignant, often laugh-out-loud funny and powerful novel. It is an unforgettable snapshot of small-town adolescence and the heart-stopping power of female friendship.


  1. I really love the cover of this book and the moment I saw it I knew I wanted to read it myself! Also, books about true friendship always inspire me, and I can't wait to read it!


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