Wednesday 15 April 2015

Paper Aeroplanes: Dawn O'Porter

Set in 1994 on the island of Guernsey, the story follows two fifteen year olds. Renee and Flo represent two very different types of teenager: outgoing and extroverted and self-conscious and awkward. They make an unlikely pair but through a series of events, they find themselves falling into a friendship. Together they battle through their final year of GCSEs, facing many an obstacle. They face highs and lows and everything in between, begging the question, can their friendship last this turbulent year of their life.

I can not even begin to explain how amazing this book was. I am 21 so the part of teen life covered in this book is safely stored away in my past. But I found myself reliving and accessing memories that i had buried away. Because my years of teenage angst are becoming no more than a memory, the reading of the book was almost cathartic, it allowed me to reminisce and look back fondly (or not so fondly) on a very difficult but also exciting part of my life.

This book was reminiscent of Jacqueline Wilson but for a slightly older reader; a bit more sex and scandal. It covered the turmoil of a broken family, of heartbreak and loss as well as the value of true friendship. Unlike most teen fiction, this wasn't simply a book about lust and romance. This was a book about friendship. Yes it may have included sex, love and death but only in its relation to the said friendship. It was nice to read a book that didn't revolve around a girl lusting after a boy or vice versa. At its core, this book was simply about friendship at an age when having someone who truly understands you is the most important thing in the world.

I was already a big fan of Dawn, having seen her on many a television program including her most recent on vintage fashion. I could feel her personality in the words on the page, I enjoyed getting a sense of the author in this story and it was easy to see that Dawn had poured her heart into this book and it was all the better for it.

I found myself laughing and crying in equal measure and sometimes at the same time. I physically went through the emotions of her characters. Maybe it was because I could relate to them on such a personal level. The book made me stop and think, and most of all, it made me feel. A brilliant book doesn't have to contain boundless fancy language or a complex story line, it has to evoke an emotion, and this certainly did. There were snippets of it where it was almost as though the book understood me better than I understood myself. It brought out some well hidden emotions and memories and I'm all the better for it. This book will stay with me for a long time.

One of the themes that Dawn deals with is bereavement. Dawn deals with it in such a sensitive and realistic manner, putting into words something that is unspeakable; the death of a parent. It was so refreshing to see such a brutally honest tale of life after the death of a parent. She doesn't dress it up or romanticise it. I could relate to it on a personal level as I went through a bereavement myself at the age of sixteen. It is important for words like this to be read. Regardless of your own teen years, this book will offer something you can relate to. In a lot of YA fiction, everything is romanticised or dramatised. The two girls in this book both face horrible things but it is gritty and normal and everything that a teen fiction should be.

I liked that although these two girl were losing their innocence there was such an innocent feel to their friendship and actions. Their friendship was so raw and pure and their actions were the actions of any fifteen year old. Dawn has done a brilliant job of creating realistic teenage characters. At the start of the book, she notes that she read her own teenage diaries for inspiration and that definitely shows in the book.

The characters were all brilliant, they were all suitably different too. Of them all, I found it easiest to relate to Flo, her awkwardness and introverted nature was something that I could see in myself. It was also nice to have Renee as a contrast to her. There were an array of other minor characters and of course I can't not mention Sally, I think we have all knew a Sally in our time at school!

Dawn took a risk setting the story in 1994. I understand that for Dawn it makes sense, the cultural references were spot on and as were the fifteen year olds reactions to said references. But the modern day reader, just a teen themselves, may find it hard to understand the references. Although being only 21, I found them to be just about accessible. Having been born in 1994, I feel like I grew up amongst the dregs of the culture Dawn talks of. I know just enough about it to appreciate it.

Also, just a note on the structure of the book. The story alternated between Renee and Flo's narrative, giving each of them a chance to express themselves. Allowing the reader to see inside their heads as well as see how they view each other. It was a nice way to tell the story and although it was simple, it was very effective.

I couldn't fault the book. I loved every single word. It was beautiful.


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