Saturday, 31 January 2015

Book review: Paper Aeroplanes and Goose by Dawn O'Porter.

Paper Aeroplanes

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 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 downloaded Paper Aeroplanes last year when reviews of it where all over the place on blogs and booktube and I can see now why it generated so much hype. Paper Aeroplanes displays a refreshingly authentic look at the experiences of growing up as a teenage girl, losing friends, and making new ones.

The narrative does not shy away from subjects like periods and sex, things that real teenage girls experience and discuss, and that is certainly something that I think there should be more of in YA novels. However, the writing style did at times strike me as a little too young for the novel's content.

The novel is written in a style that I would expect from a book for younger readers, maybe from 11-13, and for me this jarred with the themes and subjects portrayed. The dialogue in particular at times did not feel like it fit with the ages of the girls. Renée and Flo are both fifteen in this novel and their stories feel authentic to fifteen year olds, but their voices don't. Their voices are also very similar, which caused some confusion at first because the narrative switches between the two girls. The name of each girl always comes before a section in her narrative but their voices are so similar that it took a while before I stopped getting confused about which girl was which.

I don't mean to suggest that this is a bad book, it certainly isn't, and I enjoyed the stories of the two girls and their friendship a lot, but I'm just a little unclear about who the intended audience actually is.

3/5 stars.

The review for the next novel in the series, Goose, is under the cut. I read the two one after the other so it makes sense for me to put the reviews in one post, but there are spoilers for Paper Aeroplanes in the review for Goose. So, you've been warned!


It's a year and a half on from Paper Aeroplanes, and Renée is now living with her Aunty Jo. They even have geese, and Renée likes to sit and watch them, wondering if she'll ever find 'the One' - someone who will love her no matter what, and be there for her no matter how bad things get. She and Flo are in their final year at school, and they've got some tough choices to make - like will they go to university? And if so where - and will they go together? Renée's usual ambivalence on the matter shocks Flo, who had assumed they'd continue as they were, the best and closest of friends, forever. She feels as though she needs Renée's support more than ever, so when a handsome young boy enters Flo's life, she finds herself powerfully drawn to his kindness, and his faith. Renée and Flo's friendship will soon be tested in a way neither of them could have expected - and if Paper Aeroplanes was a book about finding friendship, Goose if the novel that explores whether it's possible to keep hold of it.

Where Paper Aeroplanes was about Flo and Renée becoming friends, Goose is almost about their growing apart. Renée and Flo are in sixth form now, coming to the end of their school years. Flo wants to go away to university but Renée does not and this is just one of the ways in which their stories begin to part. With so much uncertainty Flo turns to religion and Renée to a new boyfriend and, as friendships often do in times of change, their friendship begins to experience some tension.

In many ways Goose is more mature than Paper Aeroplanes, which makes sense as the girls are a year and a half older at the start than they were at the end of Paper Aeroplanes. I had hoped this would mean a maturity in the writing style too, but unfortunately Flo and Renée's new, more grown up stories only drew my attention even more to the same complaints I had about the writing style in the first book.

While Flo and Renée's voices are still difficult to differentiate, their personalities are not. The two girls are very much their own, individual characters, and that's nice to read, even if Flo's newfound religion does seem to come a little bit out of the blue to take over her life. But again, the girls' stories are believable, and I enjoyed reading about them and I'm sure I'll be reading the 3rd and 4th books in the series when they come out. However, I do hope that with the girls out of school the writing style might mature a little with them in the rest of the series.

3/5 stars.

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