Saturday, 14 March 2015
Review: Paper Aeroplanes and Goose by Dawn O'Porter
I recently won a giveaway over on the Hot Key Books Twitter to celebrate Dawn O'Porter's novel Goose being nominated for the first ever YA Book Prize (find out more here). The prize included both Goose and Paper Aeroplanes, the first book in the series, along with three Barry M nail polishes!
This is a YA series which follows Renée and Flo, two teenage best friends living on Guernsey in the mid-90s - a setting which I absolutely adore. I devoured both of these books in two days and really really enjoyed them, like really enjoyed them. The YA I've been reading lately has been mostly fantasy or US contemporary so it was a real breath of fresh air to read some UK YA and it really brought to my attention how different US and UK YA often are. Paper Aeroplanes and Goose were realistic and gritty and really hit home with me, more-so than anything else I've read lately. On to the reviews!
Paper Aeroplanes is an incredibly realistic, ridiculously emotional, spot-on representation of teenage life, and considering this is a debut novel, it's pretty spectacular. The story follows fifteen year olds Renée and Flo through alternating perspectives and explores the themes of friendship, family, loss and sex among other things. This book made me laugh out loud and cry somewhat hysterically, and I honestly can't say that about a lot of books.
I don't think I've read a novel that so closely portrays what it's actually like being a teenage girl. It wasn't until I read this that I realised why I felt somewhat disconnected from books like To All The Boys I've Loved Before and even John Green's novels in a way (don't worry I still love John Green, obviously). It's that Paper Aeroplanes so accurately and candidly represented aspects of teenage life that aren't usually present in YA. The biggest example being periods, I LOVED that periods were described in all their gross and uncomfortable glory. There is a scene where one of the characters, who is too embarrassed to buy sanitary towels, is caught stealing them from the nurse's office and the school calls her grandpa and excellently written awkwardness ensures that had me cackling like a mad woman.
Some have accused the relationship between Flo and Renée of being insta-friendship, but I would argue that this is actually a realistic portrayal of teenage friendships. After a hesitant beginning, the two fall into an intense friendship and from what I remember, and from what my oh-so-embarassing pubescent diaries tell me, that's exactly what it's like when you're a teenager- everything is just SO INTENSE and THE MOST IMPORTANT THING EVER.
Although most all of the characters are incredibly realistic I did at first think that Sally's character was a bit much, a bit of a cartoon villain. But then I remembered that teenage girls really can be that cruel. Usually there is an underlying reason and most (hopefully) do grow out of it but it remains a fact that girls can be truly horrible to their 'friends'. I think that anyone who reads this book will recognise Sally and may have experienced bullying at the hands of someone like her (raise your hand if you've ever been personally victimised by Regina George etc.).
Sometimes with alternate perspective books I am less interested in one character and find myself skimming to get to the other's perspective, that didn't happen here. I was so immersed and so interested in each character's story and I think that's what made this such a compulsive read. The perspectives flowed seamlessly and kept me engaged throughout. The only small grip I had with this was that the voices of the girls were a little similar, despite their characters being polar opposites, and I did find myself sometimes having to check which perspective I was reading - but that may have been my currently flu-addled brain.
This book reminded me of exactly what it felt like to be a teenager and of discovering the entire spectrum of emotions that it's possible to feel but it also reminded me that I wouldn't go back to that age for all the money in the world.
'if PAPER AEROPLANES was a book about finding friendship, GOOSE is the novel that explores whether it's possible to keep hold of it.' - Hot Key Books
Goose is set a year and a half after Paper Aeroplanes, Renée and Flo are eighteen and pondering what lies beyond their final school year. Goose explores the nature and of friendship, love, sex and even the delicate subject of faith. I didn't love this as much as I loved Paper Aeroplanes and I'm not 100% sure why. I did laugh and I did cry, but not as much. It was just as compulsive a read though and I devoured it in a few hours.
As someone who grew up Catholic I thought that the treatment of Christianity and Flo's discovery of her faith was very well done. It was never too much and Flo's questions and occasional doubts about her own faith and the extent of others' faith along with the humour that this was treated with made it all very believable and kept it interesting.
Although at first it would seem that Renée hadn't learnt from her disastrous previous experiences with men in Paper Aeroplanes, her story in Goose really resonated with me. This is where I think Dawn O'Porter's novels really stand out in YA, for their raw honesty in the treatment of sex and relationships. When you're eighteen and unsure of yourself, relationships aren't often healthy and fulfilling and I've definitely experienced the kind of toxic relationship that Renée does in Goose.
I think the reason I didn't love it as much was because the stories did feel quite separate from each other, but I suppose that was due to the girls' changing personalities. But I still really enjoyed reading about Renée and Flo and look forward to reading more, as there are two more books planned for this series. In both Paper Aeroplanes and Goose, Dawn O'Porter beautifully captures exactly what it's like to be a teenage girl, it is addictive reading that will affect not just teenagers but anyone who has ever been that age.
Have you read either of these books? What did you think?