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.
Someone at work recommended Paper Aeroplanes to me and I’m so glad they did. What a refreshing, relatable, heartwarming and funny novel about the true meaning and empowerment of friendships. I am always sceptical about reading celebrity fiction novels, but I was happily surprised by O’Porter’s writing style and I fell in love with it instantly. Although it isn’t complicated or overly flourished I felt her simple writing style was down to earth and very telling for the time it was set in and the fact the main characters are only 15 years old.
The novel is set out via two points of view, this is something I love with books as you get different perspectives and voices throughout the story and I think it just gives novels that extra depth. Flo is a nerdy quiet goodie two shoes who is “friends” with Sally a snotty nosed bully that puts her down all the time. Renée is the exact opposite of Flo, she is the rebel; smoking, skipping classes and getting into trouble. (The one thing I did love about Renée is that she was obsessed with Wotsits and I LOVE those crisps.) Flo and Renée don’t really know each other or hang out but after a particular home life crisis Renée and Flow bond and become friends the best of friends who tell each other everything, do everything together and their friendship is empowering.
The book follows Renée and Flo through school and also at home, they both have quite difficult home lives and both hate being at home, another reason why they become such close friends so quickly and hang out after school so much. Even though their home lives were difficult and sad it didn’t overpower the story but added to it. Dawn O’Porter adds in everything that as girls you remember from school, boys, periods, sex, gossip, passing notes in class, exams, friendships and enemies, this made the novel feel so honest, raw and in parts humorous and just captured a moment in time that as adults we may have forgotten.
Personally this book transcended with me and bought back a lot of memories from school especially regarding the friendships I had. In particular I felt I had my very own “Sally” who for many years would put me down, laugh at me, not care when I was upset or in trouble and was very selfish. I think Sally is a very exaggerated version of this friend I used to have, but nether the less it really bought back some memories and I kept thinking “why was I even friends with her?” Whilst reading the book I just wanted to scream at Flo to stand up for herself and how she deserved a better friend, but another part of me knew how hard it is to do that to a friend, even if they aren’t very nice to you. Just like Flo when she breaks away from this friendship like me realised how poisonous her “best friend” was, she felt lighter and happier and she could be herself. I think a lot of people can relate to this part of the story, most people have a “friend” from school, university, work or possibly currently that could be your “Sally”… Be brave like Flo and break away!
I will definitely be reading more of Dawn O’Porter’s novels, I know their is a follow up novel to this one called Goose which I will be reading next and I think I will give The Cows a go as well. I hope her other novels are as good as this one.
Have you read anything by Dawn O’Porter? Do you like her novels and writing style?
Thanks for reading. Katie x