I wasn’t expecting anything when I picked up ‘Paper Planes’. To my surprise, it was the narrative of a young boy, threatened by war in Bosnia. Again, I’m not good with history, but this the real thing. In the back of the novel, you will find a note from Jarko.
NIko is a normal young boy with a loving family and home. But suddenly, he finds himself in the middle of a war zone, and he must make his way through it to safety with or without his family.
The reader feels just as lost, and alone as Niko does, as the world falls apart. From such a normal beginning, things deteriorate. Niko just wants to go to school, but instead he’s trapped inside, with his family – until his sister and brother are forced to serve.
This novel also points out, albeit subtly, that there are no differences between people of different religions. Niko prays, but is afraid his father will find out. And his best friend is Muslim. Niko doesn’t understand why religion should play a role in who die or lives. In fact, it seems like dull chance whether they will survive.
This novel brings a face to the refugees that come to Australia. They aren’t responsible for their situation (as Niko finds, as he fears he is), and they have so few options. It hurts me to see that the Red Cross and the UN can’t do more.
I think the blurb on the back ‘Can Niko find the courage to face his worst fear?’ isn’t very accurate. He’s not facing hi worst fear – it’s just that he finds himself where he can’t get away from any of the war. I also vaguely expected that this novel would be a dystopian, in line with the other novels Scholastic had sent me in the package – imagine my surprise!
This novel, in my opinion, should be nominated for late primary school / early secondary school reading. I think it would be difficult to get onto the curriculum, but at the same time, it would be so valuable as a resource. It’s more accessible than ‘The Boy in the Striped Pajamas’.