Paper Airplane

Young Adult - Social Issues
Kindle Edition
Reviewed on 06/17/2017
Buy on Amazon

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    Book Review

Reviewed by Marta Tandori for Readers' Favorite

Paper Airplane is a compelling read of adolescent angst by Kevin N. Fair that straddles the fence somewhere between upper middle-grade fiction and younger Young Adult fiction. Thirteen-year-old Mitchell (Mitch) Connor Jr. has started the eighth grade at Brookdale Middle School. He and best buddies, Jeremy (Jay) Ramsey and Percival (Peanut) Simmons, are convinced that eighth grade is going to be a stellar year for all of them. Mitch’s life has been pretty good so far – if not entirely stellar. For the most part, Mitch has a great family. His older sister, Yvette, is a senior in high school, his mom – now pregnant and soon to give birth – teaches at her high school, and he also has a seven-year-old brother, Sammy, while Mitch’s dad owns Mitchell’s, a local pizzeria. Altogether, things are pretty good on the home front, but Mitch wishes he wasn’t chunky and that he could be more comfortable around girls, especially when he discovers that Stephanie Miller, the hottest girl at Brookdale, is in his math class. Mitch is a gifted student and hopes to use his skills in math as a way to get closer to Stephanie, who’s on the verge of failing the class. To complicate matters, Mitch has won a spot in the musical chorus where he becomes close to another girl, Becky, whom he also likes. Just when a guy really needs his best buds, Mitch discovers that Jay and Peanut aren’t the stand-up guys he thought they were. Then things with his mom and her pregnancy get kind of hairy and, suddenly, Mitch’s pretty normal life takes a turn for the complicated…

Paper Airplane is compelling and a great read, thanks in large part to the author’s solid voice, which resonates convincingly, making the character of Mitch speak to every kid who’s ever had problems in their life that they’ve never been able to talk about to anyone. Despite the fact that Mitch is likeable and gifted, he’s nevertheless got his hang-ups with his weight and his awkwardness around girls, just like any other kid his age. What is particularly interesting about this story is that it shows that all it takes is for a few things to go wrong and, suddenly, things start to go south very quickly. Despite his intellectual smarts, Mitch is nevertheless a kid who relies on a stable home life when his best friends betray him and, when things at home take a turn for the worse, Mitch reacts and does so badly. The dialogue is genuine and believable while Mitch’s relationship with Becky is sweet and so necessary in order to bring some stability to Mitch’s suddenly turbulent life. Fair’s writing effortlessly gets to the heart of the adolescent psyche and Paper Airplane could easily pass as a collaboration between two of the greatest writers of adolescent angst, John Green and Judy Blume.

Kim Anisi

Paper Airplane by Kevin N. Fair tells the story of Mitch, whose life - just like a paper airplane - doesn't quite fly the right way and ends up in all the wrong places. His two best friends suddenly start behaving weirdly, and the new friends Mitch makes are not quite the best crowd to hang out with. They are more concerned with smoking weed instead of taking school seriously. The girl Mitch had a crush on for a long time finally starts talking to him because she needs his help with math tests - but does this mean that he will also get to go to her approaching party? Then there is Becky, a girl Mitch only got to know because one of his ex-best-friends tried to hit on her. But then a nasty rumor starts about Mitch, and tragedy strikes his family. When Becky also stops talking to him, Mitch's world seems to be like a paper airplane on fire.

I probably read young adult fiction more often than is deemed "normal" for someone my age. But I simply enjoy well written stories like Paper Airplane by Kevin N. Fair, even if I'm not part of the actual target group. I like being taken back to school days, and books like this one remind me of my own struggles in school and with so-called friends who only were there when they needed you for something. To me, it is always interesting to read about how different characters deal with the more challenging aspects of being different from the usual teenager crowd. Mitch is - in my eyes - a very likeable character and will appeal to introverted young readers (or people like me). The plot is very real, and I can see it happening just like that in real life. It's beautifully written, the pace is perfect, and the ending fairly satisfying.

Jack Magnus

Paper Airplane is a young adult coming of age novel written by Kevin N. Fair. Mitch’s dad once told him that middle school wasn’t easy, and Mitch agrees with that statement completely. He has spent the last two years feeling like a clueless geek and a loser. Mitch thinks life would be a lot easier if he looked like an athletic god, like that Jason Rosemore, who even has the older girls swooning over him. But Mitch? He’s overweight, and no amount of over-sized shirts can really help to disguise that fact. Add to that his propensity to get good marks in class, and you have the formula for being one of the more unpopular kids in class. Mitch and his two best buddies, Jay and Peanut, think that eighth grade might be different, however. They’re actually counting off the days until school starts, and they’ve formulated a plan to pose dressed to kill in a strategic location in school on the first day. Eighth grade will be different, because this year they’ll be the kings; the ones who know all the ins and outs, unlike the clueless sixth and seventh graders. Mitch soon learns, however, that even eighth grade has its own challenges.

Kevin N. Fair’s young adult coming of age novel, Paper Airplane, takes a good hard look at the social expectations and pressures preteens and teens face in school. There’s not only the challenges of conforming to peer expectations and performing in class; there’s also the compulsion to discover one’s identity and to have the courage to accept and stand by it. Mitch’s story is a compelling one, and I felt for him as he musters up the courage to talk to a long-time crush -- not an easy thing at all -- even if his smooth-talking and somewhat smarmy friend Jay seems to have no problem at all chatting up the girls. Mitch does have one very big thing going for him in this humorous and heartwarming tale -- his family. His mom and dad are perfect parents; compassionate, caring and proud of their children, even if their insistence on the school placing Mitch in advanced courses made him a pariah and a geek. His big sister, Yvette, is every young boy’s dream big sister, willing to listen to his fears and concerns and full of supportive advice. While he is very aware that other kids aren’t nearly as lucky as he was with the parent lottery, Mitch still has his own issues and problems, but watching as he navigates the uncertain waters of his coming of age is a marvelous experience. Paper Airplane is most highly recommended.