Moss, Miriam. Girl on a Plane.
September 13th 2016 by HMH Books for Young Readers
E ARC from Edelweiss Above the Treeline
Anna's father has been stationed in Bahrain, and instead of moving every few years, she goes to a boarding school back home in England. In 1970, she's heading back to school. Other flights have been high jacked, and she even jokes about the fact with her family. When an armed Palestinian comes down the aisle of the airplane she is on armed with a gun, she knows it is no laughing matter. The plane refuels in Beirut but doesn't take on any more food or water, and is forced to land at a Palestinian's Revolutionary airstrip in the desert in Jordan. Anna makes friends with the two boys in her row-- David, a boy about her age, and Tim, who is younger and very frightened. Conditions quickly worsen on the plane, with food and water becoming scarce, temperatures rising or falling intolerably, and the guerrillas constantly threatening the passengers. The guerrillas are negotiating with England for the release of a political prisoner, and Anna knows it is very likely that if the prisoner is not released, the plane might be blown up. One of the high jackers is part English, and tells Anna his story to help her understand why he is involved in such a violent assault on so many people. Eventually, the passengers are freed and make their way home.
Strengths: This was very well done. Even though very little happens, the details of survival on the plane make this a gripping page turner. I especially like the author's description of how her real experience was different from the book, and I thought that the details she added to the fictional version were good choices. I enjoyed her relationship with David and Tim, and thought that Anna's understanding of the young Palestinian's plight was admirable. Very, very well done. Even though general tone of the book captured a tiny bit of the narrative style of books from the 1970s-- this reminded me vaguely of Watson's Other Sandals (1966).
Weaknesses: There is an implied rape, but nothing is explicit and this is fine for middle school. Another reviewer on Goodreads thought this wasn't quite as gripping as it could have been because of the British tendency to be reserved, but that's what I liked best. I was especially fond of the diplomat's wife at the end who takes Anna in and lets her have her bath and rest in peace instead of fawning all over her. The expectation that one is supposed to remain calm and deal with things instead of freaking out is MUCH more helpful than the expectation that one is supposed to fall apart!!!
What I really think: Excellent addition for middle school and high school libraries, although I like the original cover better.