Published by Scholastic Australia
Published on 2014-09-01
Genres: General, Middle Grade, Realistic FIction
Source: Review Copy
Niko and his family are trapped in Sarajevo during the war. The siege lasts for three years and Niko’s family struggle to find enough food and avoid the snipers whose targets are civilians in the streets. Niko and his friend Nadim take refuge from the bombing in the stairwell of their apartment building and together they find hope in the midst of a war they did not start but must try to survive.
Usually I review by sharing the storyline through my eyes, before moving onto my opinion. But this is a book that can’t be wrapped up in a few paragraphs. Not because it’s an phenomenal read, although it is incredibly raw and moving, but because war isn’t a best selling dystopian but horrific, grievous and heartbreaking. Niko and his family live in Sarajevo, where they’ve enjoyed a peaceful existence up until the first bomb is dropped. Those who could escape, fled to neighboring countries and cities, except Niko’s family who were holding out hope for a United Nations intervention. First the electricity was cut to homes, followed shortly by the water supply. Residents who had chosen to stay, are forced to access the local council water supply. But the streets aren’t safe, snipers line the rooftops and pick off citizens one by one. I was horrified. Absolutely sickened and like Niko, couldn’t understand how a nation once joined as Yugoslavia was reduced to a brutal genocide.
When the Bosnian war first begun, I was only twelve years old. The same age as Niko is when he is living through the worst act of genocide since Nazi Germany. Spanning three years, those left behind were lucky if they were killed instantly by sniper fire, residents froze during the harsh winter, died of starvation or on the front lines fighting against an enemy that were armed by countries once considered allies. Seeing it’s considered a middle grade novel I believe, it was an incredibly powerful read. It tells the story of the fight for survival in a war torn country, and the victims it leaves behind. Niko felt somewhat naive for his age, but seeing the ravaged landscape through the eyes of a child was almost too much to comprehend. It didn’t delve into the politics of that point in history, but through Niko’s observations we hear snippets from the adults around him. His Muslim neighbours that cannot escape as they would be gunned down, his brother and sister being forced to serve and his mother delving into a deep depression. The United Nations rations were pillaged at checkpoints and families are starving.
It was written without gruesome detailed, to which I’m thankful for. If anything, Paper Planes makes me even more appreciative that I’m able to live with freedom, choice and most importantly in safety. By the time the Bosnian war had ended, there were almost twenty thousand refugees that had settled in here Australia, which is also mentioned in Paper Planes. It was a gripping read regardless of the intended age group and I’m thankful that families were able to escape the injustice of this brutal genocide. Compelling reading.