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Girl on a Plane Hardcover – September 13, 2016
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From the Publisher
An Essay From Miriam Moss - The Author's Personal Story Behind The Book
Girl on a Plane is the heart-pounding, thrilling story of one girl's determination to survive in the midst of terror as her plane to boarding school is hijacked. This is a work of fiction, but with a very true story as the inspiration. Miriam Moss, the author, shares some words below as to her own personal hijacking experience, and how it inspired this incredible book.
When I mentioned to my picture book editor that my plane had been hijacked while I was traveling from the Middle East back to school in England, alone and aged fifteen, she suggested I tell the fiction editor my story.
So, armed with a few newspaper clippings from 1970, I told her what happened all those years ago: how my plane was one of three that was hijacked by Palestinian guerrillas, forced to land in the desert in Jordan, and trussed with explosives.
But there’s a chasm between telling a story like that verbally and writing a novel about it. Despite having written many children’s books, poems, and short stories, I had never written a novel, and I wasn’t sure I could —especially about such a traumatic subject that had been buried for so long.
In the desert the plane’s power was turned off, so there was no water or sanitation, and there was very little food and water. The seventy passengers and crew sweated in the intense daytime heat and froze in the cold desert nights, waiting to hear whether the UK prime minister, Edward Heath, would negotiate with the guerrillas. They had set an ultimatum: release Leila Khaled, a Palestinian member of the PFLP (Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine), who had been arrested in London after a failed hijack attempt, or they would blow up the plane and all the passengers with it. The deadline ticked away. ..
Revisiting the four-day ordeal while writing the story was very difficult. To write convincingly, I had to relive every emotion: being separated from my parents, the anguish of being alone, and the intense fear of being killed. By the end of each writing day, my voice had all but disappeared, only coming back gradually during the evening as I relaxed and returned to the present.
I realized early on in the writing process that the book, though based on fact, would have to be fictionalized. I could set the book in the exact location, which I revisited, and in precise historical time, which I researched, but I couldn’t accurately recall from a cast of seventy what everyone looked like, wore, and said. And I had to respect the many passengers still alive today. But all that happened to me is there and is real, and by writing the book through the eyes of a fifteen-year old girl called Anna, I was able to give the story its emotional truth.
I have tried to write a nonjudgmental account of events, to show that the world is not black-and-white, but an infinitely richer and more complex gray. I have tried to understand what drives desperate people to do desperate things, and to understand the complexities of the Middle East a little better. Those who hijacked me were homeless and disenfranchised. I hope this book might help those of us who have so much understand a little better those who have so little.
From School Library Journal
Gr 7 Up—Fifteen-year-old Anna has been living in Bahrain with her family while her father has been stationed there by the British Armed Forces. She is supposed to fly back to her English boarding school by herself. It is September 1970, and the plane is hijacked by members of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), who force the pilot to land the plane at a deserted airstrip in the Jordanian desert and turn off the power. The guerrillas demand the release of imprisoned PFLP members, and they threaten to blow up the plane and kill the passengers unless their demands are met. Anna and her fellow passengers suffer from heat and cold, hunger and thirst, and the claustrophobic confinement of the plane as they wait to see whether they will live or die. It is implied that one of the guerrillas sexually assaults a young woman on the plane, but this is never made explicit. Moss was a teenager when she was on a plane hijacked by Palestinian terrorists in the fall of 1970, and this book is a slightly fictionalized version of her experience. This is an intense, realistic, and absolutely gripping story; many readers have never heard of this incident and won't know the outcome. It is not a one-sided treatment; a PFLP guerrilla tells Anna about the deaths of his family members and atrocities that occurred in Palestine. VERDICT An excellent choice for a book discussion or for a class on world history, and a thrilling read.—Kathleen E. Gruver, Burlington County Library, Westampton, NJ
"The accounts of terrorism during the 1970s are just as real as they are today, and teens will love this real-life account. This title is highly recommended for both middle and high school collections."
"This is an intense, realistic, and absolutely gripping story ..."
—School Library Journal
"A unique glimpse into a pivotal point in world history."
"Historical fiction readers and lovers of history in general will enjoy this title about a time not often written about. It would make a good addition to a middle grade or young adult collection."
—School Library Connection
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Top customer reviews
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You absolutely understand her fears, her reactions, her hunger and thirst. You can almost feel the terrible heat and freezing cold of the nights.
If there was a downside, it was that I really wanted to know what happened to the boys she sat with on the plane, but that wasn't the story, and she was right not to go there.
The book will keep you reading
I liked the suspense that occurred all throughout the book. When I wasn't in tears (which I was, more than once), I was right on the edge of my seat. Even though I had some ideas from the beginning of what was going to happen, there were still times when I found myself holding my breath. The story was about a life or death situation, and I definitely felt the tension from that.
I think the characters were both my favorite and least favorite part of the book. Least favorite, because I feel that Anna was just a little too understanding of the people who hijacked her plane, the people who were going to kill her. She's 15 and scared; I think she should have been a bit angrier, and a bit less sympathetic. She was almost unrealistically mature, I guess. Favorite, for three reasons. The first is nine year old Tim and his pet terrapin, Fred. Tim is adorable, turtles are adorable, and every scene involving the two was just absolutely sweet. Captain Gregory is up next. He's not even a main character, but even so, I think he's my second favorite, after Tim. His concern for his passengers is touching, and I love that he manages to keep everyone (including himself) calm during the hijacking. I admire his courage. And third, I thought the portrayal of some of the hijackers was really great. The way they're written makes them seem very human, despite the fact that they're the Bad Guys.
One thing I was a little disappointed with was that David and Tim, the two boys who befriend Anna on the plane, are kinda left out at the end of the book. I really wanted to know what happened with them, or at least if they still kept in touch with Anna. A mention of Fred the terrapin would have been nice as well.
All in all, Girl on a Plane was a very fun book, and I’d recommend it to anyone who’s looking for a quick and simple but exciting read.
See full review at The Indigo Quill.
The book also stood out because while it’s a work of fiction, it’s based on real events that the author lived through. Between the harrowing topic, complex politics and real life events this book could have been amazing but in the end fell a bit flat. I can best sum it up as alright. I totally expected more.
The story begins with Anna boarding a flight to London from Bahrain. She’s heading back to attend boarding school. Everything is going smoothly until the pilot announces that the plane has been hijacked by members of the PFLP. The plane is diverted to Lebanon and then to an abandoned airstrip in the Jordanian desert. There the passengers are given very little food and water, exposed to the extreme elements of the desert and are in constant fear of being killed if the British government didn’t give into the demands of the hijackers.
This book was written at a fast pace, although the final few chapters felt longer than necessary. I read through it in one sitting mostly due to the fact that it features short chapters and easy prose. It’s style is more middle grade than young adult but due to the topic I can see why it’s aimed at an older age group.
What bothered me about this book was how I couldn’t connect or identify with any of the characters. I read on because I wanted to know what would happen and not because I cared about Anna. Her voice fell flat and forced at times, too much like an adult and not a 15 year old. At the end of the novel I knew I should have felt more for her when she struggled to come to terms with what happened to her…but I didn’t. I need books with characters I can become deeply connected to. I NEED TO FEEL THEIR PAIN, FEAR, WHATEVER! Sadly, this didn’t happen. With such a traumatic event such as this one, I should have felt something.
I’ve rated this book a 3 out of 5 mainly because while I didn’t connect with it, it’s not a bad read. My main criticism is very subjective. I’ve read other reviews where people have loved the book and the characters. The topic is very interesting and one that is relevant to what is happening in the world today. If you do pick this book up, I’d love to know your thoughts!
Most recent customer reviews
This is a tricky historical fiction, because the author was fictionalizing her own experience.Read more