Bingo Square: Nostalgia (set in 1994, when I was 13)
Flo is fifteen years old and living on the small British island of Guernsey, just off the coast of France. Flo’s parents have recently separated and she lives with her mum, sister and brother. Her best friend, Sally, is mostly mean to Flo, constantly putting her down and often flirts (badly) with Flo’s brother, Julian. Flo does well in school and mostly keeps her head down.
Renee is in the same year but a world apart. Often in trouble, she skips class to graffiti the toilets or go for some chips in town. Her mother died eight years before and she’s living with her grandparents and younger sister, Nell. Home life isn’t much fun and school is a bit of an escape.
The girls don’t have much in common until a tragic event brings them close together, and they soon bond in one of those intense friendships you can have as a teenager, when another person seems like your whole world after a short space of time. But then an act of betrayal threatens to break up their new friendship.
I was actually hoping for more of a nostalgia-fest from this, given the characters are so close in age to me during the time I was a teenager. But other than a couple of references to songs, and maybe TV shows, there’s not much to place it in the 90s. Other than a lack of phones/social media it could have been set now. It’s also clearly the North American version – the title would be Aeroplanes in UK and there’s a shudder inducing reference to panty pads – which doesn’t help.
Overall it’s a nice story of a friendship between two girls, but it definitely has a first book feel about it. I’ve read one of O’Porter’s most recent books and the writing is much more accomplished. In the author’s note she states that she used her own diaries as reference, although the characters are made up, and I feel like you can tell. The story itself has moments that border on unbelievable, with people acting in ways that don’t seem likely just for a bit more excitement in the plot. And the dialogue can also be clunky at times. But I liked Flo and Renee, for the most part. I wish Flo had had more backbone, especially when dealing with awful Sally, but I know how hard that can be when you’re in school.