GIRL ON A PLANE by Miriam Moss is based on an actual hijacking of a commercial flight in Bahrain in 1970. The main character, Anna, is a 15 year old passenger on the plane headed to her boarding school in London after a summer with her family in Bahrain, where her father is stationed in the British Armed Forces.
Shortly into her flight, the plane is hijacked by a group of Palestinians know as the PFLP (Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine) and the group demands that the plane land in a Jordanian desert on an abandoned airstrip. Once there, the PFLP issues demands to the British government to release a political prisoner. This order must be met to secure the release of the hostages on the plane or the guerrillas will blow them up with the explosives that litter the airfield. In addition to this excruciating uncertainty, the passengers face deteriorating conditions during their four day ordeal in the desert, including limited food and water, no bathrooms and oppressive heat.
This enthralling and suspenseful novel immerses the reader into the story. Moss creates an outstanding sense of imagery throughout the book and I felt caught up in the same issues as Anna and her other passengers on the flight, asking myself, “What would I do in this situation?” On board, Anna quickly develops relationships with the two passengers sitting next to her, Tim and David, and the trio illuminates the different perspectives of passengers during the crisis. Tim is an the elementary school boy who seems to be most focused on ensuring his beloved terrapin makes it out alive. This is contrasted with David, the high school student who was singularly concerned for his own safety, and Anna, who is cognizant of the grief that her family must be experiencing. Despite their differences, the three became a source of support for one another, bonding together during the traumatic event, trading personal stories along the way.
Written as a fictional account of actual events the author experienced when she was a teenager on a hijacked flight, Moss employs captivating and explicit words to detail the chaotic hijacking and the frenetic aftermath. She also adds griping background about the hijacker’s lives prior to the event and provides intriguing context about why the PFLP acted as they did. Through this, Moss balances the good and the evil, and it makes the reader better understand the hijacker’s anger. This all made for an engaging novel, allowing the reader to get to know the characters at a deeper level as they navigated through this excruciating journey. Typically a picture book author, this is Moss’ first fiction novel and I eagerly anticipate her next one, she has made a seamless transition into this genre. I would recommend this book to a contemporary loving young adult reader looking to read historical novels, as it has encouraged me to pursue more titles that are historical fiction!