In September 1970, three planes bound for London were hijacked by Palestinian terrorists and forced to land in a remote Jordanian desert airstrip. When British children’s book author Miriam Moss was fifteen years old, she was on one of those planes. In Girl on a Plane,Moss tells a version of her own story through the fictionalized Anna.
Anna’s the child of a military family and has lived all over the world. The novel opens in Bahrain, where the reader gets to know Anna in the context of her warm and loving family. Ann far prefers this vibrant, remote island to the drab British boarding school she’s about to return to. As soon as Anna gets on her flight the scope of the novel shrinks: Moss blocks out the outside world and creates a stark difference between life on the plane and the life continuing on in Anna’s imagination. Seated in a section for unaccompanied minors, Anna quickly befriends her two seatmates. Moss paints a clear picture of each of the characters on board the plane and the many different ways that people cope in traumatic situations.
Moss explains the plight of the Palestinians as Anna comes to understand it. After days stuck on the plane nearly starving in the intense desert heat, Anna gets to know one of the hijackers, a man not much older than she is. Anna asks him questions about why he’s there and develops empathy for the hijackers and an understanding that she’s being used as a pawn in a much larger fight. Though Anna is not Jewish, Moss explains the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in clear and unbiased terms, and the reader can feel Anna struggling to understand the pain and frustration felt on both sides.
Girl on a Plane is suspenseful, frightening, and at times violent. Anna waits for days in horrible conditions, not knowing if she’ll make it home alive. Straddling the line between childhood and adulthood, she struggles to understand the complexity of the situation while also comforting the younger children around her. Girl on a Plane is a unique perspective on the historic Dawson’s Field hijackings seen through the eyes of the determined, kind, and brave Anna. The novel ends with an epilogue from Moss’ own perspective, set in the present day.
Please note that due to allusions to violence and sexual assault, this novel is recommended for ages 12 and up.