Girl on a Plane

Miri­am Moss
  • Review
By – March 23, 2017

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. 

Hail­ing from Amherst, MA, Cha­va Lan­sky is a stu­dent at Barnard Col­lege, where she stud­ies Eng­lish Lit­er­a­ture and Dance, and interns for the Jew­ish Book Council.

Discussion Questions