Girl on a Plane

Miriam Moss. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, $17.99 (288p) ISBN 978-0-544-78399-7

Anna, the 15-year-old narrator of this novel based on events in Moss’s life, is traveling alone from Bahrain back to her British boarding school when Palestinian hijackers reroute her plane to a desert in Jordan. Moss (This Is the Mountain) capably evokes the tense, dangerous atmosphere of the hijacking and the passengers’ four-day imprisonment, which includes angry terrorist guards, hunger, fear, extreme temperatures, hygiene challenges, and constant smoking and drinking by terrified adults. Anna’s kinship with a child and teen sitting near her offers moments of levity and mutual support. However, the harrowing subject is more compelling than the narrative execution, which includes some awkward jumps between Anna’s first-person perspective and third-person sections that follow her family’s reactions to unfolding events. Anna can seem less a fully rounded character than a lens for events, and the same is somewhat true of Jamal, a hijacker, who comes across more a device to explain the political and historical background of the conflict between Palestine and Israel. Even so, Moss’s novel offers insight into a traumatic chapter of history. Ages 12–up. (Sept.)