The Pitfalls of High School
Going to high school and navigating all the classes and pitfalls involved puts enough pressure on young people. But imagine that you are also dealing with the emergence of your own non-binary identity. A struggle that it sometimes seems like you’re facing alone. Parents don’t understand, and your classmates don’t necessarily understand. In fact, the peer pressure you face can make matters worse.
Someone to Have Your Back
Thankfully for high schoolers Leighton Worthington and Dylan Render, they have always had each other to lean on. Through thick or through thin, Leighton and Dylan had each other’s backs. One of their “things” that they had established during their friendship was to pass notes back and forth. But in their case, they would use paper airplanes. Not that Leighton had any real skill in making them. It didn’t matter. As Forest Gump would say, “They were like peas and carrots.” Even though their backgrounds couldn’t be more different.
Leighton is from a wealthy family with her mother, father and sister. She plays tennis (and is very good at it) and has the best of everything. In fact, her older sister Caroline, who is kind of the wild child of the family, sometimes bristles when being compared to Leighton. “Of course, she’s right. She’s ALWAYS right in YOUR eyes.” But Leighton would be the first to tell you, everything is not perfect in her world.
Dylan, on the other hand, is non-binary, with a sister, brother and his mother. Their mother works three jobs and single handedly raised them. They didn’t always have everything they needed but their mother did the best she could. As for Dylan, they feel isolated from his sister and brother and sometimes even his mother. Fortunately, Leighton seems to understand. She too has been trying to understand her feelings and why she seems different than other girls. The difference is that Leighton covers it well.
While seeming very diverse, the one thing both of their parents have in common is that neither thinks that Leighton or Dylan should be friends. In each case, they thought that their friendship would lead to trouble. Neither Leighton nor Dylan believed this to be true.
A Tragic Accident
However, an incident at a pool led to the trouble neither thought would come their way. One day, Leighton and Dylan had been hanging out, fooling around taking selfies. One of them showed them kissing. (Although for Dylan, it meant more than just fooling around). Later, at a summer pool party, one of their “friends” looked at Leighton’s phone and found those pictures. She intimated that she would share them, proving what she believed about them was true. They both did their best to cover, telling her that they were just fooling around, and it didn’t mean what she thought it implied.
Finally, Dylan spoke up, snatching the phone and calling her a bully. But when the girl spoke derogatorily about Leighton’s sister Caroline, that was her breaking point. Leighton, in a fit of anger, pushed the girl near the edge of the pool. She fell and hit hard on her head before splashing into the water. They both panicked and after pulling her out, left the scene. Dylan stealing and later wrecking their “getaway” car in the process. They were caught shortly after by the police.
Fortunately, the young girl survived her injury and fall but couldn’t seem to remember what had happened that day. At least for the moment, they were safe. But they still had to face repercussions for their actions. They were both sent to a summer camp for troubled youth. At the end of which, they would be evaluated, and a decision made whether they return to their own school or get put into an alternative high school. This was arranged by Leighton’s parents who also agreed to pay for the damage to the stolen car.
A Journey of Self-Discovery
It was while at the camp that Leighton and Dylan’s friendship would face a challenge. While trying to adjust to the camp and the other campers, they each go on a journey of self-discovery that not only teaches them things about themselves but also each other. Allowing them to realize that perhaps, they do not need to cling to their friendship so tightly and there is room for others in their lives.
Maverick excels at presenting stories that not only educate but expound on feelings that many of today’s youths can relate to. Paper Planes “lands” snuggly in that category. Writer Jennie Wood and Artist Dozer Draws create a rich, impacting narrative that not only explores what young members of the LGBTQ community might deal with, but how it also is impacted by school, teachers, parents, and their own growing self-awareness.
What ‘Paper Planes’ Examines
As most adults can tell you, high school wasn’t always easy. Even in the best of circumstances. In Paper Planes, you have coming to terms with identity/gender acceptance, parental restraints, sibling rivalries, social taboos, and the ever-present peer pressure. All combining to make Leighton and Dylan question themselves, and at times, their relationship.
Jennie Wood (Flutter) and the talented Dozer Draws (The Last Session) tackles all of it with intelligence and with intriguing character relationships that invite questions for the reader. How would you handle some of these situations if you were in Leighton or Dylan’s shoes? At what point do your own feelings appear to invalidate what your friend might be thinking or feeling? How much should you let other people’s opinions impact your own? Whether that be friends, family, or teachers?
Perhaps best of all, Jennie and Dozer leave the story where both Leighton and Dylan appear strong enough to accept what is and move on. It is not nor will it be easy. But using their friendship as a foundation, they both have opened themselves up to new relationships, and the possibility that those can take flight. Just as theirs had.
Meet The Creators
For Jennie Wood, the Boston-based creator of the critically acclaimed, award-winning “Flutter” graphic novel series, “Paper Planes” offered a cathartic and powerful chance to reflect on a tragic childhood friendship. “Paper Planes has been a gift,” they said. “The project gave me the opportunity to explore an intense grade school friendship soon after I found out that a close childhood friend of mine passed away. Grade school friendships have a unique place in our lives, I think in part because those relationships rarely survive the transition to high school. This story is about that more innocent time, the time right before high school, right before everything changes.”
Like Jennie Wood, Dozer Draws is nonbinary, and drew from their own experiences in bringing a nonbinary protagonist’s journey of self to the pages of “Paper Planes.” They hope that the book could offer strength to younger readers. “As a nonbinary creator, “Paper Planes” is what I would have loved to read during my teen years. I am more than happy that I could help in bringing this emotional and very personal story to life.”
Maverick’s Paper Planes by Jennie Woods and Dozer Draws with lettering by Micah Myers is tentatively scheduled for a May 2023 release.
Senior Writer at GeekVibesNation – I am a 50 something child of the 70’s who admits to being a Star Trek/Star Wars/Comic Book junkie who once dove head first over a cliff (Ok, it was a small hill) to try to rescue his Fantastic Four comic from a watery grave. I am married to a lovely woman who is as crazy as I am and the proud parent of a 18 year old boy with autism. My wife and son are my real heroes.