*Thank you to Ciarra Smyth and Netgalley for my copy of this book*
*Thank you to Robert & Penguin for allowing me the opportunity to be part of the blog tour*
When Aideen agrees to help ambitious class swot Maebh Kowalska deal with her crazy workload, she doesn’t expect to end up reluctantly pushing Maebh down the stairs. With this, Aideen becomes the school ‘fixer’: any problem a student has, Aideen will sort it out, from stealing confiscated mobiles to breaking into parties. All she asks for is a favour in return. But Aideen’s own life is a mess – her mam’s drinking again, her BFF Holly is avoiding her and she’s skipping school. Spending more time with the uptight (but annoyingly cute) Maebh and chatterbox Kavi, Aideen starts to wonder: can every problem be solved?
Not My Problem is the first book of Ciara’s, I have had the pleasure of reading, leading me to immediately read her debut The Falling in Love Montage (review coming soon) straight after reading the final pages of Aideen’s story. It is absolutely safe to say that Ciara has fast become one of my new favourite authors of this year and I can’t wait to follow and fall in love with her projects in the future.
If Aideen didn’t have you smitten from the very first pages, then something has definitely gone wrong somewhere, as she is an absolute icon and a young woman that other young people are definitely going to idolise and aspire to be. Whilst her feisty attitude is hilarious and admirable, there is also a lot of depth behind it and soon you begin to realise that it is a defence mechanism to protect herself and her mum from social services. Witnessing Aideen’s family circumstances, it is easy to understand why she doesn’t allow herself to trust very easily and never let her guard down around other people. On school grounds, she portrayed that persona of herself who looked like she had her life together and she was unbothered by certain aspects of her lives that the teachers worried about, however, behind closed doors, you could see that Aideen was bothered about certain situations more than she showed and I just wanted to squeeze her in a massive hug and let her know that everything was going to be okay. There was many sensitive topics woven within Aideen’s story and Ciara did an amazing job dealing with it and providing Aideen with a wonderful set of friends that were willing to help her through it, despite her arguments against any support. I think what I loved the most about Aideen was that from an outside perspective, she appears to be a very bitter and unlikeable character, however, reading from her perspective allowed the reader to sympathise and understand the reasons behind the way she is. She is a young woman, trying to navigate life, whilst also having to grow up too quickly, in order to take care of her mam and that’s when her sarcastic, witty banter comes out to play most. There were many times where I found myself giggling at the dynamics between Aideen and Ms Devlin – they had a very mother/daughter type of relationship, which I think definitely helped Aideen’s character development throughout the story, whether she liked it or not. Ciara does an amazing job with creating Aideen’s sense of humour, the dialogue is so funny at times and she has really placed herself in to the mind of a teenager.
Now, where to start on the dynamics between Aideen and Maebh!? Maebh is Aideen’s love interest and a complicated one at that. She has extremely similar traits to Aideen, which can either bring two people together or allow them to clash. Like Aideen, Maebh is a stubborn young woman, but in the most admirable of ways – she has her beliefs and her morals, never letting anybody sway her mind elsewhere, in order to “fit in”. This may have made her unlikeable towards the other students, however, sticking to what you believe is so important and quite frankly, trying to be in with the crowd is highly overrated! Another lovely addition to Aideen’s new friendship group was Kavi. My gosh, was he absolutely adorable! You knew a chapter was going to be great when he made an appearance, he literally is like when someone walks in to a room, everything and everyone lights up! The friendship between Aideen, Maebh and Kavi was so unexpected, yet so unbelievably precious, to the point I felt emotional sometimes during their bonding. I especially loved the scene where they all hid away in a bathtub during a house party; it was extremely raw and vulnerable, allowing the readers in to a deeper understanding of each one of them and also witnessing their connection grow stronger.
Not My Problem is an absolutely delightful book, in which we are opened up to a world full of authentic and vulnerable characters, in which, despite Aideen’s talents at fixing problems, displays that not everything can be fixed immediately and most of the time, it can take a long journey to get to where you want to be. It explores complex relationships between friends and family, allowing many readers to be able to relate to multiple characters and feel seen. Whilst there are scenes that are harder to read than others, Ciara balances those out perfectly with humour, romance and a light at the end of the tunnel. The lesbian representation was lovely throughout and the conversations/scenes around sexuality were enjoyable. I loved this book so much and Aideen is a character who has found a small place in my heart forever. I just know that she is going to be so important to a lot of young adults around the world and it warms my heart just thinking about the ways she is going to change many people’s lives.