Not My Problem by Ciara Smyth


           Not My Problem – Ciara Smyth, Harper Teen, 2021. 9780062957146

Rating: 1-5 (5 is an excellent or a Starred review) 5+

Format: Hardcover

Genre: Realistic fiction

What did you like about the book? Aideen,16, has some problems.  She does have one good friend, Holly, that she had from childhood but her mother’s bouts of alcoholism Aideen bears alone.  She even stays home from school for a week to “watch” (guard) her mom after she has had a “slip”.  They live in a housing development that wins no awards; she is poor.  She frequently skips school, not just because of her mother, but because she does poorly in all of her classes (except Irish, where she is fluent).  One day she finds herself sitting next to the snotty, super smart Meabh, the principal’s daughter.  Meabh wants to tell everyone how to live and how to be.  She is seen as very annoying.  She confides in Aideen her schedule where pretty much every minute of every day is accounted for.  Aideen tells her she must free up some time for herself; Meabh begs Aideen to push her down the stairs where she might break something.  Aideen finally gives in and Meabh ends up with a sprained ankle in a cast which frees her from yoga and camogie (look it up).  What Meabh now owes Aideen is a favor.  Thus begins Aideen’s life of fixing other people’s problems – and problems they are!  Meabh has to help with the first one: breaking into the school at night and into the principal’s office for Orla to get her cell phone back.  Now Orla becomes involved.  Kavi became involved when he witnessed Meabh’s fall and carried her to the nurse’s office.  The group grows solving the most incredible of favors/requests/problems.  As you might have guessed, the story is very funny; you don’t want to put it down, wanting to know how it ends and not wanting it to end.

All characters are fully developed and realistic.  Kavi is Indian, Orla is Black and Aideen is super short.

Anything you did not like about the book?  This is not a criticism but the story takes place in Ireland with a fair amount of Irish slang.  I couldn’t find the words in my dictionary, not even a British (sorry, Ireland) dictionary but had to look online.  New words to add to your vocabulary…

To whom would you recommend this book?  Though there is a lot of humor in the story, serious undertones are there about friendship, acceptance, looking a little deeper into what a person is really like and trying to solve your own problems.  Teens who enjoy a look at high school in Ireland, humor and realism would enjoy this story.  A read alike would be Far from the Tree by Robin Benway which also has teens, humor and seriousness with unforgettable characters

Who should buy this book?  High school and Public libraries

Where would you shelve it?  YA fiction

Should we (librarians) put this on the top of our “to read” piles? Yes!

Reviewer’s Name, Library (or school), City: Katrina Yurenka, Retired Librarian, Editor, Youth Services Book Review

Date of Review: October 21, 2021

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