Aideen has plenty of problems she can’t fix. Her best (and only) friend is pulling away. Her mother’s drinking problem is a constant concern. She’s even running out of outlandish diseases to fake so she can skip PE. But when Aideen stumbles on her nemesis, overachiever Meabh Kowalski, in the midst of a full-blown meltdown, she sees a problem that—unlike her own disaster of a life—seems refreshingly easy to solve. Meabh is desperate to escape her crushing pile of extracurriculars. Aideen volunteers to help. By pushing Meabh down the stairs. Problem? Solved. Meabh’s sprained ankle is the perfect excuse to ditch her overwhelming schedule. But when another student learns about their little scheme and brings Aideen another “client” who needs her “help,” it kicks off a semester of traded favors, ill-advised hijinks, and an unexpected chance at love. Fixing other people’s problems won’t fix her own, but it might be the push she needs to start.
If there’s one thing I’m sure of about Ciara Smyth’s books, it’s that she has a gift for pulling the reader into the story right away. And she also creates real characters. Okay, so maybe I’m sure about two things.
Aideen is funny, but she’s also a lot smarter than she gives herself credit for. She may not have a lot of money or book smarts, but she’s a good person who cares about other people. As a reader, I was immediately interested in her story and how she would grow by the end of the book. Alternatively, her best friend infuriated me, while Meabh made me want to know more. Kavi’s a total sweetheart who wants friends who accept him for his chatter-y ways, and I love that by the end, Aideen has people who actually care about her in return.
Alongside Smyth’s real characters are her real storylines. Aideen’s mother is a sometimes-recovering alcoholic who can’t help but long for Aideen’s father, even if he leaves as quickly as he comes back into their lives and always causes her mom to spiral again. Because of this vicious cycle, Aideen is forced into the role of caretaker for her own mother, oftentimes having to go to the food bank or skip school to care for her mother when she’s on a bender. Despite how funny and lighthearted parts of Not My Problem are, a lot of the book is raw and gritty and truly heartbreaking, not unlike Smyth’s debut, The Falling in Love Montage, which also featured a less-than-typical mother character and a protagonist forced to grow up too early.
Not My Problem is fun, funny, and full of heart. I was so excited to read Smyth’s sophomore novel, and I’m happy to report I wasn’t disappointed in the least.
Thank you to NetGalley and HarperTeen for providing a free ARC in exchange for an honest review.
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