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11 August 2021

Book Review: Not My Problem by Ciara Smyth *AD gifted

Andersen Press sent me a free e-copy of Not My Problem by Ciara Smyth via NetGalley.

I'm mad as hell at myself for not picking up Not My Problem sooner - it's the disaster lesbian coming-of-age story that I never knew I needed. It had me cackling with laughter and sobbing into a cushion. It really is a wild ride and one I will definitely read again. Think Derry Girls but now, with fewer nuns and with more wee lesbians.

I was approved for a copy of Not My Problem on NetGalley about a week before my kindle paperwhite broke so it ended up on the backburner for a while, and urgh I wish it hadn't been. I really needed this book back then. This book review has taken a lot out of my if I'm honest, a bit like the book. I definitely have a book hangover after Not My Problem by Ciara Smyth.

Not My Problem by Ciara Smyth book cover. A  girl with brown hair stand in front of  school benches and a chainlink fence. She is holding exercise books. The title had "Not" in yellow script and "My Problem" in a bold white across the bottom third of the cover.

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?

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Source: NetGalley | Review Copy 

5 Word Review: Family, friendship, belonging, school, messy-relationships.


Oh no, I accidentally wrote an essay instead of a book review for Not My Problem by Ciara Smyth.

Not My Problem is so messy and I am here for it. It's the coming-of-age story of a lesbian who was out before people we accepting and suffered for - Aideen gets to see everyone else welcomed with open arms and acceptance, when she was sneered at years before. She is justifiably annoyed by her past ostracisation from her classmates, and bitter about how she never had the support everyone else is afforded. And I absolutely get that, and it feeds into her character and sets the tone of the story.

I highlighted over one hindered quotes on my kindle, which gives you an idea of what I thought of the writing. It left me gasping.

I didn't expect Not My Problem to tackle so many issues. But oh my gosh, get the tissues ready. Whether it's messy families, homophobia or substance abuse, it is all tackled with the greatest of care. The exploration of Aideen's life, the poverty she has no choice but to grow up in, really hit hard. It's difficult when you see yourself so clearly in a character, but it meant that I emphasised so much with her and I understood when others thought something had gone wrong.

Aideen is a disaster, but she can't help it. And I love her so much for it. She's hilarious, and whip smart, even if her teachers see her as failing. I love how she finds a role for herself in becoming a fixer for the other students, and how she sets up boundaries to protect herself. Her family life is pretty awful - her father is a narcissist and an all round dick, and her mum has her own problems and dependence. 

Her voice is snarky, always. She's always got a quip or some dry banter at the ready. Her attitude is very much her defence from the world.

I think that Aideen is a bit of a marmite character - the things that I love about her, her bolshie bravado and bitter witticisms, are definitely things that other people will not like. But give her a chance, she deserves it. Aideen's PE excuses had me in stitches. If I'd been reading in public I would have got weird look and people would have moved away from me as I snorted and struggled to catch my breath.

Holly is supposedly Aideen's best friend - and it as a very weird dynamic between them. At times the friendship was so pure and lovely and true, and they had the other's back. And then there were times I'd twist my face at whatever Holly was doing next. At the beginning, it was obvious that Holly held the power, and I was never really sure whether it was the power that Holly relished, or the friendship for what it was. There were touching scenes, like Holly waiting for Aideen at the bus stop with a travel cup of hot tea when she'd had a horrendous day. And then there were the times Holly just sacked her off.

Meabh is A Complication in Aideen's life, someone who ends up thoroughly embroiled more out of panic than anything else. I felt so sorry for her, and at the same time had a baseline of annoyance very much inspired by Aideen's own feelings. Meabh is always switched on, and she surprisingly has some excellent banter. The back and forth between them was excellent. Their bickering was as amusing as it was tension building.

Not My Problem was just... It was incredible. It was filled with emotion and heartbreak and love of all kinds. It was easy to get lost in. There was the smallest thread of a budding romance that filled my heart with joy.

I am not off to check out Ciara Smyth's other book, The Falling In Love Montage, which I'm sure will find a place in my heart too.

Every now and then I had to believe karma was real.

Ciara Smyth studied drama, teaching, and then social work at university. She thought she didn't know what she wanted to be when she grew up. She became a writer so she wouldn't have to grow up. She enjoys jigging (verb: to complete a jigsaw puzzle), playing the violin badly, and having serious conversations with her pets. Ciara has lived in Belfast for over ten years and still doesn't really know her way around. Visit her online at www.ciarasmyth.com.

4 comments:

  1. Fab review! This book sounds like something I'd really enjoy, so I'll have to check it out x

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  2. Aw, I'm so glad you enjoyed it and laughed a lot! Sounds like a wonderful book! Thanks for sharing xx

    Lynn | https://www.lynnmumbingmejia.com

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  3. Great essay... I mean review!! This is definitely one I'll be adding to my TBR your enthusiasm for it has won me over!

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  4. I have read another review about this book and now I am oh so ready to order it because i NEED to read it ASAP! Thank you for sharing your review x

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