Not My Problem by Ciara Smyth is a humorous, contemporary, and queer novel. Aideen has gotten herself into a mess, but maybe it’s just the mess she needs.
All quotes are from an Advanced Reader Copy and may or may not reflect the published edition.
Aideen has plenty of problems she can’t solve. But when she stumbles upon overachiever Meabh Kowalska having a full-blown meltdown, she sees one that she can actually fix. Meabh is desperate to escape her crushing pile of extracurriculars. Aideen volunteers to help—by pushing her down the stairs.
Meabh’s sprained ankle is the perfect excuse to ditch her overwhelming schedule. But when one of their classmates learns about their little scheme, more “clients” start asking for Aideen’s “help”—kicking off a semester of traded favors, ill-advised hijinks, and even an unexpected chance at love.
Fixing other people’s problems won’t fix her own. But it might be the push Aideen needs to start.
“Whenever things were weird between us I felt like I couldn’t live with it. It was a black hole sucking life out of me and I needed it to go away. I’d do anything to make it go away.”
Ciara Smyth manages to take two of my least favorite genres, slam them into a book and make me love them. I am not a contemporary reader, and I am most definitely not a romance reader. However, the way that Smyth weaves humor in and out of these heavier topics genuinely makes me love these stories. Aideen made me laugh, but also made my heart ache for her. The character growth for her was really on par with the age range of the characters and the style of the book. The side characters all felt very fleshed out, and with the amount of them, I know that that’s hard to manage. Smyth did this well in her previous book and did so once again here.
“I’m the low bar everyone else can jump over.”
This book touches on really interesting topics without it feeling too heavy. From environmentalism to poverty and alcoholism, we gently touch on it all. Even Kavi mentions being one of two Indian boys in the school and the effects that this has on him. None of these topics feel like you’re being hit over the head with them, which I think for a young adult novel can be really important. A point is made, but it’s just subtle enough that you can enjoy the overarching point without feeling preached to.
“Why was I mesmerized by the way the muscles in her arms tensed as she clutched the bags, though? There were only two explanations. One was that I was a cannibal. The other didn’t bear thinking about.”
I genuinely appreciated the way that Smyth addresses boundary setting with friends, and even parents to an extent. So often we excuse other’s behaviors because it would hurt them to tell them that they hurt us. However, that doesn’t change that they still hurt us with their actions. Smyth has someone call Aideen out on this, and how she can’t fix everyone’s problems without addressing her own. This is a continued theme of the book, and, I genuinely loved every minute of it.
“It matters how she makes you feel. Why would she get to make you feel like shit and not hear about it?”
From the humor to the romance, everything about this book brought me genuine joy.
Thank you to Netgalley and the publisher for giving me a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.