Not My Problem
Grade : B+

When I saw this month’s Pride Month – influenced TBR Challenge theme, I took it as a hint to read a YA novel that one of my younger cousins had raved about a couple years ago. As is often the case, my interest was piqued, I downloaded the book and then it sat on my Kindle a while. With Not My Problem, this was a shame because it took me much too long to get to enjoy this gem of a book. It didn’t have as much romance as online reviews and my cousin’s glowing recommendation led me to expect, but it’s a wonderful read about a young woman finding love and acceptance not only from a romantic partner, but also in the form of true friends and mentors.

There is a romance in this book, but it definitely takes a back seat to the coming of age plot. The novel is set in Ireland, but many of the themes will resonate with non-Irish readers as well. The lead, Aideen, has lots of problems and only some of them are of her own making. On the one hand, Aideen is hardly a star student and as we see throughout the book, her one close friendship is struggling as Aideen’s supposed best friend may be less loyal than assumed.  Aideen also has an unstable and deeply impoverished home life with her alcoholic mother. Aideen’s father may pay the fees for her to attend a good school, but he is otherwise almost completely absent from her life.

With this backdrop, one might expect this novel to be dark and heavy. However, while it has some very emotional moments, there’s a certain warmth to the story. Aideen has a wry sense of humor that I enjoyed and since much of the story focuses on her learning to trust others and to build a circle of good, solid friends, we get to see many moments of joy mixed in with the harsher realities of Aideen’s life.

So, what starts Aideen on her trajectory toward friendships and even a romance? She finds the school overachiever, Meabh Kowalski, melting down from the stress of her school and extracurriculars. The two hatch a scheme to get Meabh out of at least one of her commitments, and from there, a tentative friendship starts. Aideen had previously seen Meabh as an annoyance, but as she gets to know her, she starts to appreciate her better qualities – and to be attracted to her. Throughout the story, Aideen is fairly matter-of-fact about her orientation, as well as her growing feelings for Meabh.

After helping out Meabh, Aidenn starts to build a bit of a reputation as a “fixer” in her school. Soon she is coming up with clever plots to help her fellow students out of various fixes. Some of these are over-the-top and a bit outrageous, but Ms. Smyth writes her story with a good humor that kept me engaged.

In terms of the TBR Challenge theme, “love is love” is simply how Aideen views her life.  She is quite open about who she is and the people in her life seem to just accept her as she is. There are many things in this book that feel hopeful, and the fact that the teenaged characters in the story largely accept both gay and straight relationships is one of them. Aideen does make reference to there having been some pushback directed at the first kids to come out at her school, but much of this story focuses on her being herself and building relationships with people who love her just as she is.

Speaking of love, there is a sweet, slow-building romance between Aideen and Meabh. However, the main focus of the book is really on Aideen and her growth as a person. She frustrated and cracked me up by turns and I enjoyed reading her story. Even if the romance turned out to be a bit subdued in this book, I couldn’t resist reading this all the way to the end for TBR Challenge. Despite tackling some very heavy subjects at times, Not My Problem has so many deeply positive moments that I couldn’t help rooting for Aideen as she found supportive friends and mentors, and fell in love.

Reviewed by Lynn Spencer

Grade: B+

Book Type: Young Adult

Sensuality: Kisses

Review Date : June 21, 2023

Publication Date: 05/2021

Review Tags: LGBTQ+ romance

Recent Comments …

  1. I read Ulrich’s book several years ago,it was excellent. American Experience on PBS did an adaptation of the book, it…

Lynn Spencer

I enjoy spending as much time as I can between the covers of a book, traveling through time and around the world. When I'm not having adventures with fictional characters, I'm an attorney in Virginia and I love just hanging out with my husband, little man, and the cat who rules our house.
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