Not My Fault by Cath Howe

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Not My Fault by Cath Howe

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Category: Confident Readers
Rating: 5/5
Reviewer: Jill Murphy
Reviewed by Jill Murphy
Summary: Lovely, relatable story about sibling conflict, family cohesion, friendship and forgiveness. Cath Howe handles complicated relationships deftly and authentically and pulls in her readers from the very first page.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 272 Date: May 2019
Publisher: Nosy Crow
External links: Author's website
ISBN: 978-1788002868

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Maya and Rose won't talk to each other. Even though they are sisters. Not since the accident. Maya is turning wild and Rose doesn't know what to do. And now Maya and Rose have to go away together on a week-long school trip. Will the trip fix their sibling bond... or break it for good?

Maya asked Rose to push her harder on the roundabout. Maya always liked to go hardest and fastest. So Rose pushed her harder. And that's how Maya's leg got ruined. And now the sisters, once so close, are mired in a trench warfare of resentment of each other. Nobody's holding out much hope for the school trip improving things, including Mum and Dad, Gran, the teachers and all their friends. But sometimes the stars align, don't they? There's always hope.

I thought this was a lovely, lovely story. It's told in the alternating points of view of its two protagonists, Rose and Maya, and is very much driven by their very different personalities. I like a character-driven story and I think the readers of Not My Fault will too, because these two girls are entirely credible characters. Howe works in primary schools, running writing and drama workshops, and her deep understanding of how children think and react shines through every page of this story.

Rose is reserved, driven - she wants to be good and she wants to achieve and these facets of her personality have been deeply affected by the guilt she feels about her sister's accident. She's torn between wanting to care for Maya and make amends to her and resentment at her sister's often rather dreadful behaviour. Maya, on the other hand, is impulsive, energetic and outgoing, with a great sense of humour. But the accident has left her feeling useless and resentful and so her impulsivity leads her into rashness and displays of bad temper.

The accident has affected both girls in significant ways. Rose and Maya need to find their way back into making the most of their virtues and keeping their vices under control - and to be proper sisters again. And in the end, the school residential trip, despite a rocky start, provides them the opportunity to do just that. Filled out with a wonderful cast of supporting characters - I loved Bonnie most - and some hamster daftness, and you have all the ingredients for a fabulous read - moving and serious, but with some funny intervals to punctuate the tension.

Not My Fault is a relatable story of sibling rivalry, family cohesion and forgiveness. Cath Howe writes directly and with great energy, while handling the nuances of complicated emotions deftly and authentically.

More like this, please!

Sibling rivalry is also sharply but kindly observed in My Sister Jodie by Jacqueline Wilson.

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