Maya blames Rose for the accident that caused her ‘stupid leg’ and they haven’t spoken to each other since the the terrible day. Rose wants things to be back to the way they were but is at a loss as to what to do and Maya’s behaviour is out of control. With a week long school residential coming up everyone is apprehensive about it - parents, grandparents, friends and teachers. It is make or break time for the sisters. Can their sibling bond be rekindled or will it be broken forever?
Not My Fault explores the tangled relationship of the two sisters following the accident where one extra push changed everything. They used to play and laugh together but then Maya was injured and blames Rose for it, and Rose feels responsible and is wracked with guilt. Forgiving somebody who has hurt us can be difficult. What happens when the person that has hurt you is your sister? Both sisters recall the event differently which is so true of traumatic experiences. We convince ourselves what we want to believe happened. The more we tell our side of the story, the more we are certain that that is what happened. What the sisters can see clearly though is the lasting effects of the incident and how they themselves have changed.
The sisters are polar opposites of each other. Rose is shy, quiet and a perfectionist. Maya is outspoken, brash, has lots of friends and is seen as a but of a trouble-maker. Maya rebelled after the accident and her way of coping with what has happened is to behave badly. Whether they were like this before the accident is anyone’s guess. The one thing that they share in common is that they are both struggling to come to terms with the after-effects of the accident and are struggling to come to terms with the new reality. Both have to navigate their own struggles. Maya’s struggle is clear and Rose has to deal with a best-friend who becomes increasingly bossy.
Told from a dual perspective, the alternate voices of Rose and Maya narrate the story and different fonts are used to reflect this. The narrative is driven by the sisters feelings towards each other and when a late night misadventure lands Maya in trouble it is Rose that comes to her and it is time for some honest truths. My feelings towards the sisters changed dramatically as the narrative unfolded. I won’t spoil too much but I went from feeling empathy to anger to frustration.
Cath Howe is a primary school teacher and this resonates in her story telling and character building. The voices of the characters and the conversations are bang on point. The experiences, trials and tribulations of the school residential are accurate too - from children sneaking sweets into their suitcases for late night snacks to the race for the back seats on the coach to the token moody teacher. Any reader who has been on a school residential will totally relate to the action and the events.
Everything about Not My Fault is totally realistic and totally believable and that for me is what makes it such an enjoyable read. It is an engaging and emotional read which deals with some difficult subjects - family, relationships and managing feelings of guilt are all complex issues and these are sensitively explored throughout the read.
Recommended for 9+.