Not My Fault is a medium-length book which explores a serious rift between two sisters and how it is finally healed.
Sisters Rose and Maya are not on speaking terms. Maya blames Rose for causing the accident which seriously injured one of her legs. Her physical prowess is now curtailed, in contrast to her sister’s position as a promising gymnast. A residential school trip, necessitating a week away from the family, is the arena in which their relationship will be mended or irrevocably broken.
The author, Cath Howe, tells the story through monologues spoken in turn by the two sisters. This, for me, is one of the great strengths of Not My Fault, making it accessible and appealing to both experienced and less fluent readers. The inner lives of Maya and Rose are revealed directly in their speaking voices, and readers will surely want to turn the page to follow the developing trains of thought and reactions to events of each character.
Rose is sympathetically portrayed as the older sibling, feeling guilty about something she didn’t deliberately do, shouldering responsibility for her younger sister and experiencing pressure over her family loyalty from a controlling friend. By contrast, Maya is often presented as a difficult girl, embittered by her conviction of Rose’s culpability, yet caring of her friends and with a gift for metaphorical storytelling which is important in the climax and resolution.
Cath Howe says that she has drawn on her own experience as the mother of three girls to ensure the authenticity of her story. As an only child myself and the parent of one daughter, I can’t claim such inside knowledge. But I would put this book in my class library because it seems plausible that young readers would recognise some of the problems and would respond positively to the idea of being able to find out who they can be in their relationships and the wider world. It’s a positive ending to a story which I think will give many readers a sense of reassurance and satisfaction – in the traditional way of children’s literature.
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