Aideen has plenty of problems she can’t fix. Her best (and only) friend is pulling away. Her mother’s drinking problem is a constant concern. She’s even running out of outlandish diseases to fake so she can skip PE.
But when Aideen stumbles on her nemesis, overachiever Meabh Kowalski, in the midst of a full-blown meltdown, she sees a problem that—unlike her own disaster of a life—seems refreshingly easy to solve. Meabh is desperate to escape her crushing pile of extracurriculars. Aideen volunteers to help. By pushing Meabh down the stairs.
Problem? Solved. Meabh’s sprained ankle is the perfect excuse to ditch her overwhelming schedule. But when another student learns about their little scheme and brings Aideen another “client” who needs her “help,” it kicks off a semester of traded favors, ill-advised hijinks, and an unexpected chance at love. Fixing other people’s problems won’t fix her own, but it might be the push she needs to start.
This review is spoiler free.
ARC won in an author giveaway!!
Content warnings: parental alcoholism, parental neglect, brief scene of underaged drinking
Ciara Smyth has done it again.
I knew from the moment I finished The Falling in Love Montage that Smyth had instantly become an auto-buy author and that all of her books would be preordered (right now we’re two for two, can’t wait to be three for three and so on and so forth). Given how much I loved The Falling in Love Montage, I was so so so excited to win a giveaway for a physical copy of this (and another sapphic arc – review soon!!) and let me tell you it was just such a wonderful reading experience. I loved everything about this book and getting to read and annotate it was such a source of joy, so I will now attempt to identify all of the things that made this book so good (for me, at least).
The characters. Aideen is such a well developed character and I would like to give her the world if someone could arrange a way to do that, but so are Meabh and Kavi and all of the other stars of this novel. I made so many little notes about this in the margins while I was reading this, but these teenagers act so much like actual teenagers, which is something that doesn’t always happen in YA books. These characters were flawed, reckless at times (*cough* um breaking into their school *cough*), and so utterly human it amazes me. By the end of the book I was so in love with all of them and I feel like I would honestly read a 600 page book of their continued shenanigans.
The perfect mix of humor and real issues. One thing I admire about Ciara Smyth’s novels is how they somehow manage to be both lighthearted romcoms and at the same time deal with hard problems, in this case that problem being Aideen’s home situation. I won’t go into too many details and spoil the plot and what not, but I really liked how this plotline was handled and I think that the way it “resolved” at the end of the novel was natural and left me feeling satisfied.
The discussions of friendship. Throughout this book, Aideen has to figure out what friends really mean to her, how they should treat her and talk to her, and how she should interact with them as well. I know that high school (or um, whatever the Irish equivalent is that they’re in) is a tough time to do this, but I liked how Aideen worked through this and came out with friends who respected her.
Aideen’s “business.” Okay, the entire idea of someone having a lowkey “business” designed on trading favors is just so great. It also, once again, showed how realistically teenagers were depicted in this book, I think every favor request (other than um, maybe Maebh’s) could happen in pretty much any high school anywhere. The business also allowed Aideen’s character to grow, through talking to new people and learning more about their situations and also just through her interactions with Kavi as she carried out these favors.
The background student council elections. There is a subplot concerning the election of class president throughout this book and I really loved it. I love how it showcased Maebh as a character and what is important to her, and I also just really loved reading little bits about her proposals and whatnot. I think this was a great way to let the reader understand Maebh as a character more as well as a way for some more serious topics to be introduced/handled by the novel.
Everything. I feel like I cannot truly explain how perfect this book was for me. Almost the entire time I was reading it I had a grin on my face and I have so many moments marked as favorites in my annotations, I absolutely cannot wait to flip through and reread them later. Aideen and Maebh and Kavi are such amazing, well rounded characters and it was great to see them grow and change throughout the story. I absolutely cannot wait to read more of Smyth’s work.