Not My Fault by Cath Howe

Ever since the accident Rose and her sister Maya have not been talking. Maya asked her sister to push her harder on the roundabout and when Rose did there were terrible results. Now Maya blames Rose and treats her unkindly and in her frustration behaves badly too. Rose, full of guilt for what has happened, wants to make things right again. The sisters have to go away on a week long residential school trip and their parents, teachers and even their friends worry about how this will work out. Will the trip mend the broken sibling bond or break it completely once and for all?

I am often intrigued by how two people can sometimes have entirely different recollections of exactly the same event. This often does not mean that they cannot remember the incident properly but simply that different aspects resonate more with people depending on their views, interests or attitudes. Cath Howe takes this a stage further by looking at how a traumatic event has a lasting effect on those who suffer it or witness it. In this case that the event involved children, and even more poignantly siblings, adds to the emotional impact.

Not My Fault is told in the alternating voices of the two sisters and this works extremely well. Maya and Rose are very different characters indeed and how much of this is due to the accident and how much is down to their individual personalities would be an interesting subject for discussion. Rose is reserved and quieter than her sister, she tries to be good and is a bit of a perfectionist whilst Maya is popular with other children at school, full of humour and with an air of bravado. Rose has become involved in the world of gymnastics and her increasing commitment and success results in Maya becoming even more bitter than before. Things come to a head during the school trip when events conspire to throw the sisters together despite their wish to stay apart.

Cath Howe is a primary school teacher and she has captured the voices of ten year olds and the highs and lows of residential school trips to perfection. The writing displays an understanding of children and is extremely well observed. This feels realistic and believable and I feel sure that young readers will find both the characters and the storyline relatable. School trips can be a source of worry for some children but this book demonstrates that despite these fears they should be, and generally are, an enjoyable and enriching experience. In addition to the main storyline about Maya and Rose, there are amusing moments and some of the supporting cast of characters including Maya’s friend, Bonnie and the poor harassed teacher, Mr Goodman are very appealing.

I enjoyed reading this and as I somehow never got around to reading this author’s acclaimed debut, Ella on the Outside, I will be putting that one on my to read list also.

Thank you very much to Rebecca Mason and Nosy Crow publishers for providing my free review copy.

If young readers enjoy this type of school story with relatable characters they may also enjoy Splash by Charli Howard

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