S.B. Frasca’s new YA novel follows a teenager who uses art to make sense of an unfair world.
Life is tough for Hy, a character who, in an unusual twist, Frasca never identifies by gender. Awkward and overweight, Hy is bullied at school and lives with a single mother who can’t provide much in the way of material things.
But Hy has one avenue of defiance: creating art with the phrase “not my fault” as a theme. As the “not my fault” project expands, so does Hy’s world. Connections develop with a convenience store owner, an art teacher and a wealthy but lonely fellow teen. There’s even a burgeoning romance with Jordan, a popular boy at school.
Then Hy’s absentee father reappears, up-ending Hy’s preconceptions about him and his mother. And the “not my fault” series causes trouble at school, jeopardizing Hy’s future.
Hy’s spunk and creativity – whether decorating household cast-offs so they’ll fetch more money at a yard sale, or penning a heartfelt plea in Morse Code on a jacket – are irresistible. And taunts from schoolmates, or Hy’s overeating to compensate for psychological pain, prove as painful for readers as they are for Hy.
Likewise, Hy’s relationships, in all their tenderness and awkwardness, are beautifully drawn. A scene in which Hy’s mother dismisses a potential boyfriend for rejecting Hy is particularly moving, as is Hy’s relationship with an often irascible but also quite funny grandmother.
On the other hand, a subplot involving an unintended pregnancy feels tacked on, particularly in its neat resolution. And Frasca’s refusal to give Hy a gender, though interesting, sometimes strains credulity. For instance, characters in the story would most certainly react differently to Jordan’s decision to choose Hy over his cheerleader girlfriend if he left her for a boy versus a girl.
These flaws, however, don’t reduce the novel’s overall likeability. Not My Fault is an empathetic, heartwarming underdog story that should appeal to a variety of teen readers.
Also available as an ebook.