This isn’t my usual genre, but I loved THE HENNA WARS by Adiba Jaigirdar (my review of that here) so much that I just had to give this one a go. I’m glad that I did, it was everything I loved about THE HENNA WARS, with fake dating (one of my favourite tropes) thrown into the mix.
Rating: 4.5 stars!
Thanks to Hodder Children’s Group for the eARC of this book. It has not affected my honest review.
Content Warnings: racism, Islamophobia, biphobia, parental abandonment, toxic friendship.
About the book:
Everyone likes Humaira “Hani” Khan—she’s easy going and one of the most popular girls at school. But when she comes out to her friends as bisexual, they invalidate her identity, saying she can’t be bi if she’s only dated guys. Panicked, Hani blurts out that she’s in a relationship…with a girl her friends absolutely hate—Ishita “Ishu” Dey. Ishu is the complete opposite of Hani. She’s an academic overachiever who hopes that becoming head girl will set her on the right track for college. But Ishita agrees to help Hani, if Hani will help her become more popular so that she stands a chance of being elected head girl.
Despite their mutually beneficial pact, they start developing real feelings for each other. But relationships are complicated, and some people will do anything to stop two Bengali girls from achieving happily ever after.
What did I think?
This book was so cute. I knew that I loved Adiba Jaigirdar’s writing from loving her debut, THE HENNA WARS, so I was excited for this one particularly because fake dating is one of my favourite tropes – I read so much fake dating fanfiction, you wouldn’t believe me if I said how much. I ended up reading this entire book in one day, plowing through its incredibly readable prose so I could find out more about these characters I’d already grown to adore. While this did give me all the wonderful and fluffy feelings that I wanted from a sapphic fake dating story, it also had emotional depths to it that hit me hard.
The way that the biphobia is included in the plot was incredible, and very validating. The microaggressions were threaded through in the same insidious way that they usually appear from friends and family, but were equally highlighted and called out. I liked that Adiba Jaigirdar showed how these biphobic attitudes don’t just come from strangers but can come from the people whose opinions matter the most to us. Equally, HANI AND ISHU’S GUIDE TO FAKE DATING showed Islamophobia from Hani’s toxic friends, and it was extremely discomforting to read the way that Hani rationalised and justified their attitudes – which is so important for teenagers to see in their fiction. I really loved the way that Hani’s approach to practicing Islam was portrayed. I can’t comment on ‘accuracy’ of any of the rep but I really liked that Hani chose her path herself, and throughout the book we saw several different ways of practicing Islam from the different Muslim characters.
Both POVs were really well done. Both Hani and Ishu had such distinct personalities and voices, and I loved seeing everything through both of their eyes and experiences. Hani and Ishu really reminded me of the sunshine and the grumpy one trope. Their relationship felt authentic and like it had real chemistry between them. Their relationship built from acquaintances to friends to love in a way that was really believable and I fell in love right alongside them. I loved the slow burn feeling to it and the complicated feelings always brought out by the fake dating trope. This is such an easy comfort read and I highly recommend it.
Release Date: 27th May 2021