This book caught my eye on netgalley because fake dating!!! sapphic!!! what more could I want?!! I was looking forward to seeing the dynamic between the popular girl and the overachiever, and to learning about Bengali culture. I have my issues with this book, but overall I really enjoyed it and it made me smile a lot.
Star rating: 4 stars
Hani and Ishu are seventeen years old – Hani is a friendly popular girl who just wants her friends to take her bisexuality seriously, and Ishu has grown up in the shadow of her sister and just wants to achieve everything her parents have wanted for her – get into the best possible university to become a Doctor. So they begin to fake date – Hani to show her friends she dates girls, and Ishu to use Hani’s popularity to become elected head girl. What could possibly go wrong?
Hani’s story is centred on her friendship with two white girls, Aisling and Dee. Both have issues with everything about Hani, from her sexuality to her religion, their conversations are full of micro aggressions and racist remarks. They won’t eat Bengali food, they never go to halal restaurants and are contributors to bisexual erasure. Things don’t improve when Ishu comes on the scene, and Aisling’s jealousy leads to her doing some really nasty things to Ishu (and don’t get me started on the school’s response to it – the racial discrimination is strong).
Ishu has always been in the shadow of her sister Nik, but when Nik comes home with a surprise her parents couldn’t have predicted, Ishu starts feeling the pressure to be the perfect daughter. She never made the effort to make friends at school, and popularity is needed to be elected head girl. When Hani suggests they fake date, she’s unsure at first but soon sees the benefits to her.
Some of my favourite aspects of the book were when Ishu showed Hani what true friends act like – taking her to halal restaurants (Ishu is not Muslim) and respecting her. I also loved the dynamic between Ishu and her sister Nik now Nik has spent some time away from the environment their parents created. The food descriptions were also great, I just want to try all of the food now!
The issues I had were quite minor – sometimes it was hard to tell which point of view I was reading as Ishu and Hani have similar voices. There is a lot of racism and bisexual erasure throughout the book too, which may be triggering to some. Adiba Jaigirdar does have a content warnings list at the start of the book which is a big plus for her.
Overall, a fun YA romance that I enjoyed reading. I’ll be sure to get to reading The Henna Wars soon after this!