I’ve got to admit this was entirely an impulse buy. I don’t really read contemporary YA but the author shared pictures of the paperback on twitter and I just fell in love with it! It’s such a good cover! So I preordered it. I rarely do this because the preorder options here aren’t good, but there was a link to Eason’s
(that’s like the Waterstones of Ireland, really) right there on the author’s website, which… if you make it easy for me I’m happier to buy your stuff. That should’ve given it away, but I didn’t realize that this was based in Ireland til I started reading.
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.
I’ve just got a sweet spot for stories set in Dublin (or in places I know generally). Reading things like “let’s meet up in Dundrum!” or “We’ll take the Luas” (that’s the Dublin tram, for those of you reading this outside Ireland) is surreal and makes me very happy for some reason. So finding out this was based here and not in the UK or US as I was expecting just made this even better!
But even besides the home sweet home aspect, it’s an adorable, cute, funny little book. I straight up devoured it in 2 days, and with my bad focus, that’s saying something!
Now, as the book will tell you when you open it, it broaches possibly triggering subjects like homophobia/biphobia, racism and islamophobia. Hani’s “friends” are just mean white girls, yall! They were, unfortunately, absolutely believable in their behaviour and comments. But Jaigirdar also takes no hostages, and I especially liked how Ishu was absolutely mad about the things Hani’s “friends” said. It was clear both characters had their issues, with Ishu being way too focused on pleasing her parents (out of legitimate fears of rejection) and Hani hanging on to these toxic friends. So it wasn’t one-sided at all, but I loved when Ishu would tear into Aisling and Deirdre. God those girls are ignorant! And Ishu’s remarks were hilarious.
As you see I’ve a lot of feelings about this novel! I loved the main couple, and how their differences shaped their dynamic but also how they completed each other very well and in a way can give the other a “reality check”. I also loved Hani’s Amma and Abba, best parents a girl could dream of! And really enjoyed how Ishu’s relationship with her sister evolved throughout. It leaves you with a lot of thoughts about family, but in a good way I think? This novel just filled me with a lot of good fuzzy feelings by the end.
Now, I know very little about Bengali culture at all, so for me it was more a learning experience than a “see yourself in it” experience, but it was a good immersion and it reads really well even as a mostly ignorant white person. But mostly I’m really glad that girls like Hani and Ishu have books where they can see themselves in, nowadays. I don’t think I’d have been able to pick up a book like this even 10 years ago, and I’m glad that landscape is changing!
It was an adorable romance, and very funny too! 10/10 would recommend! Just go read it 😀
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