Review: Hani and Ishu’s Guide to Fake Dating, by Adiba Jaigirdar

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.

Look at this cover! Look at the colours! Isn’t it the best??

The Story

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.

The Review

Rating: 5 out of 5.

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 😀

The Links

Amazon* | Barnes & Noble | Waterstones | more links on the author’s website!

*these are affiliate links, I may receive a small commission for purchases made through these links, at no extra cost to you

ARC review: Luckmonkey, by Alysia Constantine

So I got this ARC a while back, then sh*t hit the fan for me in my personal life and I didn’t get to it before it was long published… then struggled through the first half, if I’m being honest. It did pique my interest though, so I stayed with it and eventually ended up quite enjoying it!

The story

By day, Luckmonkey is a struggling punk band playing in record stores and taco joints; by night, its members are anti-capitalist agitators, breaking into homes and businesses, each time stealing one possession and leaving something different in its place. Squatting in an abandoned building without electricity or heat, they scrounge a patched-together life as a raucous, mismatched family of queer, trans and first-gen social activists.

But when one of them steals a wind-up monkey toy and brings it home, things begin to deteriorate into squabbles and bad decisions, until an arrest forces the group to weigh the hard work of political resistance against their individual needs for stability and safety.

Set in the margins of Pittsburgh in the early aughts, Luckmonkey barrels into the defiant lives of social outsiders working to change the world.

The Review

Rating: 3 out of 5.

I received a free advanced reader’s copy in exchange for an honest review.

TWs for the book: transphobia, misgendering, arrest and police violence, disordered eating.

So I mostly got this book for the cover, without paying much attention to the summary. It’s just so lush and I’m a sucker for anything Art Nouveau, so I had to know what this was all about… The cover’s not really representative at all of the mood of the novel though.

I had a hard time getting into it, the first third to first half was just really dreary, and I had trouble sticking with the protagonists. T, the main character, was really enjoyable and relatable, but I just thought T’s “friends” were all assholes and they weren’t really well-rounded characters. Once two of them leave their little band, though, it became more interesting.

The politics were kind of annoying because these kids are homeless and living in a squat, some of them on principle, and I had trouble getting behind all their so called “changing the world” because it was clearly risky and useless, and I had trouble relating that to real-life homeless people I know, who’d not turn their nose up at a cup of coffee because “they don’t deserve it”. I did appreciate that the characters called themselves out on their hypocrisy, however.

I especially liked the last third or so of the book. I was afraid at times that the ending would be absolutely miserable, because it looked like it was going that way, but without spoiling too much, it wasn’t. This lovely old lady character gets introduced and she’s a little beam of sunlight that really made reading the book worth it. I’d read an entire novel about Bert.

The novel also ends on an uncertainty, which I did not really like. I wish the author had taken a few more pages, maybe an epilogue of some kind, to tell us more about what happens to the characters after. But it was still a nice read, even if it’s not my usual kind of stuff.

The Links

Amazon* | Barnes & Noble | or read it on Scribd*

*these are affiliate links, I may receive a small commission (or a free month on Scribd) for purchases made through these links, at no extra cost to you

Verona Comics

The Story

Jubilee has it all together. She’s an elite cellist, and when she’s not working in her stepmom’s indie comic shop, she’s prepping for the biggest audition of her life. Ridley is barely holding it together. His parents own the biggest comic-store chain in the country, and Ridley can’t stop disappointing them–that is, when they’re even paying attention. They meet one fateful night at a comic convention prom, and the two can’t help falling for each other. Too bad their parents are at each other’s throats every chance they get, making a relationship between them nearly impossible . . . unless they manage to keep it a secret. Then again, the feud between their families may be the least of their problems. As Ridley’s anxiety spirals, Jubilee tries to help but finds her focus torn between her fast-approaching audition and their intensifying relationship. What if love can’t conquer all? What if each of them needs more than the other can give?

The Review

Rating: 5 out of 5.

I can’t lie, I’m a sucker for Shakespeare rewrites, and I’m a sucker for Romeo and Juliet – but it rarely hits the mark, really. This book, though! I had a blast listening to the audiobook! The voice actors really embody the characters, and Ridley especially. The poor kid has panic attacks and the writer and actor both did a wonderful job portraying that.

There’s a lot in this story about mental health, and family abuse and what it does to you, so it comes with trigger warnings – but the writer really did justice to the topic, showing how it’s really overwhelming sometimes and how those dynamics eat at you – but also how there are roads to recovery and ways to build support systems even if you think there aren’t.

It’s also really, really funny and geeky in the best of ways, and it’s a love letter to independent comicbook stores, and to queer kids. Most of the cast is queer in some way, including the main f/m relationship – which is very unusual and as a bi girl I found it really refreshing. It does a good job of portraying the anxiety that comes with navigating relationship as a bi/pan/…  person too, but remains very positive on that front. I don’t normally read contemporary  YA, but I absolutely loved this one and would absolutely recommend it!

Get the book!

Penguin | B&N | Waterstones