Another absolutely excellent read from Adiba Jaigirdar!!
I loved The Henna Wars, and Hani and Ishu’s Guide to Fake Dating was equally good. 🥺💛 It’s about two Bengali queer teens fake-dating amongst pressure from school and parents, add in some complicated family dynamics, plus your-existence-annoys-me to I’d-do-anything-for-you romance dynamics and you have this most amazing book.
It is so so easy to love both the characters. It’s narrated by both Hani and Ishu, and the stakes are quiet but super important to them, so every failure or lovely moment the girls go through hits so hard while you’re reading.
Meet Hani • She’s the youngest daughter of super loving and accepting parents. She’s bisexual and out to her family. But when she comes out to her white friends…they are snarky and toxic about it. Basically her friends are awful but she’s known them forever and can’t accept the reality that: they suck. It HURT watching her accept and internalise how they treat her. (Also utterly painful flashbacks and teeth-clenching grimacing to my teen friendships too lolol ouch.) Basically Hani ends up needing to fake-date Ishu to PROVE to her friends she is bisexual. Hani is really sweet and lovely and friendly, but zero skills in the confrontation department.
Meet Ishu • She is a study machine, super intense and serious and focused. (Hobbies? No. Ishu studies.) She’s not out to her parents and while they’re loving and caring, they’re set in their ways and have some toxic tendencies. Like when her older sister Nik announces she’s getting married and dropping out of uni, her parents are furious and cannot forgive this. So Ishu suddenly decides to be the Good Child that everyone respects for once. She wants to be Head Girl at school and please her parents’ high expectations since Nik is failing them. But to achieve THAT Ishu needs Hani’s smiles and connections and sociability to help her get popular enough for their classmates to vote for her.
Let the fake dating commence.
Okay these two are AWKWARD together. Their relationship is absolutely slow burn, with the most tentative friendship first before those inevitable feelings catch. But seriously these two couldn’t be more different. I loved the contrast of their personalities and by the end you are like 😩🙌🏻 just kiss.
Things I Also Enjoyed
- the way it unpacked that parents aren’t usually “good or evil”. Ishu’s parents were caught somewhere in that place of love for their daughters, but also trapped in the toxicity of unaccepting queerness or mental health struggles. I just thought it was really well written.
- I loved the dynamics between Ishu and Nik’s sister-relationship and their sad but sweet arc 😩 Adiba Jaigirdar writes the BEST sister duos. Complex and messy and relatable.
- the writing is engaging and easy to devour
- book made me utterly hungry and I protest
- toxic friendship dealt with nuance amongst the agony
- the stakes of the finale really made me ache for Ishu 🥺 and it calls out micro-aggressions and white feminism
- the audiobook is so so good (I really loved the Irish narrators) and made reading all the more enjoyable.
Overall a thoroughly perfect read of finding a way to live for yourself, call out toxicity, and learn to be vulnerable and loyal to the right people. With amazing character arcs and relationships, this story is so full of heart.
Thanks to Allen & Unwin for the review-copy! It’s out August 2021.
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.