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.
This was just the absolute cutest. I buddy read this one with a few friends, and most of our chat was between ‘how cute is this’ and ‘how annoying is this side character’. Hani is a popular girl who has recently come out as bisexual to her friends, who invalidate her sexuality because she’s only dated guys. Ishu is an academic overachiever who wants to become Head Girl, but needs to become more popular to get votes. They begin a fake relationship to mutually benefit them both, which brings them closer together.
One of my favourite parts of this book was the Muslim and Bengali rep. It felt authentic, natural and was so lovely to read about. It shouldn’t feel groundbreaking to have this kind of rep in YA, but it really does. I was reading this the entire time thinking of young Muslim readers who will see themselves in these characters. There are so many little things mentioned in this book, from wearing hijab, to praying, to having peer pressure from classmates to drink, that young Muslim girls will not have seen discussed in books before. And although that is crazy, and sad, I’m so happy to their stories finally shining through in YA. I also loved how this didn’t try to explain terms or coddle readers who are not from a South Asian background, because it is not the job of the author to educate.
I loved how distinct the two main characters and their families were, both having their own voices and interests. Although they do become intertwined with each other’s lives and have some quirks that belong only within the relationship, they also remain true to themselves and their own personalities. I also really liked Hani’s relationship with her family, which was so wholesome and lovely to read about. I especially found that in comparison to Ishu’s parents, it was heartwarming to read about their interactions. Ishu’s relationship with her sister was, although complicated, also lovely to read about.
Despite some of the difficult topics and discussions, I found this one very easy to read and dip in and out of for the buddy read. I became absorbed into the story so quickly, and found myself becoming emotional for different reasons throughout, especially feeling a lot of anger towards anyone who hurt these two girls. The only downside I found with this one is that some aspects of the plot had loose ends, or sometimes felt a little frustrating – especially when it came to the racism within the school.
Overall, this book was so heartwarming and fluffy but also covered some really important topics. I really loved it I’d love to pick up The Henna Wars by the same author!
4.5 out of 5 stars
May your shelves forever overflow with books! ☽