When Nishat comes out to her parents, they say she can be anyone she wants—as long as she isn’t herself. Because Muslim girls aren’t lesbians. Nishat doesn’t want to hide who she is, but she also doesn’t want to lose her relationship with her family. And her life only gets harder once a childhood friend walks back into her life.
Flávia is beautiful and charismatic and Nishat falls for her instantly. But when a school competition invites students to create their own businesses, both Flávia and Nishat choose to do henna, even though Flávia is appropriating Nishat’s culture. Amidst sabotage and school stress, their lives get more tangled—but Nishat can’t quite get rid of her crush on Flávia, and realizes there might be more to her than she realized.
I read Hani and Ishu’s Guide to Fake Dating by the same author last year, and I’ve wanted to read The Henna Wars ever since! I picked this up alongside Courtney while we were away, and it was great to read together. We also listened to a big chunk on audio, which we enjoyed too and was easy to follow.
This book discusses a lot of heavy issues, including racism and homophobia. These issues are dealt with well in the contemporary, school setting, but can sometimes be difficult to read (see a list in the front of the book for content warnings).
What I want more than anything else in the world is to feel like being myself isn’t something that should be hidden and a secret.
Nishat and Flávia definitely grew on me as the book went on, but I must say I did feel like there were a few issues glossed over within the book. Although all of my concerns were addressed, I sometimes wanted a bit more of a discussion before we moved on. I’m unsure if it’s just that there was a lack of physical space within the story, but this did lead to me feeling that some situations were slightly glossed over and brushed under the rug.
The concept of this book was unique and added an extra layer to the story with the girls’ businesses. I also found that the dialogue was really funny in places, and made me and Courtney chuckle a few times while reading. The romance was also really sweet, and it was cute to see the initial dates between the two girls and watch them realise they were falling for one another.
What I want is for my parents to be outraged that someone betrayed me, not ashamed of my identity.
Overall, this book had some brilliant discussions about race and homophobia, but could sometimes feel a bit young for me personally and like some of the difficult topics were glossed over.
4 out of 5 stars
May your shelves forever overflow with books! ☽
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