I had very high expectations of this book after loving Jaigirdar’s first book, The Henna Wars, and this book completely lived up to those expectations and surpassed them. I actually liked this book more than her previous one. The book was very captivating, and I couldn’t put it down.
The focus of the book is split between Hani and Ishu, both of whom I loved. They each had a strong and distinct voice, something that I feel is important in these sorts of books as sometimes the characters can sound too similar and blend together. However, this was definitely not the case in this book. They have very contrasting personalities and views, which made reading each of their points of view more interesting and compelling.
While I did love both Hani and Ishu, Ishu was my favorite of the two. She was very cynical, smart, focused on school, and funny at times. She was also dealing with her parents’ high expectations, and she has to figure what she wants versus what her parents want. She was a very relatable character, and Hani was too, but Ishu was more relatable to me personally, and I connected to her more because of that. Hani was outgoing and kind, and she was very well-written as well. I think that depending upon what your personality is like, you will connect more with one or the other.
One of my favorite aspects of The Henna Wars was the strong relationship between the sisters. This is also shown in Hani and Ishu’s Guide to Fake Dating but in a different way. This book focused on the development of the relationship between Ishu and her older sister Nik. They had been in competition with each other previously about school and impressing their parents, and now they learn to get along and trust each other. Nik helps Ishu out at various times in the story.
I’m not a huge fan of romance, but I really loved Hani and Ishu together. From the beginning of their relationship, when they both dislike each other and aren’t friends, to how they grow to care about each other and appreciate each other. They had a genuine connection, and their eventual relationship felt very natural and not at all forced.
This was a fun book in some aspects, but in others, it was much more serious. Hani and Ishu connecting and growing closer and creating their fake dating plan was the more fun part. Meanwhile, the issues of biphobia, homophobia, Islamophobia, and racism were brought up and discussed in this book, especially in the way they affected the characters. For example, Hani faces biphobia from her friends, who refuse to recognize that she bisexual because she has never dated or kissed a girl. All of these issues were handled well and challenged.
The ending of this book was good, I liked how it was handled because it wasn’t a perfect ending. There were some unresolved issues, such as with Ishu’s parents. I prefer it when endings aren’t quite perfect, especially in this book because a lot of the issues were neatly resolved.
The only part of this book that I wasn’t as fond of was Hani’s friends. They are supposed to be portrayed as toxic friends who are racist, biphobic, and have other prejudices. However, I didn’t understand how Hani could be so blind to her friends, and so willing to excuse them so many times. I couldn’t stand them, and I wish there had been a better reason.
Overall, I would recommend this book if you want an enjoyable YA contemporary romance that has lovable characters and that connects with deeper issues.
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.
Hani and Ishu’s Guide to Fake Dating by Adiba Jaigirdar
Published by: Page Street Kids – Published on: May 25th 2021