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 realises there might be more to her than she realised.
This is one of my favourite 2020 reads so far. I couldn’t stop thinking about this book when I was in between reading it so I gobbled this up in about three days.
The romance was business rivals to lovers, which is my favourite romance trope. The yearning and the pining and the cute moments they had was great, and I love how it didn’t completely overtake Nishat’s story. The book didn’t revolve around the romance which was great to see as it discusses so many important things.
I also loved the sibling relationship between Nishat and Priti, they’re supportive and looking out for each other, had really cute moments. The amount of trust and love they had for each other was so lovely to see. I think this may be my favourite sibling relationship I’ve seen in a book. The fact that this was highlighted more in the book than any other theme and remained consistent throughout was also super refreshing to see.
While this book is described as soft and adorable a lot (it is literally this emoji 🥰 as a book) it does deal with homophobia, racism, and cultural appropriation. I love the way the cultural appropriation was handled; you could feel Nishat’s anger and heartbreak over people who were appropriating her culture and saying “Its just art” to make it seem okay. There were mentions of what it was like being a POC in a very white country (people not knowing how to pronounce Nishat’s name properly? I felt that.) And Nishat’s parents’ reaction. They reacted very negatively which did shatter my heart in every single way.
A drawback of this book that might bother some readers is the writing style. It can be bland at times, and while it didn’t really take away from my reading experience it might for others. I also felt like the discussions of these heavy themes could have been a bit more nuanced (especially the cultural appropriation) but again, didn’t really lower my rating or take away from my experience at all.
I really recommend this book. You should read it. And Adiba Jaigirdar has another book coming out, Hani and Ishu’s Guide to Fake Dating which, yes, has a fake dating trope (and rumour has it, romantic rain scenes) I cannot wait!!
have you read The Henna Wars? are you interested in reading it if you haven’t yet? tell me your thoughts!