Hani and Ishu’s Guide to Fake Dating by Adiba Jaigirdar
copy for review; all opinions are my own (image above is an affiliate link)
Official Summary: 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.
Review: I really love the cover for this book (Hani is on the left and Ishu is on the right) but I will admit that it makes the characters seem a bit younger than they are. Essentially, they are Juniors in high school, though the book takes place in Ireland which I love, because it’s fun to see some of the everyday life of living in a country besides the United States.
Both Hani and Ishu are Indian but that doesn’t mean they are all that alike, despite people always wanting to lump them together based on this.
Hani is smart, but sociable. She’s Muslim and loves going to the Mosque and praying when she can. She’s really close to her parents, especially her mom. She has two older brothers who are out of the house already. She identifies as bisexual.
Ishu is smart, but doesn’t really have any friends. She’s not Muslim. She’s not terribly close to her parents – they are very insistent that she do well in school and become a doctor and that’s what Ishu has always strived for, despite her older sister failing to meet familial expectations (Ishu’s sister actually appears in the book and she’s one of my favorite secondary characters!) She identifies as queer.
I hated that Hani’s friends made her feel like she couldn’t be bisexual if she’d never been with a girl. That’s a common theme when it comes to bisexuality – even though nobody says you can’t be straight if you’ve never been with, well, anyone. Despite this, Hani wants to prove to her friends that she understand herself, so she makes a deal with Ishu. The reason Ishu agrees? She wants to be Head Girl, which is essentially a popularity contest to win. It’s something her sister never achieved and Ishu is desperate to show her parents she is following the plan, even if her sister no longer is when the book takes place.
I really loved both Hani and Ishu as individual characters. I felt bad for Ishu as she seemed very alone and I hated how much pressure she put on herself. I wished Hani could see that her friends weren’t being supportive earlier on, but I liked the scenes between Hani and her mother.
The book felt a bit slow – or just overly long – at times, but that’s my main complaint, if you will. I would definitely recommend this book. It’s out now and a perfect read for June aka Pride Month!
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