Start: January 1, 2022
Finish: January 6, 2022
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. (via Bookshop.org)
First ‘5 star’ rating of 2022?
The first few pages started off on a good note. I found ‘Hani and Ishu’s Guide to Fake Dating’ to be quite charming. And then we get to the actual ‘fake dating’ aspect of the story and I was ALL IN!
I don’t have strong opinion about the ‘fake dating’ troupe. It’s not one that I read very often and truthfully, I only picked up this book because I knew it featured LGBTQ+ girls. Now that I’ve finished the story, I’m still don’t have a strong opinion on ‘fake dating,’ but the trope is executed flawlessly in here. I was pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoyed ‘Hani and Ishu’s Guide to Fake Dating’ and by the end, I wanted to read more of Adiba Jaigirdar’s work. (‘The Henna Wars’ jumped up my ‘TBR’ list.)
There are a lot of strong aspects in here, but the strongest part is the characters. Hani and Ishu have clear character arcs and they grow both individually and together. It’s hard not rooting for them. I love how easily their attraction built over the course of the story and how they developed a genuine connection.
“You can talk to me about it if you want…” Ishu trails off, like she’s not really sure about making me this offer. “I mean…” She glances at me quickly. “Since you can’t talk to your friends about it…yet.”
The idea of talking to anyone who isn’t Muslim about religion feels strange, but Ishu’s offer still sends a bloom of warmth through me.
“Thanks, I guess.”
Hani and Ishu compliment the other’s flaws and learn from each other, learning the necessary lessons to complete their personal and romantic journeys.
The side characters are always well-fleshed out and likeable (to a certain extent). I appreciate the subtle comparison between Hani’s caring, nurturing parents and Ishu’s more strict and distant parents. Ishu has an older sister who she paints in a negative light at the start of the story, but over time both Ishu and the readers see that depiction of the sister no longer fits. Hani’s ‘best friends’ are irritating and close-minded throughout the story, yet we feel Hani’s reluctance to cut them out of her life. The side characters never outside Hani or Ishu, yet they still serve an important role in the main characters’ journeys.
The writing style is simplistic and doesn’t veer off into lengthy descriptions often. Yet Jaigirdar expertly handles complex themes and characters. This is best seen in the treatment of Ishu’s parents and their reluctance to attend their oldest daughter’s wedding.
I look to Abbu and Ammu. Surely, an Indian engineer will make them satisfied, if not happy. You can’t really ask for much more, can you? Nik chose the kind of guy that Abbu and Ammu would have chosen for her. Still, my parents are wearing twin expressions of disgust, like Nik has just told them she was planning to marry a shada guy with no prospects.
It would be easy to demonize the parents and cast them in a negative light for how they handle their daughter’s upcoming wedding. Yet the author takes great care to show that Ishu’s parents are human like everyone else. The end of their story isn’t a perfect reconciliation, but it ends on a slightly hopeful note.
This story is light-hearted with frequent moments of humor that will leave you smiling. Ishu is easily one of the funniest characters in here since she always has a witty, sarcastic remark ready to use. In the beginning she can come off as catty or abrasive, but deep down she cares about the people who are important to her. This is a great book to pick up if you’re interested in something light and fluffy.
My biggest regret with ‘Hani and Ishu’s Guide to Fake Dating’ is that I waited so long before reading it. Like most of the books I’ll review in 2022, I originally purchased this last year and failed to pick it up again after placing it on my bookshelf. I wanted something fun and ‘easy’ to read before diving into some meaty epic fantasy. I’m thrilled I finally sat down with this novel. It’s charming, emotional, funny and all around a joy to read. I’m eager to read Jaigirdar’s debut ‘The Henna Wars’ later this month and I believe she has another novel coming out later this year that I will certainly pick up. If you’re a fan of YA romance that isn’t overly cheesy, then I urge you to give ‘Hani and Ishu’s Guide to Fake Dating’ a try!