published: 25th May 2021
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.
Galley provided by publisher
Hani and Ishu’s Guide to Fake Dating is a very sweet romance, one of those ones you can just sit and enjoy in a few hours. It follows two girls who don’t really interact, but who end up fake dating, when one of them blurts out to her friends that they’re together.
On the whole, I think I had more mixed opinions on this one than The Henna Wars. I still enjoyed it, don’t get me wrong! But I guess it would be safe to say I enjoyed it less. (Of course, I’m expecting to be in the minority here. If you loved The Henna Wars, I fully expect that you’ll love this too.)
Let me start with the good things. Both of the main characters are ones that you’ll love instantly. They’re also just a bit more chaotic than Nishat was, in the best way, so you’re like…watching them do all this fake dating aware that it’s all going to go downhill. I mean, that’s all I ever really want from a romcom, to be quite honest. You know how it’s going to go down, but that’s what’s great about it. You can sit back and enjoy it.
As with The Henna Wars, this is also a book that well balances the romcom nature of its plot with more serious topics. There’s Hani’s friends’ biphobia (and how they treat her badly overall), and the plotline with Ishu’s sister. I think one of Adiba Jaigirdar’s major strengths is striking that balance, so no one part of the plot feels overlooked or brushed past.
Where this book perhaps fell down a little for me was that I didn’t find the characters’ voices that distinct. Obviously not in a “whose POV is this??” way, because they’re distinct in the sense you know whose you’re in, but more like…the writing sounds exactly the same for both. For some people I guess that’s not even going to register as a potential problem, but I think that’s what stopped me liking it so much as The Henna Wars.
But overall, this is definitely a book I’d recommend, and one of those that you come out of knowing you can trust the author in future.