Pages: 352 pages
Published: May 25, 2021 (UK: May 27, 2021)
Publisher: Page Street Kids (UK: Hodder Children’s Books)
Genre: Young Adult, Romance, Contemporary, LGBTQIA+
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.
Like with YA fantasy, Young Adult Romance is not always my cup of tea. I always find it very corny and a little unrealistic to read, so I try to stay away from the genre. But there was just something different about this one. Could it be that it was by not only an Irish author but an author of color? Or is it because it features two diverse main characters? Whatever the reason, I’m so glad that this book crossed my path and gave me the joys and engagement that I strive for in any book that I read.
This book isn’t your typical meet-cute story, although that is a trope within the narrative. Hani and Ishu despise one another. However, they need one another to help accomplish what they need. For Hani, she wants to get her friends off her back. And for Ishu, she wants her parents to recognize her accomplishments and not compare her to her sister, Nik. But as always, the more time they spend with one another, the more they realize how much they need one another and how they have a lot in common. Their gradual realization that they are attracted to one another may be typical. Still, you cannot help but smile, and the interactions between Hani and Ishu touch your heart. Sometimes it is nice to see two young people gradually fall for each other, even though a trope has been made before. However, Jaigirdar had done it with eloquence and beauty. It feels natural to the reader and makes them want to root for them until the end.
I also loved reading about the animosity and homophobia Hani felt from her friends and the high expectations Ishu receives from her parents. The complicated lives both Hani and Ishu dealt with made them feel like real teenagers. Although experiences differ, it did give me a chance to reflect on my teenage years. The diverse and vibrant voices that shine through the text in this narrative speak to the tumultuous times we live in. The balance between light and thought-provoking moments was a challenging task. Still, Jaigirdar did a great job balancing them out and not dragging the story. You still feel the hopefulness but the insightfulness you want from diverse reads.
Funny, heartwarming and insightful, this is a book that you should add to your TBR pile. If you are a fan of YA contemporary fiction and diverse representation in your reading, then you can’t go wrong with Hani and Ishu’s Guide to Fake Dating. Jaigirdar did an excellent job highlighting why it is essential to embrace all aspects of your life. Still, it’s okay to break away from the toxicity in your life to find your happy ending, whether romantic or platonic. If you need a feel-good read with a lesson attached, let Adiba Jaigirdar be your guide!