Read: 14th January 2021 – 15th January 2021
Spoilers in review: No
Rep: bengali muslim main character, lesbian main character, black brazilian-irish love interest, bisexual love interest, sapphic relationship, bengali muslim side characters, korean side character
CW: racism, homophobia, bullying, forced outing, cultural appropriation, unsupportive family, illness of a family member, harry potter references, mention of elliot page’s deadname
When Dimple Met Rishi meets Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda in this rom com about two teen girls with rival henna businesses.
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 realizes there might be more to her than she realized.
I loved this book! It’s been a while since I enjoyed reading a book so much that I lose track of the time and before I know it it’s the middle of the night and I’ve finished the book and I don’t know what to do with myself anymore, but that’s exactly what happened here. It’s such a great feeling, 10/10, cannot recommend enough!
My heart ached for Nishat at various points throughout. Nobody deserves to go through some of the things that she goes through. Racism, homophobia, and bullying are awful, and these things are even more awful when they come from people who are supposed to love you. Without going too much into spoiler territory, the way the book ended made me really happy! Things obviously weren’t perfect, not yet, but there was a lot of love there and the promise of things getting better in the future.
Something that I really loved about this book was the relationship between Nishat and her younger sister, Priti. They are each other’s best friend and they have each other’s back no matter what! Their interactions were a delight to read, and personally I’d say that this was the true emotional core of the book, which I adored!
The rivalry between Nishat and Flávia was fairly short lived which I appreciated, even though what sparks it is serious. Cultural appropriation isn’t something that’s solely done by white people, and it’s not any more okay if a poc does it. Jaigirdar does a great job of showing that and exploring the impact that it has.
Other than this, Nishat’s romance with Flávia was really sweet! I could genuinely believe that they liked each other, and it made me smile loads! Jaigirdar also does a great job of showcasing the difficulty that can arise when people in a relationship are out or closeted to different people. It’s a topic that requires a lot of nuance. It’s not fair that someone should be forced to come out to everyone just so they can be in a relationship, and it’s also not fair that someone should be forced to keep their relationship a secret when they don’t want to do that. Both of these things are true at the same time, and neither party is in the wrong here. Jaigirdar handled this element of the plot excellently. At no point did I feel like either Nishat or Flávia were being forced into doing anything they weren’t comfortable with in this regard, and that made me really happy!
The Henna Wars is a masterful celebration of Bengali culture and sisterhood with a childhood-friends-to-rivals-to-lovers romance that I defy anyone not to enjoy.
I received an e-arc through Netgalley in return for an honest review
About The Author
Adiba Jaigirdar was born in Dhaka, Bangladesh, and has been living in Dublin, Ireland from the age of ten. She has a BA in English and History from University College Dublin, and an MA in Postcolonial Studies from the University of Kent. She is the author of The Henna Wars, which was named a best book of the year by Kirkus, and was a semi-finalist for Best Young Adult Fiction in the Goodreads Choice Awards. Her sophomore novel, Hani and Ishu’s Guide to Fake Dating is forthcoming from Page Street in Spring 2021. All of her writing is aided by tea, and a healthy dose of Janelle Monáe and Hayley Kiyoko. When not writing, she can be found ranting about the ills of colonialism, playing video games, and expanding her overflowing lipstick collection. She can be found at adibajaigirdar.com or @adiba_j on Twitter and @dibs_j on Instagram.
About The Blogger
El is a 21 year old university student from the UK who loves to read and loves talking about what they read. They particularly like to focus on books featuring lgbtq+ main characters.