BOOK REVIEW: Hani and Ishu’s Guide to Fake Dating by Adiba Jaigirdar

Adiba Jaigirdar, the author of The Henna Wars, is back with another contemporary Young Adult novel about the queer South Asian experience in Hani and Ishu’s Guide to Fake Dating.

Adiba Jaigirdar, the author of The Henna Wars, is back with another contemporary Young Adult novel about the queer South Asian experience in Hani and Ishu’s Guide to Fake Dating. The novel is a must-read if you love the fake dating trope—found in books like To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before—or are just looking for a feel good romance. 

Hani and Ishu’s Guide to Fake Dating follows the aftermath of Humaira “Hani” Khan coming out to her friends. To prove her bisexuality, Hani states that she and another Bengali student, Ishita “Ishu” Dey, are dating. Although at first resistant to the fake relationship, Ishu agrees, hoping that Hani’s popularity will help her win their school’s head girl election. What starts as a simple agreement soon becomes more complicated as Hani and Ishu develop romantic feelings for one another while having to deal with added pressures from their friends, family, and school. 

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Throughout Hani and Ishu’s Guide to Fake Dating, Jaigirdar weaves together classic tropes and YA conventions with fresh perspectives that are often left out of the genre. Young Adult novels often center around protagonists navigating the uncertainties of high school, balancing expectations from friends and family, and dealing with the jitters of a first love. One of my favourite things about this novel is that Jaigirdar incorporates these themes while addressing the fact that two queer brown girls will face different experiences than the assumed straight white protagonist.

The entire premise of the novel is that Hani, who has been out to her parents for a while but only recently to her friends, has to justify her bisexuality. Hani’s friends are both straight and white. On the surface they appear to accept Hani’s different culture and sexuality, but actually disregard and resent her for them. As a result, Hani minimizes aspects of her identity while she’s around her friends, namely her religion. For Ishu, her motivation to be head girl is sparked from a desire to grow out of her sister’s shadow and make her immigrant parents proud. Yet, the struggles of these characters are not necessarily the center of their stories; they are allowed to have moments of joy, love, and laughter. Additionally, while both Hani and Ishu are brown and Bengali, Jaigirdar makes a point of demonstrating that their shared identity doesn’t make them the same person, though the white students at their school assume this to be the case.The endearing quality of their blossoming relationship is that Hani and Ishu bond through their similar experiences, but also truly accept and appreciate their differences. 

I can honestly say that Hani and Ishu’s Guide to Fake Dating is a novel I’ll reread over and over again. It’s fun, heartwarming, and features two brown girls falling in love; it’s basically everything I wanted, or rather needed, in a Young Adult novel. 

Staff Writer

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