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.
- Title: Hani and Ishu’s Guide to Fake Dating
- Author: Adiba Jaigirdar
- Publisher: Page Street Kids
- Genre: Romance, LGBTQ, Contemporary, YA
- Targeted Age Range: Young Adult
- Trigger Warnings: racism, homophobia (specifically biphobia and lesbophobia), Islamophobia, toxic friendship, gaslighting, and parental abandonment
- Rating: ★★★★★
Hani and Ishu’s Guide to Fake Dating has been one of my most anticipated releases of 2021. After all, a sapphic fake-dating story written by the author of The Henna Wars? What more could a girl want?
Hani and Ishu’s Guide to Fake Dating follows Humaira “Hani” Khan, and Ishita “Ishu” Day; two girls who find themselves in a mutually beneficial fake relationship. After Hani’s friends invalidate her bisexuality, claiming that she can’t be bi if she’s never kissed a girl, Hani accidentally says that she’s dating Ishu. While initially opposed to the idea, Ishu soon realizes that she could benefit from this agreement — Hani’s one of the most liked people at school, and to become Head Girl, Ishu could certainly benefit from the popularity boost.
Told in dual-POV, Hani and Ishu’s Guide to Fake Dating was filled with moments that made me laugh out loud, and moments that made me teary-eyed. I loved getting to know more about Hani and Ishu, and what they were thinking and going through in each moment. As a reader, I think I’ve come to appreciate dual-POV romances a lot more as it allows us further insight and a peek into more character growth and development.
As our main character, Ishu reminds me of a close friend of mine — so much that shorty after finishing the book, I went and preordered Hani and Ishu’s Guide to Fake Dating for them as a present. Like a lot of younger siblings I know, Ishu has spent a lot of her life in her older sister’s shadow, and being compared to her older sister, Nikita. So much of Ishu’s personality (her drive, her ambition) comes from wanting to make her parents’ sacrifice worth it, and which results in some tension between her and Nik. I can’t talk about Ishu without talking about my love for her relationship with Nik. I loved watching the two of them repair their relationship, show up for one another and move forward.
“My parents immigrated here with nothing… they have this tiny shop now. When we first came here, my dad used to drive a taxi and we used to live in a tiny one-room apartment. They missed my nana, nani, dada, and dadi’s funerals. They did all of it so that we could be … you know, the best versions of ourselves. So we could have the best life. The lives that they had to sacrifice … we can have that. I don’t want my parents to think that they did it all for nothing.”
Hani and Ishu’s Guide to Fake Dating is filled with snippets and quotes that remind me so much of my own experiences as an immigrant child. Hani and Ishu’s Guide to Fake Dating is a story that I wish I had when I was younger — one that I wish so many of my friends had when they were younger too, but one that I’m so glad exists now.
If Ishu is the human equivalent of a storm, Hani is pure sunshine. Hani is just pure joy, and one of the bubbliest love interests I’ve ever met. In the same way that Ishu’s arc is about making her own path & mending her relationship with her sister, Hani’s arc is about standing up for herself and being her own person. Instead of brushing off her own feelings, the biphobia, racial microaggressions, and ignorance of her friends again and again, Hani eventually learns her own self-worth. One of my favorite things about Hani and Ishu’s Guide to Fake Dating is the character growth between Hani and Ishu. Both have their own arcs aside from the romantic one, with their own struggles and personalities and I truly appreciated that.
Together, Hani and Ishu were adorable. They’re truly the grump/sunshine trope, and a perfect example of the fake-dating trope. I loved how seriously they took their fake dating agreement, with a Google Docs documenting their entire plan and relationship. I actually wrote “Google Docs My Beloved” in my Hani and Ishu notes. They’re fascinating as individuals, and lovely as a pairing. It was really wholesome to watch them learn from one another, and becoming better versions of themselves as a result.
I’ve seen a couple reviewers express frustration at how a specific incident was handled, but as a person of color, I can unfortunately say that is exactly how it would be handled. Overall, I absolutely adored Hani and Ishu’s Guide to Fake Dating, and couldn’t recommend it more highly. As I’m not Bengali, I highly, highly encourage you to read this review written by my dear friend Saima.
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.