Saturday 10 July 2021

Review on Hani and Ishu's Guide to Fake Dating


Hani Khan is one of the most popular girls in school. She’s friendly to everyone and has two best friends she’s known since she was an infant. However, when Hani comes out as bisexual, her friends don’t believe her. To try to prove herself, she pretends she is dating Ishu, a girl who seems to have time for nothing but studying. Ishu’s main goal is to become head girl, but without Hani’s popularity, that will be impossible. Hani and Ishu decide to pretend to be dating each other until they both achieve their goals, but as they become closer and start to understand each other, the fake dating starts to feel a little too real.

I absolutely adored the idea behind this book! Fake dating is one of my favourite tropes, and the fact this book is sapphic made me even more excited to read it! I will admit this is a trope I’ve seen countless times, but most of the time it’s between a straight couple so I loved how having two girls fake dating gave this overused trope a new lease of life. I thought this part of the book was adorable, and I loved seeing how the two girls navigated their feelings for each other and went through all the ups and downs of their first relationship. 

 I loved the soft cute parts of this book, but along with that, the girls faced some real issues such as homophobia, Islamophobia, and racism. The majority of this came from Hani’s best friends, Aisling and Dee. Rather than full-on attacks, the girls were constantly throwing microaggressions at Hani while gaslighting her into thinking she should just accept it. Even though I was rooting for Hani to drop her horrible friends, I also found myself relating to her. When I was around Hani’s age I had friends similar to this who would throw homophobic and racist remarks around, but as I’d been friends with them for so long and had no other friends, I would usually not speak up. It’s often difficult to speak up when you’re young, and no one wants to believe that the friends they grew up with are actually horrible people, so although I was frustrated that Hani dealt with them and changed things about herself to please them, I also saw how difficult it was for her to stand up for herself. I loved that she was eventually able to find the confidence to stand up for herself and Ishu, as standing up to toxic friends can take even more courage than standing up to bullies. 

 Hani and Ishu’s relationship with each other was the complete opposite of this. Although both girls are Bengali, that’s where their similarities stopped. The girls had vastly different personalities, with Hani being popular but quiet and docile, and Ishu being studious, unpopular, and unafraid to speak her mind. Hani is also Muslim while Ishu isn’t. I loved how accepting the girls were of each other, and how Ishu knew her boundaries when it came to Hani’s faith and didn’t try to force her way into Muslim spaces the way Hani’s friends forced themselves into Bengali spaces. I think it’s important to know the boundaries of your friends who may have a different culture, religion or sexuality to you, and only enter these spaces if they invite you. Whereas Hani’s friends made her feel like she had to change who she was to fit in with them, Ishu allowed her to express who she really was.

 I loved how Ishu taught Hani what it was really like to have a friend who cared for her. For most of her life, Hani didn’t realise how horribly her friends were treating her, which often happens when you’ve never known any different. I think we’ve all dealt with toxic friends at some point, and it’s not until you meet a friend who actually cares about you that you’re able to see this toxic behaviour. It’s a process to be able to drop friends who are treating you badly and takes a lot of courage, but in the end, you have to do what’s best for you and get rid of the people in your life who are making you feel bad, or who won’t accept you for who you are.

 There was a good mixture of important topics and cute romance, and I think the romance helped to break it up a little. This book was literally full of my favourite tropes, from fake dating, friends to lovers, slow burn romance, and even the one bed trope! Honestly I can never hate a book that includes the one bed trope. The relationship between the girls progressed naturally, and I loved how it took time for them to warm up to each other. Any kind of relationship takes time to form, which is honestly why I hate instalove so much, so I loved how although it wasn’t quite my favourite trope of enemies to lovers, there was still a lot of development. I loved that the girls having clashing personalities ended up being beneficial to them both, as Ishu’s no-nonsense attitude eventually helped Hani to stand up to her friends, while Hani’s caring personality helped Ishu to see things from her sisters point of view, and realise she was in fact not trying to sabotage her. I loved how they were able to help each other with their problems and accept their differences. 

 I just want to quickly talk about a subplot I loved, which was Ishu’s relationship with Nik, her older sister. Ishu goes through some family drama when Nik disappoints their parents by announcing she is dropping out of med school to get married. Ishu’s parents are strict and want Ishu to follow in her sisters footsteps, which ends up being the whole cause for Ishu wanting to be head girl. Although Ishu initially agrees with her parents, she comes to see that Nik is unhappy and only went to med school because it was what their parents wanted. It’s only natural to want to please your parents, but at the end of the day it’s your life not theirs, and the most important thing to do is what makes you happy. I loved that with the help of Nik, Ishu realised this and set herself on her own path rather than the one her parents had laid out for her. I was a little disappointed that Nik wasn’t able to solve things with her parents, but at the same time, it showed us that life doesn’t always go to plan, and it’s pretty unlikely that we’ll always be able to fix every problem in our lives. Not everyone is going to accept your life choices, and if what you decide is what makes you happy, then that’s what should be focused on rather than people’s opinions. Nik’s parents really didn’t seem like bad people and seemed to be on the fence about Nik’s decisions, so it would be nice if they eventually did come around, but even if they never did, Nik still has her sister on her side.

 This book wasn’t exactly the cute feel-good story I was expecting it to be, but I did enjoy it and felt it dealt with all the themes it covered well. I wouldn’t recommend it if all you’re looking for is a sweet sapphic romance, as there are some pretty important themes that could potentially be upsetting. Something I absolutely loved was that it gave content warnings on the front page, so you knew what you were getting into. I know content warnings seem to be a bit of a divided topic in the book community, but I personally feel like people not getting triggered is far more important than these warnings being potential “spoilers”. As long as you feel like you can handle the topics I’ve mentioned then I definitely recommend this book!

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