*I got this copy from the publisher via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review*
What is it about?
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. (goodreads)
Book: The Henna Wars | Author: Adiba Jaigirdar | Publisher: Page Street | Published: 12th May 2020 | Pages: 400 | Genre: contemporary YA | Rep: Bengali lesbian MC, Bengali side characters, Brazilian-Irish bi, Brazilian side character, Korean side character | TW: homophobia, racism, bullying, cultural appropriation, outing of a character
What did I think?
It was super easy to get into The Henna Wars, the characters were complex and wonderfully written, the character relationships were thought through and I enjoyed it immensely.
The protagonist is Nishat who comes out as a lesbian to her parents very early in the book. Throughout the story, she’s struggling with many things, juggling her parents’ reaction to her coming out as well as bullying at school, her crush on Flávia and school work all at once. She’s a very realistically written character with differents sides to her, making mistakes and being selfish from time to time, but also having a good heart and trying to right wrongs. I instantly liked her and her whole being.
I loved her whole family, especially her sister, Priti and their relationship. They have such a deep love for each other, basically being each other’s best friend and sharing everything, being always there for each other and helping each other out. Priti herself is the sun, the light of this story. I liked her so much!! But I also liked the parents and their development throughout the story. And the grandmother. The whole family was just so beautifully human, I felt like I was getting to know them on a somehow real level.
But also the relationships between the non-family characters were well written. So. Real. I remember being at school and being friends or good acquaintances with people for the sole reason of seeing them at school each day. And Nishat has different types of friendships, too, which felt really familiar and real.
This book is quite dark sometimes, discussing serious problems, both personal and more universal. It deals with those things in a serious way that seems like those situations are taken right out of reality and have both an emotional aspect as well as an educational one.
I very much enjoyed The Henna Wars, it’s beautifully diverse and well written and just feels extremely real.