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Hani and Ishu's Guide to Fake Dating by…

Hani and Ishu's Guide to Fake Dating (edition 2021)

by Adiba Jaigirdar (Author)

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Title:Hani and Ishu's Guide to Fake Dating
Authors:Adiba Jaigirdar (Author)
Info:Hodder Children's Books (2021), 352 pages
Collections:Your library

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Hani and Ishu's Guide to Fake Dating by Adiba Jaigirdar


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Hani and Ishu’s Guide to Fake Dating takes the oft-used romance novel trope of “fake relationships” and turns it on its ears by giving the reader two girls of color living in Ireland. Hani and Ishu are both Bengali, but have very little else in common despite their school’s insistence. Hani is Bangladeshi Irish and speaks with an Irish lilt. She’s a practicing Muslim, out to her family as bisexual and one of the popular girls at school. Ishu, on the other hand, is Hindu, a studious overachiever, friendless, socially awkward, and firmly in the closet. The two agree to begin a fake relationship because Hani’s white Irish friends invalidate her sexuality, and Ishu wants to become head girl at her school to distract her parents’ from their disappointment in her older sister who has dropped out of college to get married.

The story of Hani and Ishu’s relationship and life struggles are told in alternating chapters, and the reader is never at a loss as to which character is speaking. Distinct personality traits and ways of thinking never waver. In the audiobook version, their voices are even more distinct as Hani speaks with an Irish accent and Ishu’s accent is Indian.

Taking place in a 21st Century pre-COVID but post-Brexit era, the challenges that Hani and Ishu experience as two non-Christian Brown girls in a majority white world is accurate. Hani’s white friends are terribly insensitive and ignorant about Hani’s culture, sexuality, and religion although they claim to be her best friends. Hani doesn’t call her friends out for their microaggressions, small acts of racism, xenophobia, homophobia or Islamophobia. She doesn’t want to rock the boat and accepts being in this toxic friendship. Ishu constantly reminds Hani that she doesn’t have to hide her true self, and that real friends would compromise and not keep forgetting that she doesn’t drink alcohol or pork.

Ishu’s toxic relationship with her parents and her sister are familiar but no less painful to watch Ishu endure. We know about the jokes about the Asian Immigrant Parent stereotypes from the likes of Ronny Chieng, Hasan Minhaj, and Russell Peters. The pressure for their children to perform academic greatness to the detriment of everything else, and attend a university where the career options are to become a doctor, a lawyer, or an engineer. There’s no wiggle room, and the child is a disappointment if they achieve anything less. Ishu has been in competition with her perfect older sister her whole life. When her sister Nik drops out of university to get married, Ishua sees this as an opportunity to leapfrog to the spot of number 1 daughter. The level of competition and jealousy that Ishu has for Nik is so deep that she believes her sister would blackmail her once she realizes Ishu is queer.

Despite the dearth of young adult novels about the Asian experience that has come out over the past 5 years by authors like Gloria Chao, Maureen Goo, Jenny Hann, David Yoon, and S.K. Ali, Han and Ishu’s Guide to Fake Dating still feels fresh as it explores the nuances of Desi culture and the balance of embracing and breaking from tradition. The slow-burn and mutual pining between Ishu and Hani also feels authentic particularly for two people who just now freely exploring their sexuality and venturing into the world of dating. The romantic moments between the two girls are swoon worthy without being cheesy.

In a post-George Floyd and be an anti-racist year, it would be easy to award a book like Hani and Ishu’s Guide to Fake Dating based on the merit of having diverse characters. This book shouldn’t be read, enjoyed, or win awards based on liberal guilt or tokenism, but based on the writing. Adiba Jaigirdar immersed us in the unique world of two brown girls living in a white, heteronormative world. For women-presenting, queer, BIPOC, and immigrant readers, Adiba told a wholly relatable story about two outsiders trying to fit in the only ways they know how. Even if the reader doesn’t consider themselves an outsider or a member of a marginalized community, the book reminds us about the fear and exhilaration of falling in love for the first time. In a year that has been filled with so much pain and tragedy and divisiveness, it’s refreshing read a book that Celebrates Brown Queer Joy. ( )
  RakishaBPL | Sep 24, 2021 |
In Hani and Ishu's Guide to Fake Dating, Hani comes out as bi to her friends, who react in a less than supportive way. She wants to prove to her biphobic friends that she really is bi, decides that what she needs is a fake girlfriend. Enter Ishu, who wants to be head girl to impress her parents, but needs to become popular in school to get the class vote. Fake dating Hani could be her ticket to popularity and the head girl position.

Ishu and Hani are super different. I absolutely adore the grump and ray of sunshine pairing, and I loved all of Ishu and Hani's interactions, especially their banter. Ishu is focused on studying. She has a complicated relationship with her sister and parents that have very high expectations, and she doesn't see the point in being friendly to people she knows don't like her. Hani is the opposite. She is popular, because she works hard to be friendly with everyone. She tries so hard to fit in, but her white friends don't understand her culture. Hani and Ishu sound like they wouldn't get on, but perhaps they are each what each other needs. Both characters are Bengali and Irish, although they have different Bengali backgrounds.

The book deals with parental expectations, peer pressure, cultural pressure, biphobia, family relationships and learning how to be yourself and follow your own dreams. It's a beautiful book, with engaging characters and a story that had me hooked. I particularly liked how Hani has supportive parents, because I'm so used to reading YA where everyone has major issues with their parents. I also loved Hani's relationship with religion, as a queer character who takes comfort in religion rather than being hurt by it.

The fake dating trope! I love this so much. I love that they have a document for the rules of fake dating. I love the slowburn as their relationship begins to develop and change. I love the banter between two very different personalities. I just love all of it! And the drama was so good. I binged the second half of the book because I desperately needed to know how it ended, and I wasn't disappointed.

I loved this as an adult, and I just know it's the kind of book I wish I'd been able to read as a teen. That must go double for any Bengali or other teens of colour, and I hope everyone who needs a book like this gets to read it. ( )
  crimsonraider | Jul 26, 2021 |
Thanks to Netgalley, the publisher and the author for providing me with an ARC

Rating: 5/5

CWs/TWs: biphobia, homophobia, toxic friendships, islamophobia, racism

Important note: While I do share some experiences and marginalisations with the characters (I am bi and I’ve experienced biphobia and toxic friendships), please seek out reviews by South Asian reviewers and pay particular attention to what South Asian queer folks have said about this book!



When I started this book I expected it to be quite good – after all all people I’ve heard talk about the Henna War by the same author have been practically in love with it – but I didn’t know it was going to become such a favourite. It is adorable and fluffy, but still has some quite serious discussions about friendship, queerness, and bigotry, and it opens these discussions through its layered and engaging writing.

Hani and Ishu are characters that at first seem quite different, but actually parallel each-other in many ways. They are both under a lot of external pressure - Hani is constantly trying to bend herself to fit in her friend group’s very white and heteronormative ideas of how she should behave, while Ishu spends almost all her free time studying, to fulfil her parents’ overambitious academic expectations. The relationship they form is one of the cutest I’ve read recently. Fake dating is one of my favourite tropes, and I really loved how it was executed in this book – it was such a sweet and healthy romance.

One thing I can say for sure is that the biphobia in this book was depicted quite well. It felt so real that I found it a bit challenging to get through some parts, since they were so close to experiences that I’ve had. Even though reading these scenes caused me some anxiety, it was so validating and gratifying to see biphobia accurately depicted and subsequently challenged in a narrative. The story also tackles themes like religion, islamophobia, racism, and the pressure the children of immigrants can feel to succeed professionally.

All in all, Hani and Ishu is an amazing queer story that is about a lot more than just queerness or a fluffy romance, or toxic friendships, or challenging bigotry – what makes it great is that it manages to combine all those things into a cohesive story that speaks about it all in-depth, while maintaining a light and validating tone. ( )
  1readersdiary | May 19, 2021 |
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Hani and Ishu couldn’t be less alike – and they definitely don’t like each other. But when fates collide and they pretend to date each other, things start to get messy… A heart-warming queer YA love story for fans of Becky Albertalli.

Everyone likes 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 don’t believe her, claiming 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 can’t stand – Ishu Dey.

Ishu is the polar opposite of Hani. An academic overachiever, she hopes that becoming head girl will set her on the right track for university. Her only problem? Becoming head girl is a popularity contest and Ishu is hardly popular. Pretending to date Hani is the only way she’ll stand a chance of being elected.

Despite their mutually beneficial pact, they start developing real feelings for each other. But some people will do anything to stop two Bengali girls from achieving happily ever after.
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