Genre | YA Contemporary Fiction
Page #s | 352
Publishing Date | May 2021
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.
I have been reading a surprising amount of fake dating books lately (yay!) and this is one of the best. Hani and Ishu get to know each other through pretending to date – before that, they were schoolmates with only one shared class, a cultural similarity that actually drove them away from each other, and a lack of awareness as to each other’s compatible sexuality. As they spend time together, they start to like each other, but they’re teenagers and it’s awkward! I loved every page of this quick read, and I highly recommend it to any other fans of the fake dating trope.
As I mentioned earlier, both Hani and Ishu live in Ireland, but their families moved there from India. When the book starts, they stayed away from each other to avoid the stereotype of “you go together.” But as they start to date, it is a joy to watch them realize how nice it is to be around someone who understands their culture, family, and values. Although Hani’s family are Muslims and Ishu’s family are non-religious, they get each other in a way their fellow classmates can’t (or don’t, since their classmates are racist little ****heads). And before I move on from this, it was so lovely to read about a queer affirming Muslim family; Hani is already out to her parents before the book begins, and they support her relationship with Ishu from start to finish.
The only thing that felt like a bit of stretch was just how horrible Hani’s friends are. They belittle her culture and her sexuality. In fact, their refusal to believe she is bisexual (“how do you know if you haven’t kissed a girl?” UGH) is what prompts her to claim she is dating Ishu. They are the worst! Although I am prepared to believe that teenagers can truly be that awful, I found it hard to stomach the thought that Hani could not see how terrible their treatment of her was. Regardless, it was a delight to watch her stand up for herself and finally put them in their place.
In addition to terrible friends, we get unhealthy families. Ishu’s parents live vicariously through their daughters’ success, and Ishu and her older sister have always been at each other’s throats for their approval. Until the book begins, anyway, when her older sister drops out of college and becomes the black sheep of the family. I really liked watching Ishu navigate this new relationship – first with suspicion, and then with gratitude.
Who Would I Recommend This Book To?
Hani and Ishu’s Guide to Fake Dating is a cute, fast read that is perfect for anyone wanting a light-hearted, PG-rated sapphic romance.
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