A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this book.
Good introduction to Indian, Bengali and Muslim culture. Discusses how racist and homophobic microaggressions can affect people. Introduces the concept of White feminism, and why race is important to consider in feminism. Talks about Haram/Halal meat, and how difficult it can be to navigate other Muslim traditions in a predominantly White society.
Be true to yourself and the people who accept you for who you are. Stand up for the people and values that you believe in. Religion isn’t one size fits all -- it’s very personal. Be proud of where you come from and the culture that makes you who you are. The main characters lie to their friends and family at the beginning, but realize that honesty is the best policy.
Positive Role Models
Ishu is very ambitious and motivated to achieve her goals. Hani is very kind and inclusive, and is always trying to help other people. Even when their friends pressure them to drink and compromise their values in other ways, they both stay true to who they are. Ishu and Hani are both South Asian and are very connected to their culture. Hani’s character demonstrates a good, very personal relationship with religion, while also showing the difficulties of being Muslim in Ireland. Hani’s parents are very accepting of her sexuality, a dynamic rarely found in YA novels. This novel also explores queer identity and the very personal journey involved in coming out to friends and family.
Violence & Scariness
Brief reference to British genocide and war.
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
The characters kiss a few times, but they don't go beyond that. There's a reference to Woody Allen being a "pedophile director." A mention of an orgasm from a hot chocolate. Characters sleep in the same bed for a night but nothing happens.
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Use of "f--k" and "f--king" throughout. Occasional use of "s--t," "bitch," "ass," "piss/pissed", "crap." One of the main characters makes a conscious decision not to swear.
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Products & Purchases
Reference to the TV show Riverdale, which targets an older audience. Main characters use Instagram to create their fake relationship.
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
Neither of the main characters drink, but other characters try to pressure them to. One of the characters explicitly states that she doesn’t drink because she's Muslim. The other main character doesn’t say it explicitly, but there are no scenes of her drinking.
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that Hani and Ishu's Guide to Fake Dating, by Adiba Jaigirdar, is about a romance between two queer Bengali girls who live in Dublin. They get into a fake relationship in order to navigate their high school problems. Ishita struggles with her relationship with her parents, who put pressure on her to focus only on studies, and has a rocky relationship with her sister. Hani faces peer pressure and at times, racist and homophobic microaggressions from her childhood friends. Strong language sprinkled throughout includes "f--k," "s--t," "bitch," "ass," and others, but one of the main characters makes a conscious decision not to swear. There's some kissing. Side characters drink, and try to pressure one of the main characters to drink as well, though she doesn't give into them. Characters use Instagram to convince everyone that their relationship is real. There's a reference to director Woody Allen as the "pedophile director."
Is It Any Good?
This heartwarming book has a lot of positive messages about exploring identity, standing up for what's right, and being queer and South Asian in a predominantly White community. Fans of romance will like the sweet buildup of their feelings, and how they bring out the best in each other. The characters are both flawed and likable, and readers will find themselves rooting for their romance from the beginning. Hani and Ishu's Guide to Fake Dating is a good introduction into more complex topics such as personal relationships with religion, as well as racism and homophobia, and the book makes these topics accessible rather than overwhelming. However, sometimes it can feel like they touch on more difficult topics without fully explaining the context of these concepts. This novel is best for readers who have some exposure to social justice topics and are interested in learning more, but enjoy lighter romance reads.
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