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.
I’ve wanted to read The Henna Wars since before it came out. It was a f/f enemies-to-lovers book and that was enough to seal the deal for me. Then, my friend (hi Tay!) read this book and absolutely loved it. Since we have very similar taste, it shot right up to the top of the list of books I wanted to try out. Trigger warnings: racism, a character being outed, homophobia
Alright, I’m doing a list type of review again! Only because I think it will help me get my flailings across more effectively. So, let’s start the flailings!
1. Sisters – The relationship between between Priti and Nishat was so, so awesome. I feel like sisters are usually background characters in books, even if the main character has a close relationship with them. But in this book, Priti and Nishat are really close. They love each other, the annoy each other, and they’re there for each other. Priti felt like her own person, instead of just Nishat’s sister. And of course, I love everything about sister relationships, and this book did a sister relationship superbly.
2. It’s queer – I know I already said this book is queer, but it’s worth stating again.
3. F/f enemies-to-lovers – THIS BOOK IS F/F ENEMIES-TO-LOVERS. Just, I loved the romantic relationship in this book. It’s complicated, because people are complicated. Everybody has a different relationship with queerness, and sometimes that affects relationships. That’s not a bad thing, and I loved that this book explored that. And, this relationship was so sweet and adorable.
4. Conversations about sexuality and culture – Being white, I can’t comment on this other than it was there. I just thought it was important to mention that they were a big part of this book.
5. Complicated familial relationships – This family relationships in this book were painful a lot of the time. But, they weren’t painful for the book’s entirety. I feel like I could be delving into spoiler territory, so I’m just going to say that they way the book took this relationship felt really special, really well done, and I really, really liked how it was done.
6. Amazing writing – The writing in this book was stunning. It made the whole book feel gorgeous and like the pink of a newly bloomed flower. It made me want to really a million books by Jaigirdar.
7. Friendships – This book really just excelled in relationships in general, so the friendships were another amazing relationship! They were messy and complicated, but they were friendships. Nishat’s friends wanted to be there for her and support her.
8. A business competition – Nishat is in a business class where they have to come up with a business in an effort to win 1,000 euros. It was so cool to see the ideas that all the characters came up with! I loved seeing Nishat blossom with her Henna. Even though her designs were only described, they still felt so beautiful. Her passion for it came through so clearly and I loved seeing her do something she loved so much.
9. It’s set in Ireland – This was super cool to me. I feel like almost every single YA book is set in the US, and if it’s not, it’s because the character’s are going on a trip or something of the sort. So it was super awesome to see a book just casually set in a country other than the US.
10. Beautiful interior design – The whole feel of this book just seeps gorgeousness, and the interior design definietly adds to that. The chapter headers are flowers! I know it’s a small detail, but it was something that really stood out to me.
Just to say it again, I LOVE THIS BOOK SO MUCH. It was painful sometimes, because it deals with racism and people being accepting of queerness, but it’s also incredibly sweet and gorgeously written. It’s something I want to throw at everybody so they’ll give it a try. It’s seriously that good!
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