Karina Ahmed has a plan. Keep her head down, get through high school without a fuss, and follow her parents’ rules—even if it means sacrificing her dreams. When her parents go abroad to Bangladesh for four weeks, Karina expects some peace and quiet. Instead, one simple lie unravels everything. Tutoring the school’s resident bad boy was already crossing a line. Pretending to date him? Out of the question. But Ace Clyde does everything right—he brings her coffee in the mornings, impresses her friends without trying, and even promises to buy her a dozen books (a week) if she goes along with his fake-dating facade. Though Karina agrees, she can’t help but start counting down the days until her parents come back. T-minus twenty-eight days until everything returns to normal—but what if Karina no longer wants it to?
I heard fake dating and I was in. I knew the main character, Karina, was going to tutor the resident bad boy, while also going through with a fake dating scheme. That’s pretty much where my knowledge ended, but not my excitement for it. The cover is adorable and I’d seen so much love for it online that I was ready to read it as soon as I could. Trigger warnings: anxiety, anxiety attack, parental abuse (verbal and physiological)
Oh my gosh. Oh my gosh. How do you put into a words the feelings a book gives you when it feels like your love for it is swelling in your chest to burst into a million Sour Patch Kids and lollipops? Because I’m going to try and do just that. This is going to be a full on gushing review and I’m not even going to apologize for it, because this book is that good.
I’m going to start off with Karina, specifically her anxiety. I just got her anxiety. I got the feeling of wanting everything to just stop. I got the constant apologizing. I got being afraid of so many things that it’s overwhelming. I got being terrified over how many things there are to be afraid of. I got the feelings of anxiety so strong that it felt like the only thing to exist. I just got her in that sense. I also loved Karina as a whole, because she’s not just her anxiety. She loves English, she’s passionate, she’s an amazing poet, she hilarious, and she’s brave.
I guess I’m going by character here, so Ace is up next! Ace is the biggest and sweetest dork ever. He’s so incredibly kind. He understands Karina’s lines and he won’t cross them. And when he makes a mistake he apologizes and actually tries to do better. He’s solid, both as a person and with Karina. He’s a bad boy who loves lollipops and space and the piano. Seriously, he was all around adorable.
On to Karina’s friends. They seriously have the most chaotic relationship, but dang was it hilarious. Plus, they text and act like actual teens! They’re dramatic, use humor every chance they get, and are dramatic some more. They are also always there for Karina and Karina is always there for them. They might not completely get each others experiences, because they’re different people, but they always try to support and understand each other. Really, they’re just really great friends.
I was going to move onto families next, but Karina’s grandma and Samir get a paragraph of their own. Karina’s grandma was just so cool. She was supportive and loving and the person in Karina’s corner that she needed. I loved seeing her love Karina when she so desperately needed it. And Samir! He was such a typical boy, oh my gosh. He was annoying and clueless, but also really sweet and compassionate at the same time.
Alright, not it’s time to talk about families. Ace and Karina both have complicated relationships with their families. There is lack of understanding, lack of trying to understand, and just a disconnect between parent and child. I didn’t fully connect with Karina’s struggles with her parents, simply because that is not my experience, but there was a part that really resonate. The part about experiences shaping people and being handed down. It’s a painful part of the story, but one that is powerful as well. It allows Karina’s bravery to shine through. It’s a chance for her to grow and a chance for her to figure out what she really wants.
The amount of sweets in the books was nuts! There’s a literal sweet shop and it’s a big part of the book and it has cheesecake and milkshakes and more! Ace loves lollipops and Karina loves Sour Patch Kids. I have a huge sweet tooth, so all these sweets needed to be mentioned of course.
The humor in this book was also spot on. I snorted and cackled out loud pretty much throughout the entire thing. It’s amazing, and it felt authentically teen like!
It’s also so beautifully written. It was easy to fly through and it felt as sweet as the relationship and the actual sweets. Plus, the poetry was top notch. Seriously, it felt like it nestled right next to my heart. It was beautifully, beautifully written.
LETS TALK ABOUT THE TITLE TOO BECAUSE WOW. It was integrated into so many aspects of the book that I actually kind of want to scream. It was so, so smart and the ending basically made me want to burst into tears.
So, if you couldn’t tell, I love this book a whole heck of a lot. Like, I actually started crying when writing this review. I’m even going to inset a picture as proof because this book made me feel a whole lot of things.
Absolutely completely sweet and adorable, anxiety rep that had me pretty much in tears, amazing best friends, complicated, painful familial relationships, good familial relationships, trying to learn and change, fake dating, and so much more that I could go on and on. Seriously, this book is amazing. And I love it so much.
Counting Down With You comes out May 4, 2021! You can add it on Goodreads and pre-order a copy in the meantime!