Hello hello and welcome or welcome back to my little bookish corner of the internet. Today I’m sharing my review of The Henna Wars, which I read as an audiobook back in February.
Trigger Warnings: racism, cultural appropriation, forced outing, homophobia, religion fueled homophobia
When Dimple Met Rishi meets Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda in this rom com about two teen girls with rival henna businesses.
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.
Nishat sees Flávia at a family wedding after years, and immediately knows the butterflies in her belly aren’t from thoughts of friendship. Having spent a long period of time getting to know herself since they’ve last met, Nishat now understands herself, and knows as surely as anything that she has never stopped liking Flávia. Flávia remembers Nishat, and is immediately warm to her. However, while Nishat keeps thinking about her, she also assumes they’ll never see each other again, so that is that. So when she turns up at school at the beginning of term and sees Flávia there, things take an interesting turn.
Throughout the story, although we only hear from one POV, we also get insights to the way people around Nishat see things, those with both support and concerns of their friendship. Nishat’s biggest supporter is her sister, who has been the only person to know she was gay before she comes out to her parents, and even she is cautious about Nishat getting close to Flávia.
After the school project begins, both girls are forced to face up to some home truths about the way they have behaved, both to the people around them and to each other. And despite the fact that all things should lead them apart, something keeps bringing them back together.
Nishat goes through so much throughout the book, and there’s so much to be taken away from the way she stands her ground, digs her heels in, and keeps a really dignified attitude despite all she faces. Parts of the book had me in genuine tears, it was so emotional – some sad, some happy – and I finished the book with a huge smile on my face. It’s warm, powerful and poignant, and one I’ll think about for a long time to come.
Thanks so much for stopping by for this blog post today. This special book is just as beautiful on the inside as it is on the outside, and I’ll absolute be reading more from this author.