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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 famil 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.


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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 famil 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.

30 review for The Henna Wars

  1. 5 out of 5

    Emily May

    When matters of the heart are involved, it's difficult to be careful. This was such a perfect blend of serious and sweet. I requested an arc of The Henna Wars on a whim, but soon found myself completely engrossed in this story about prejudice, culture, appropriation and romance. Jaigirdar sets her story in a Catholic Girls' High School in Dublin. Nishat is Bangladeshi, Muslim and gay; she just came out to her parents and was met with an uncomfortable silence, so she is understandably heartbrok When matters of the heart are involved, it's difficult to be careful. This was such a perfect blend of serious and sweet. I requested an arc of The Henna Wars on a whim, but soon found myself completely engrossed in this story about prejudice, culture, appropriation and romance. Jaigirdar sets her story in a Catholic Girls' High School in Dublin. Nishat is Bangladeshi, Muslim and gay; she just came out to her parents and was met with an uncomfortable silence, so she is understandably heartbroken at their reaction. This tension at home is in addition to already feeling like a pariah at school, after the most popular girl in her year decided to spread racist rumours about her. It feels like her sister, Priti, is the only one on her side. Enter Flávia. Flávia is the beautiful biracial (black Brazilian and white Irish) girl that Nishat can't seem to get out of her mind. Her feelings become confused, however, when their teacher announces a business competition with a cash prize and Flávia decides to go with the same idea as Nishat: henna tattoos. What follows is an impossible-to-look-away-from competition that gets nastier and nastier before it ever resolves, raising questions of cultural appropriation and racism along the way. This is one of those books where I can see people saying they dislike the protagonist. Nishat is very stubborn and alienates a lot of people, but I couldn’t help but think she was… right. I don’t know if some people will think Nishat is being petty, but if so, I guess I am exactly that kind of petty because I was 100% on her side. Also, she's just really kinda funny: Her eyes are bright, but hooded. Intense. She's inching forward. Is there a heterosexual explanation for why she's moving forward? **** "Muslims aren't gay," she whispers, like this is a hard and fast rule. She's still turned away from me, looking out the window like the outside world will have some solution to my lesbian problem. **** I can't stand the way she says my name: Neesh-hat, like I'm a niche hat. I found it extremely compelling. The competition dynamic and some of the things that really pissed me off made me want to keep reading. I enjoyed the brief call-out of religious hypocrisy (how people will claim being gay is wrong, but pick and choose which other parts of a religion to follow) and all the talk of delicious Bengali food. There were a couple of less strong points. Some of the plot turns were glaringly obvious many chapters in advance, such as (view spoiler)[Ali being the one who sent the text (hide spoiler)] and (view spoiler)[Chaewon and Jess winning the competition (hide spoiler)] , but I'm not sure that knowing that really weakens the overall story. I didn't totally buy into her (view spoiler)[Ammu spinning what seemed like homophobia into just not wanting Nishat to feel anger and shame like she did, though I did appreciate her efforts to educate herself about LGBTQIA+ people (hide spoiler)] . I also thought it was strange that we never got an update on her Nanu. These are only minor quibbles, though. I really do highly recommend it. It contains themes that should interest even adult readers, but is also clean and simple enough for younger readers (as long as you're okay with mild profanity like "shit"). It's several important lessons wrapped up in a heartwarming romance. Facebook | Instagram

  2. 4 out of 5

    Kai

    "Of course Muslims can be gay. How can anyone think otherwise? The two aren't mutually exclusive. I am the living, breathing proof." What a stunning debut. I hoped this book would be good but I didn't expect it to be extraordinary. I read this book in one sitting and stayed up until 2am to finish it. This is not going to be a coherent review, be warned. The book touches so many different themes, from sisterhood to bullying, homophobia, family and racism and it's all done so well. One of my favour "Of course Muslims can be gay. How can anyone think otherwise? The two aren't mutually exclusive. I am the living, breathing proof." What a stunning debut. I hoped this book would be good but I didn't expect it to be extraordinary. I read this book in one sitting and stayed up until 2am to finish it. This is not going to be a coherent review, be warned. The book touches so many different themes, from sisterhood to bullying, homophobia, family and racism and it's all done so well. One of my favourite things in this book was Nishat's relationship with her sister Priti. These two always have each other's back and yes they fight but mostly they giggle and cuddle and support one another. It was such a wholesome dynamic and it balanced out the more heavy-hitting parts of the novel. Reading this made me think of Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda and how Simon struggles with coming out and bullying. And yeah he had a shit time but what he didn't have to deal with was the constant racism from his classmates or the narrow-mindedness and blatant homophobia from his family. It's unfair to compare these two experiences because they both really struggled. What I want to say is that I cannot even start to comprehend how hard it must be to not scream 24/7 when you're fighting so many different battles at the same time. I was so angry that Nishat was made to feel small by almost everyone around her just for being herself. She had to fight hate crimes from classmates, racist and homophobic remarks, the exploitation of her culture and often there wasn't anything she could do to fight back because no one would listen...life as a queer Person of Colour in a white supremacist environment leaves scars and I think this novel is extremely insightful and effective in portraying that struggle. I felt so much resentment and frustration and it makes sense that marginalised communities are much more likely to struggle with mental health issues than more privileged people when everything is out to get them. Now, I know that sounds heavy - and it was at times - but I have to say that this was a super successful, cute, funny and romantic contemporary. And there is a very happy ending! I laughed a lot and while I think the romance aspect could have been even better by smoothing out a few scenes, I thoroughly enjoyed reading this. I enjoyed seeing two girls of colour falling in love. I enjoyed seeing Nishat's parents come around and be supportive. I really enjoyed the queer, Muslim, and overall diverse representation. The Henna Wars is already one of my all-time favourite books and I encourage everyone to read this. Find more of my books on Instagram

  3. 4 out of 5

    may ➹

    — read this review and others on my blog It’d be a lie to say that I didn’t have high expectations for this book. (I mean, the premise is essentially “what if we were business rivals who may or may not have feelings for each other? and we were both girls?” so how could I not.) And I’m very happy to say that I was not disappointed in the least! The Henna Wars follows a Bengali girl named Nishat, who just came out to her parents and has to figure out how to not crumble under the despairing weight of — read this review and others on my blog It’d be a lie to say that I didn’t have high expectations for this book. (I mean, the premise is essentially “what if we were business rivals who may or may not have feelings for each other? and we were both girls?” so how could I not.) And I’m very happy to say that I was not disappointed in the least! The Henna Wars follows a Bengali girl named Nishat, who just came out to her parents and has to figure out how to not crumble under the despairing weight of their rejection and denial of her lesbian identity. Among this, she has to deal with racism and homophobia at her school and a business competition in which her culture is appropriated. What I want more than anything else in the world is to feel like being myself isn’t something that should be hidden and a secret. While there are so many things to love about this book, I think I love Nishat herself the most. She’s an incredible character written so, so well, and the level of attention that the author pays to her is delightfully satisfying. Nishat yearns to be unapologetically herself in a world that will do anything to stop her, and it’s both heartbreaking yet inspiring to read. There are two relationships that Nishat has that really stand out to me, the ones with Flávia, her crush, and Priti, her sister. The romance is so sweet and you want them to be together so much, and throughout the story Nishat wonders, Does Flávia like girls? Can I get together with my business rival who’s appropriating my culture? But even though the romance is a big part of the novel, it also doesn’t overtake Nishat’s own personal development, which I loved! I also adored the way Nishat and Priti were close; in fact, I think their relationship was more prominent than the romance, which I appreciated. Their relationship is probably the closest sister relationship I’ve read, and as someone close to my sister, I loved seeing Nishat and Priti support each other throughout the story. I wouldn’t call this story a cute fluffy story, though. It deals with racism and homophobia, and throughout the book, Nishat has to deal with her culture, henna, being appropriated by others for profit. But the author handles these intricately and effectively balances them out with more lighthearted content! But sometimes just being yourself—really, truly yourself—can be the most difficult thing to be. I can’t speak on the specifics of the representation, but as a sapphic Asian child of immigrants like Nishat, there was so many scenes that resonated with me. I’m incredibly fortunate not to have homophobic parents who come from a country where being gay is punishable by death, but I relate to Nishat’s grief over having to hide who she is like it’s a dirty secret, relate to Nishat’s struggle to reconcile her conservative homeland’s ideas about who she is, relate to Nishat’s heartache over feeling out of place in a majorly white world. I also appreciated how the author critiqued Bangladesh and the homophobic beliefs the people there carry, but also celebrated and showed Nishat’s love for her Bengali culture. It represents a struggle for so many queer immigrants of color—to now live in a country where your sexuality is more accepted, but to still yearn for your homeland, even though they might reject you for your sexuality. How can you feel fully loved and accepted when there’s a part of you that’s different and unwanted in both your homes? How can you feel whole when the separate parts of your identity are supposed to somehow cancel each other out? How can you be Bengali, and lesbian, and Muslim, and not feel like all those things are tearing at you? These are the questions Nishat has to find the answers to, and exactly why ownvoices stories are needed—I’m not sure a queer author or author of color may have captured the nuances of the QPOC experience as well as this. “I love you, Apujan,” she whispers. “And I’m so damn proud of you. I hope you know that.” There were a few times where I wasn’t quite in love with the writing style. I sometimes found it to be a bit bland, and I also wished we had seen a bit more from the side characters. Also, this isn’t really true rivals to lovers (it’s more childhood friends who are now business rivals but don’t hate each other), which threw me off a bit. These things might have been enough to lower my rating just slightly—if not for how much I absolutely adored Nishat and connected to her! I was just so invested in her and her journey, and I think every reader will feel the same. Overall, I adored this book, and I cannot wait for more readers to get their hands on it, especially sapphic people of color. It’s a story I deeply related to, and one I know others will too. Beyond that, it’s a cute sapphic romance that manages to tackle social issues without making things too heavily, and while your heart will break at some parts, you definitely will find yourself smiling by the end! —★— :: rep :: Bengali Muslim lesbian MC, Brazilian-Irish (Afro-Latinx) bisexual LI, side Bengali characters, side Korean character :: content warnings :: racism, homophobia, bullying, a character being outed Thank you to Page Street for a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review! This did not affect my opinion in any way. All quotes are from an advance copy and may differ in final publication.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Melanie

    i loved this /so/ much. rtc! Blog | Instagram | Youtube | Ko-fi | Spotify | Twitch This was our August 2020 pick for the Dragons and Tea Book Club! 🐉☕ (Also, we are so close to 5k members and it would mean the world to me if you joined us!) 💖 Content and trigger warnings: racism, homophobia, bullying, character being outed (thank you so much, May!) i loved this /so/ much. rtc! <3 Blog | Instagram | Youtube | Ko-fi | Spotify | Twitch This was our August 2020 pick for the Dragons and Tea Book Club! 🐉☕ (Also, we are so close to 5k members and it would mean the world to me if you joined us!) 💖 Content and trigger warnings: racism, homophobia, bullying, character being outed (thank you so much, May!)

  5. 4 out of 5

    Chelsea (chelseadolling reads)

    Hello this was v v cute and I REALLY enjoyed it. I especially appreciated that none of the characters were all good or all bad. They were all super complex and REALISTIC teenage characters and honestly this was just great.

  6. 5 out of 5

    emma

    Avert your eyes from this review. It’s for your own safety. And protection. And well-being. I am about to say something so heinous, so deeply upsetting, so profoundly unforgivable, that it may change the course of your life forever. Here we go. There’s still time to stop reading. Here it is: The cutest part of this book… Is the cover. I know. I’m sorry. If you want to send the Bookworm Police to revoke my membership card, I will understand. But I’m speaking my truth on this one. Good things about this: - Avert your eyes from this review. It’s for your own safety. And protection. And well-being. I am about to say something so heinous, so deeply upsetting, so profoundly unforgivable, that it may change the course of your life forever. Here we go. There’s still time to stop reading. Here it is: The cutest part of this book… Is the cover. I know. I’m sorry. If you want to send the Bookworm Police to revoke my membership card, I will understand. But I’m speaking my truth on this one. Good things about this: - This story follows a lesbian Muslism Bangladeshi girl (Nishat) and a bisexual Brazilian Black girl (Flávia), both living in Ireland, and all of the rep is so fascinating to read about. Also, rare for me as a reader. (I can’t speak to whether the rep is well-done, obviously, not being of those groups, but I enjoyed it immensely.) - The IDEA of it - the exploration of cultural appropriation - is bold and cool. - At times, the romance is very cute. But it’s me, so I have complaints. These complaints are: - SO MUCH happens in this, and SO MUCH of that feels rushed. Examples: - At the start of this book, Flávia blatantly doesn’t understand cultural appropriation, and takes and profits off of the parts of Nishat’s culture she deems cool. This is kind of resolved (?), but not really. It’s more glossed over. - Flávia’s cousin and best friend at school is the girl who bullied Nishat for her race and culture. - Nishat is outed very close to the end (I don’t want to put this in spoiler tags in case it’s triggering for some - I know many people don’t want to read books in which people are outed, and I don’t blame them!) (view spoiler)[- The person who outed Nishat is her little sister’s best friend??? And said sister lied to protect the friend??? There is very little conflict surrounding this insane thing. (hide spoiler)] - Nishat and Flávia’s romance has a TON of conflict, and it’s all just kind of...brushed under the rug. But ultimately, for once, my major takeaway from this is going to be the AMAZINGNESS of my reading experience thanks to the rep, and not all those pesky complaints. So…3.5! Bottom line: More YA books like this one, fewer fantasies about white girls having sex with faeries. (Am I just talking about SJM? You decide.) --------------- pre-review pet peeve: editors americanizing currency / school systems / language / etc when international books are published in the US anyway this was cute! review to come / 3 or 3.5 stars --------------- currently-reading updates performing a citizens arrest on myself for taking so long to read this --------------- tbr review a YA contemporary about two girls with competing henna businesses who fall in love??! i would have wanted to read this regardless. they didn't need to ruin my life with the cover too. (thanks to the publisher for the ARC)

  7. 4 out of 5

    Adiba Jaigirdar

    The content warnings for this book is printed in the ARC, and will also be printed in the final copy. But for anyone wondering whether you are in the right headspace to pick it up, the content warnings can be found here. You can also find links to the first chapter excerpt and the Spotify Playlist on my website! Happy reading everyone! The content warnings for this book is printed in the ARC, and will also be printed in the final copy. But for anyone wondering whether you are in the right headspace to pick it up, the content warnings can be found here. You can also find links to the first chapter excerpt and the Spotify Playlist on my website! Happy reading everyone!

  8. 5 out of 5

    C.G. Drews

    Sometimes you read books that are just cute and warm and heartbreaking. And your soul just THRIVES. 😍(Look, what is a little reading without pain.) I really fell in love with this, from the sapphic representation to the addictive and wonderful writing to the absolutely amazing sisterly bonds. And can we please admire this cover for ever it is so ridiculous CUTE I JUST !!! [let's talk about family] Family is a really powerful theme in this book, because Nishat is lesbian and is coming out to her co Sometimes you read books that are just cute and warm and heartbreaking. And your soul just THRIVES. 😍(Look, what is a little reading without pain.) I really fell in love with this, from the sapphic representation to the addictive and wonderful writing to the absolutely amazing sisterly bonds. And can we please admire this cover for ever it is so ridiculous CUTE I JUST !!! [let's talk about family] Family is a really powerful theme in this book, because Nishat is lesbian and is coming out to her conservative Muslim parents. And they...do not take it well. It's a family shame, they can't talk to her, they barely look at her. The story is strongly about coming out, and you feel the ache so acutely. It's just such a gut-punch to think your parents don't love you enough. They mostly dealt with it in cold silences, but Nishat is just wracked with anxiety. But look WE NEED TO TALK ABOUT PRITI. Aka, the love of the world, the light of this solar system. I cry. She is the perfect sister. Nishat and Priti absolutely argue and they can be mean to each other, but their relationship is this warm and tight hug of unconditional love. THIS is the sister story you want. No, you NEED. (I have a lot of sisters and the dynamic of their love and bickering and then intense defence of each other was perfect.) [is it romance or war] Nishat gets basically an insta crush on Flavia when they meet, and like it is adorkably cute and adorable and loooooved them. Flavia is Brazilian, and Nishat from Bangladesh, and the book is set in Ireland. But their relationship barely gets moves from cute flustered glances, before they end up at odds: for a school project, the class is required to start a little business. Nishat chooses henna because it's her culture, it means things to her, her grandmother taught her, it's part of who she is. Flavia (and her heinous cousin Chyna) also start a henna business. Because it's trendy. Cue: war. I loved the way the book dealt with cultural appropriation, really talked about it and laid out the facts cold and hard and honestly. There's a difference between enjoying and participating in a culture not your own, to profiting and otherising it and appropriating it. (Also shout out to Chyna's NAME literally being appropriation. Ugh I despised her.) I love that this was #ownvoices and I love that it featured two POC girls figuring out where they stand and what respect for other cultures means. IT was just so deftly and well written and told. [just so so good to read] Like it had utterly funny moments, important moments, heartwrenching moments. It had IT ALL. I adored the sister squabbles, the jokes, the foodie appreciation. I loved Nishat figuring out who she was, and being messy and making mistakes, but also being so amazing 🥺The whole book went by FAST too. I just loved it and definitely recommend.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Jananie (thisstoryaintover)

    this was SO cute. loved seeing the qpoc rep and the Bengali culture shine through in this book.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Unknown Reviews

    3.5 I can’t deny my expectations for this book were high and it just about delivered. I enjoyed the story a lot, but the finished product didn’t exactly give me what I thought it would. I was looking forward to in-depth dives into cultural appropriation, a Sapphic enemies to lovers romance, and just a story generally dealing with the aftermath of coming out. I still got one of those things, so that’s still decent but this book felt like it could've been so much more. The Henna Wars centres on a 3.5 I can’t deny my expectations for this book were high and it just about delivered. I enjoyed the story a lot, but the finished product didn’t exactly give me what I thought it would. I was looking forward to in-depth dives into cultural appropriation, a Sapphic enemies to lovers romance, and just a story generally dealing with the aftermath of coming out. I still got one of those things, so that’s still decent but this book felt like it could've been so much more. The Henna Wars centres on a Muslim girl, Nishat, who lives in Ireland along with her Bengali family. After coming out to her parents and receiving only a strained silence, Nishat must navigate her sexuality while falling for an old friend, Flávia. However, their budding romance is put on hold when both of them enter a competition with the idea to do henna – and neither girl refuses to back down. I’ll start by saying I loved Nishat. This probably doesn’t mean much, but it’s so rare for me to like the main character. Despite all the wrongdoings that were done to her, Nishat never gave up and was always steadfast in her decisions. To have a main character that felt real, believable and authentic without being annoying just made it easy to follow her journey. And also Nishat’s relationship with her sister was so sweet. Seriously! This book made me realise how much more I wanted to see strong sibling relationships in books rather than only children, or family reduced to minor mentions. But the romantic relationship…not so much. Flávia is an Irish-Brazilian girl who was sold as beautiful, charismatic, caring. But for most of the book, I didn’t like her. When Flávia takes on the idea of doing henna, Nishat immediately expresses her discomfort. And Flávia just…shoots her annoyances down. Without even listening to a full explanation about how Nishat felt her culture was being appropriated. To say this book is an enemies to lovers would be untrue – they’re kind of friends, then minor rivals (minor as in Flávia still talks to Nishat normally and wishes her luck and stuff) to, I think you can guess the outcome. But Flávia always felt manipulative or unconcerned to me while playing the good guy. And when something terrible happens to Nishat (it’s one of the trigger warnings), Flávia tells Nishat this the following day; “Look, I know you’re angry about what happened, but you’re too caught up in … whatever this is. Victimizing yourself. You don’t even realize what a brat you’re being.” Whether this refers to what happened to Nishat, or how she feels about cultural appropriation, Flávia should have had so much more sensitivity. I mean, what happened to Nishat was incredibly traumatic. Nishat needed anyone’s support during this time and I was so surprised when Flávia said that. At the same time, she had so many heartwarming and cute moments, but then things like that just left a bitter taste in my mouth regarding her character. It didn’t feel liked she learned much and it disappointed me. Another issue I had was the discussion on cultural appropriation. I was really looking forward to it, as it’s such a massive topic in the world at the moment, but it never felt like it was fully explored. Nishat would mention that cultural appropriation was bad, and then someone would throw her a question at her and it’d never be answered properly. There was just never enough depth regarding the subject. I really would’ve loved if Nishat had explained exactly how she felt to anyone in the book, but it never happened. By far the best thing (besides the characters) was Nishat’s journey on being out as a lesbian. She’s proud of herself and there were so many nice moments in there regarding her sexuality. The steps made by particular people just…they made me feel so, so, so happy. I’d definitely recommend this book to any queer teen for the relatability alone. I think Jaigirdar’s writing style was very pleasant to read and I flew through the book. All of her characters were amazingly believable and reading about Bengali culture was just excellent for someone who doesn’t know anything about it. And Jaigirdar did tackle racism predominantly throughout this book e.g Nishat’s friend Jess telling her she’s overreacting on cultural appropriation and the borrowing of cultures when it’s trendy. I’d rank it above the enemies-to-lovers, and the cultural appropriation discussion for sure. Another slight thing; The competition as a whole fell to the background, and the “incident”, as I’ll term it, was kind of never resolved? Literally in any shape or form? I don’t mind the former as much, but the latter did leave me wondering why it wasn’t dealt with. Like seriously, the implications, source...just I’m sick of books brushing over this, it can be beyond traumatizing. Overall, I really enjoyed the characters, the writing, the pace, the absolutely amazing non-romantic relationships, the diversity, the different cultures, and the gayness, of course. If you’re looking for a quick, cute and easy read, I’d recommend it. However, If you’re looking for a deep dive into cultural appropriation and enemies-to lovers romance? I’d give it a miss. However, I think it was a strong debut and I’m looking for to more books by Jaigirdar in the future.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Maëlys

    ☆ 5 / 5 ☆ August pick for the Dragons & Tea Bookclub The instant I finished the audiobook I felt tears pricking my eyes and just this huge sense of happiness that almost felt overbearing. This made my heart feel so full and whole, and in that moment I felt truly known. I loved this book from the very beginning; I loved Nishat, I loved Priti, I loved their sisterly bond, I loved that this book started off with a wedding, I loved that Nishat knew Flávia from before and that she was maybe her first c ☆ 5 / 5 ☆ August pick for the Dragons & Tea Bookclub The instant I finished the audiobook I felt tears pricking my eyes and just this huge sense of happiness that almost felt overbearing. This made my heart feel so full and whole, and in that moment I felt truly known. I loved this book from the very beginning; I loved Nishat, I loved Priti, I loved their sisterly bond, I loved that this book started off with a wedding, I loved that Nishat knew Flávia from before and that she was maybe her first crush, I really loved how from the very first chapters the author really managed to lay down so much in such a short amount of time. This book truly never sidesteps any uncomfortable feeling and dives straight into important issues with nuance and thoughtfulness. Obviously going into this book I knew cultural appropriation was going to be a key point of the story, but it brings it forward in such a hard hitting way. The feeling truly takes Nishat aback in a moment where she wasn’t expecting it, with both someone she likes and someone who has ridiculed her culture for years. The argument of it being art is such a nuanced one and I’m so happy to see it being explored in this story. The moment where Flávia asks her if it’s really that important to her if she’s only been doing it for very little time was really heartbreaking. Henna has always been a part of Nishat’s life in one form or another and this book highlights how these elements of one’s culture (also including food, there was so much talk of food that I loved) give this sense of sharing within a community and how it can make you feel connected to your culture and others. It means something because it is shared, because it brings forward a sense of belonging. A part that really hit the nail on the head for me was when she said Flávia was making henna “adaptable for white people” and how people were fawning over her designs when they’d never been interested in Nishat wearing it before. I love that this book is opening the commentary on cultural appropriation in this way, showing how elements of a culture can be taken and only enjoyed by others only when taken out of its cultural context. This book tackles facets of racism people don’t want to see or talk about. The fact that Nishat feels like the “token POC” is such a very real feeling when most of the people you go to school with are white, when not many people around look like you and if people are not outright putting you down for it they fetishise your entire existence. I am truly in awe of how many faces and layers of racism this book explored very efficiently and tactfully. We have examples of how easily it is for people to turn on you and how even you friends won’t necessarily defend you, we see how people do not like when POC voice their pain and concerns, forever trying to silence us by telling us we are overreacting and when they get uncomfortable, we’re “playing the race card.” This book also perfectly explores the subtleties of colourism, both with Chaewon’s and Flávia’s characters. Chaewon gets to be a sort of middle ground with Jess, Nishat’s and Chaewon’s white friend, not really defending Nishat when she knows she’s in the right, truly showing how very often there is a lack of the so-called “Asian solidarity”. Lighter skinned Asians tend to cater to white people more, being seen as a model minority, distancing themselves from “loud” and “angry” brown Asians to be accepted. When it comes to Flávia, despite how she is profiting from her culture, Nishat understands that it can be harder for her too. Anti-Blackness is something so ingrained in our society that while we’re shown a lack of Asian solidarity, the lack of support Black people receive from other POC is even more prevalent. I am so happy to see this highlighted here, even if very briefly. Flávia, being mixed, also has to deal with having a “white side” of her family. The expectations her mother has for her to do better than that side and “showing them up” does not stem only from pride but from the knowledge Flávia has to do better if she wants to receive even half of the acknowledgement and opportunities. The author also highlights how the school administration is complicit in the mistreatment Nishat has suffered throughout her scholarity, showing the systemic aspect of the oppression of marginalised minorities. While the homophobia Nishat experiences from her own parents is inexcusable and of course parents should always have unconditional love and be there for their children no matter what, it is truly a deeper problem than her parents being bad people. It is more than just an individual issue of homophobia but also stems from the overbearing pressure of the community. Beyond the social commentary I really love this book for its characters. Everyone feels so real, everyone makes mistakes but is still trying to do their best. And the relationship Priti and Nishat have? “I’ll always choose you” I was tearing up and seeing their dynamic, how they’re there for each other (even if sometimes they’re a bit lacking, but then realise!! And are trying!!), I just love these two so very much. This book doesn’t shy away from having flawed characters without them being automatically bad people. They do some good and they can harm others around them unintentionally. They can be too preoccupied with their own lives to fully realise what else is happening to the people around them. And isn’t that so true and realistic? I don’t like books where the author pretends their MC is flawless, or they don’t really get called out on their behaviour, so I really appreciate it here. Everyone feels so real and raw and they’re all dealing with their own things. We can also see the growth of so many characters. I loved how all the real apologies went, how different people put in work to be better and show their support. I really liked how Chyna, the main bully character, was handled, showing how people can pick and choose to defend the people they love because they care about them while turning around and being vile to other people, showing how family is complicated and the people you love can be so different with others. And then, the sapphic relationship between Nishat and Flávia. Nishat was being very trusting with Flávia at one point but how can I be mad at her when it provided me with such sweet moments between the two of them. Ah, to be an art sapphic caught in the rain with your crush. Thank you Adiba Jaigirdar. I think people will be thrown off by the “enemies to lovers” label as there is a rivalry between the two of them due to the business side of things but there was never any real dislike between the two of them. I think that’s what was really interesting in this book: Nishat felt deeply hurt by Flávia and how she treated henna but she was only ever trying to navigate the complex feelings that came with that and liking her romantically for a majority of the book. Apart from the obvious wrench in their path their dynamic and relationship was very sweet and I really loved the buildup they had and how everything developed throughout the book. Ultimately this is also a book about two queer girls of colour finding happiness and love together, about how precious the joy of that is. This book truly means everything to me and seeing these two girls being unapologetically happy made my heart feel a lot. I was definitely teary-eyed when I finished it and it took me awhile to take it all in; all the feelings of being seen and understood, all the joy and happiness. Youtube ☆ Twitter Buddy read with Melanie ♡

  12. 5 out of 5

    Fanna

    June 08, 2020: So glad to be featuring the author on my blog as she writes a guest post about the importance of conversations around sexual orientation in stories with South Asian culture while she also divulges a little about the history of sexuality and gender spectrum in pre-colonial South Asia. May 12, 2020: Allow me to recount my first ever job: I was good at henna designing and when—in eight grade—the beauty parlours around my house were in search of more staff during the busy days before Ei June 08, 2020: So glad to be featuring the author on my blog as she writes a guest post about the importance of conversations around sexual orientation in stories with South Asian culture while she also divulges a little about the history of sexuality and gender spectrum in pre-colonial South Asia. May 12, 2020: Allow me to recount my first ever job: I was good at henna designing and when—in eight grade—the beauty parlours around my house were in search of more staff during the busy days before Eid, I decided to see if I could do it. Guess what? I did draw henna on hands for five days and got 50 Dirhams $14 (which isn't much, honestly). Well, I had almost forgotten about the happiness I got that week all those years ago and this book helped me reminisce. The Henna Wars is a slight tug at one's heartstrings with a sapphic romance budding through the fields of authentic cultural and religious representation along with an excellent portrayal of a young desi lesbian girl challenging the evident cultural appropriation around her. Consider reading this review over on my blog. Representation: Bangladeshi-Irish & Lesbian Muslim MC + Brazilian-Irish & Bisexual MC. Ownvoices reader for: South-Asian representation. Trigger warnings: challenged racism, homophobia, bullying, cultural appropriation, and character being outed. Let's shine a deserving spotlight on the inspiring protagonist who is coming of age. Nishat is a gem. It's never easy to create a young character who stays realistic with the societal doubts setting in but also depicts the inspirational traits of standing up for what's right, but Nishat is the perfect mix. She believes in her perspective and the love for her culture, for her sexual orientation, and for her religion. There is nothing that stops her from enlightening, educating, or explaining these perspectives—and others—to those around her that have wrong different opinions. And this makes for a protagonist who not only deserves support but also demands it. The perfect South-Asian family portrayal—a sister who becomes a source of strength, conservative immigrant parents, and relatives invited to celebrate academic results. Priti, Nishat's younger sister, is a ball of sunshine and the one who genuinely has our main character's back. She's the epitome of every sister we all wish we had or some might be lucky enough to already have: she teases her elder sister but also opens up her arms & heart for her Apujan to know the love she'll always get from this bond. Nishat's parents have their walls up—like many Asian immigrants—when the idea of changing systems or accepting what they had unexpected is put forward. Their elder daughter comes out as a lesbian and their response is predictable but as hurtful as any reaction that involves cold shoulders and communication suspensions would be. The consequential anxiety that Nishat experiences is indicative of the mental impact a 'suffocating' South-Asian culture can have. Not only was the immediate family portrayal on point but even the relatives and far-away acquaintances have their presence marked by realistic, common, and annoying dialogues or unsolicited advises they would deliver—whether in a Bengali wedding or in a get-together meant to celebrate academic results. An applause for the cultural essence and important themes that flow through the modern narrative. The Henna Wars commendably incorporates the intricate details of a desi culture in Nishat's narration and creates a story that clearly stands on the foundation inspired by a community the protagonist belongs to. From a recitation of the Bangladeshi delicacies lining a wedding food stall to mentioning jilapis and from the amazing smell of henna to the wholesomeness of daal, this book is a crown jewelled with cultural gems. This contemporary also pulls important themes to the centre stage in a manner that can be marked as raw, honest, and brave. Whether it's the cultural appropriation of henna in order to flourish a business a project or bullying that stems from racist assumptions disguised as school jokes; whether it's the mispronunciation of desi names and the tinge of anger that follows or the disappointing attempt at blinding a queer's eyes to their sexuality by imposing culture or religion, The Henna Wars does it too well. Sapphic romance that starts with an instant crush and grows through competing henna businesses disguised as a war. Flavia is Brazilian-Irish and a new admission to Nishat's school, which makes our lovely protagonist smile wide but also warns herself to stay far away because this new admission is Chyna's—the bully—cousin. Though, this doesn't stop Flavia from letting those butterflies flutter, leaving subtle hints, and showing an interest in Nishat. Nor does our lovely Nishat stop stealing quick glances at the pretty girl, wonder what she's like, and blush at Instagram comments by her crush. Yes, super cute. Yes, super sweet. Yes, you get all the feels. However, a business project based on henna designing soon becomes the reason for this potential relationship to reach the dead-end before it could even start. There's a rift between the two, an understandable one since Nishat is protective of her love for henna—simple flowery designs taught to her by her maternal grandmother: Nanu—and considers the opposite team's idea a result of cultural embezzlement. Yes, lots of tension. Yes, lots of sadness. Yes, you will be struck with emotions. Throws a much-needed light on racism in a setting meant for diverse young students to be educated. A large part of The Henna Wars is dedicated to executing important conversations around racism, microaggressions, and blatant ignorance towards a culture. But the most absurd notion it absolutely condemns is that of a privileged white eyeing diversity as a 'trend' they can either downright shame as a spur of the moment waiting to die down or use to build their mountains of profit on. As a reader of colour, I personally appreciate this book's narrative. I'm in no place to give detailed comments on the representation of sexual identities or the religion of characters in this book so please pay heed to the ownvoices reviews for these representations above mine. I'm only positive about my opinions regarding the culture depicted and racism challenged. May 1, 2020: Featured in Fanticipating Reads of May 2020! April 15, 2020: This has made me grow fonder of my culture, crave the smell of henna, while tugging at my heartstrings with the cutest f/f romance between a Bengali & a Brazilian teenager in Ireland. Full review to come! April 11, 2020: Buddy reading with Lili ! April 10, 2020: The few times I do read an eARC earlier than its release, it has to be a POC book and what better than reading this queer love story between a Bangladeshi & a Brazilian set in the gorgeous Ireland. Super excited to be picking it up during the Easter Readathon for prompts: book about new beginnings & book involving family/friends. March 6, 2020: The cover had already won my heart but now that I've just got the opportunity to read and review this, I'm falling in love with the title and the blurb too, UFF. Thank you, Page Street Publishing for the digital review copy via Netgalley! November 12, 2019cover reveal: every time i see POC on the book covers, i go head over heels with all the heart eyes.but this is just too cute with the wavy and curly hair, henna on the hands, nose ring, freckles. || henna, henna, henna || f/f romance || brown girls, brown girls, brown girls

  13. 5 out of 5

    ilsa➹

    this was...terrible. i was genuinely so excited to read this. the premise sounded so beautiful - a hate-to-love romance between two girls of colour who have a competing henna business... well, the execution was not there, to say the least. -the writing was felt so childish at points and remained consistently bland. there was something so weird about it that made it difficult for me to feel connected to the story and characters. nishat's narrative voice just felt very juvenile at points. there's j this was...terrible. i was genuinely so excited to read this. the premise sounded so beautiful - a hate-to-love romance between two girls of colour who have a competing henna business... well, the execution was not there, to say the least. -the writing was felt so childish at points and remained consistently bland. there was something so weird about it that made it difficult for me to feel connected to the story and characters. nishat's narrative voice just felt very juvenile at points. there's just some... odd lines in here and i'm like do people even think things like this?? and it just made me cringe to read. "Flavia," Ms. Kelly says in her stern I'm-not-taking-any-bullshit voice. It's the voice that makes everyone behave immediately, no matter what. Because Ms. Kelly is not one to put on that voice willy-nilly. WILLY NILLY? lord help me. -"Instead, hushed whispers travel through the air, like we're all trying to keep our plans a secret from each other. Maybe we are. Maybe we should be." nothing even wildly significant is happening and this book is just being dramatic for no reason? it reminded of the ally carter books i read when i was 12. -i really don't want to offend anyone but sometimes this book was just trying so hard to be woke...and i was just there like... "I was down to be the token POC" ...*cringes* there's nothing wrong with this sentence alone. it just...felt so, again, odd to see this in a book? -"I still have a thing for Taylor Swift, after all- even though I hate all of her white feminism nonsense." *blinks* no words. - "Well, regardless, she's said some stuff and now she's going around with henna on her hands. That's cultural appropriation." i don't really want to go in-depth about this book's discussion about cultural appropriation because I'll probably be like, burned at the stake, but i just found the discussion very repetitive and not nuanced at all and VERY in your face like "CULTURAL APPROPRIATION IS BAD!!" over and over again. it got...really tiring. -I can't stand the way she says my name: Neesh-hat, like I'm a niche hat. *blinks again* WHAT? what is this book? -also, the number of times a character rolls their eyes in this book should be illegal. -i'm not really one who feels strongly about pop-culture references (don't hate them or love them)and this book didn't have too many but sometimes,, "Our relationship was shorter than Kim Kardashian's last marriage." ...okay and besides all that (gestures to above) this book was just really boring. i was struggling in the last 30% of this book. stratch that, the whole book was just very boring...i didn't care for any of the characters. and the romance! *throws hands in the air* the romance was disappointing. i'm so bitter. this was advertised as hate-to-love and i'd like you all to know that's a lie. the two characters never actually hate each other. nishat is consistently crushing on flavia (tho there is slight resentment) and flavia doesn't seem to ever actually hate nishat...so. and even besides the false advertising, i wasn't interested in the romance at all. there were some good things though! i liked some discussions between nishat and her parents. nishat's sister bond with priti was sweet. i thought some romance moments were cute (very few) and i always love to see desi culture in books and relating to some of it. but that's kinda it.

  14. 4 out of 5

    tappkalina

    But I’m tired of being ashamed. My choice is clearly laid out in front of me. I’m going to choose me. I really loved the main character's journey as an individual, but sadly I couldn't support the romance. It's not that Flávia did something irreversible, but Nishat's emotions were so well written, that when Flávia made her upset I don't know how many times in a row, I was so disappointed and hurt in Nishat's bahalf, I just couldn't see how we (Nishat and me) could ever forgive her. Ev But I’m tired of being ashamed. My choice is clearly laid out in front of me. I’m going to choose me. I really loved the main character's journey as an individual, but sadly I couldn't support the romance. It's not that Flávia did something irreversible, but Nishat's emotions were so well written, that when Flávia made her upset I don't know how many times in a row, I was so disappointed and hurt in Nishat's bahalf, I just couldn't see how we (Nishat and me) could ever forgive her. Even when she apologized, I was like 'that's not good enough.' And I know it's not my place to forgive or not forgive her, but Nishat's hurt was so deep inside me that I just couldn't. It doesn’t seem like much. But sometimes just being yourself—really, truly yourself—can be the most difficult thing to be.

  15. 5 out of 5

    ellie

    oh..my...god? a story featuring two brown girls falling in love? not to be dramatic, but this is everything i've ever wanted.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Lauren Lanz

    3.5 stars! ⭐️ The Henna Wars was a wonderful contemporary novel! Adiba Jaigairdar puts Bengali culture on full display while also tackling topics such as sexuality and cultural appropriation. "Of course Muslims can be gay. How can anyone think otherwise? The two aren't mutually exclusive. I am the living, breathing proof." ~★~ What is this book about? ~★~ When Nishat comes out as lesbian to her parents, they’re hesitant to adapt their cultural and religious views for her. At school, students are give 3.5 stars! ⭐️ The Henna Wars was a wonderful contemporary novel! Adiba Jaigairdar puts Bengali culture on full display while also tackling topics such as sexuality and cultural appropriation. "Of course Muslims can be gay. How can anyone think otherwise? The two aren't mutually exclusive. I am the living, breathing proof." ~★~ What is this book about? ~★~ When Nishat comes out as lesbian to her parents, they’re hesitant to adapt their cultural and religious views for her. At school, students are given an assignment where they’ll have to start a business--the most successful of which will receive one thousand euros. Nishat decides to start a henna business, as it is a big part of her Bengali culture. The only problem is that a Flavia, a biracial Brazilian girl--one Nishat may or may not have a crush on--has also decided to open a henna booth. ~★~ The Henna Wars was a really easy book to get into considering the weight it holds. Jaigirdar’s writing style is simplistic enough that I had no trouble jumping into Nishat’s narrative and the references of Bengali culture. Nishat was a great protagonist. Her journey was enticing and true, paving an easy path into the readers heart. I really liked following her through school and home life amidst the challenges making themselves present. While several discussions of sexuality and cultural appropriation were presented, I wish they were looked at in more depth. Nishat is unsettled by Flavia using henna the first few instances that it happens. After a while a romance ensues between them -and save for a vague apology- the cultural appropriation upsetting Nishat is not discussed between them. For this reason I wasn’t fully on board with the romance, though the characters are all young and written realistically. For the most part, The Henna Wars was a solid contemporary with tons of diverse representation that I think many will enjoy

  17. 4 out of 5

    Sprinkled Pages

    this was such a cute read omg!!! this touched on important topics, but also remained a light hearted and sweet read

  18. 5 out of 5

    April (Aprilius Maximus)

    “This is one of those moments that I want to bottle up and keep with me forever. Not because it's extraordinary, or because it's the kind of thing you would find in a Bollywood movie. But because it's the kind of moment I could never have dreamed of having in a million years.” representation: characters of colour (Bengali MC (own voices), Brazilian-Irish love interest, Korean side character), own voices queer characters (lesbian MC, bisexual love interest), Muslim MC (own voices). [trigger war “This is one of those moments that I want to bottle up and keep with me forever. Not because it's extraordinary, or because it's the kind of thing you would find in a Bollywood movie. But because it's the kind of moment I could never have dreamed of having in a million years.” representation: characters of colour (Bengali MC (own voices), Brazilian-Irish love interest, Korean side character), own voices queer characters (lesbian MC, bisexual love interest), Muslim MC (own voices). [trigger warnings are listed at the bottom of this review and may contain spoilers] ★★★.5 This was super cute! and definitely more of an enemies to lovers than i was expecting! i didn't absolutely love it though and i'm not quite sure why. maybe because it almost read like a middle grade and that's not what i thought it would be? not sure... but i still highly recommend it! trigger warnings: coming out to parents, homophobic and unsupportive parents and family members, racism, cultural appropriation, being publicly outed, homophobia, bullying.

  19. 4 out of 5

    aarya

    2020 Ripped Bodice Summer Bingo: ‪Debut Novel I wouldn’t call this book particularly fluffy/romantic as most of the content is heart-wrenching, but it did end happily and I cried my eyes out. Disclaimer: I received a free e-ARC from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Sahil Javed

    give me brown girls and boys falling in love with the same sex. give me all of that gay stuff.

  21. 4 out of 5

    laurel [the suspected bibliophile]

    Trigger Warning: Racism, Homophobia, Forced Outing, Bullying Nishat has a problem. Well, she doesn't have a problem—her parents, friends and rivals do. Her parents won't accept that she is a lesbian. Her friends won't accept her desire to operate a henna shop as part of their school project. And her rivals are—well. One is a girl she is instantly attracted to, and the other is the Worst Human Being On Earth. Why do they get to take away my right to come out, and win a competition with my culture o Trigger Warning: Racism, Homophobia, Forced Outing, Bullying Nishat has a problem. Well, she doesn't have a problem—her parents, friends and rivals do. Her parents won't accept that she is a lesbian. Her friends won't accept her desire to operate a henna shop as part of their school project. And her rivals are—well. One is a girl she is instantly attracted to, and the other is the Worst Human Being On Earth. Why do they get to take away my right to come out, and win a competition with my culture on display? 3.5 stars, rounded up This was good and enjoyable, but there was a distinct lack of um, adult consequences over some very real things that seemed like they were brushed under the rug once the HFN happened. But I'll get to that in a minute. First things first: what I loved I loved that Nishat was a fucking teenager. She was impulsive, convinced she was right, and determined to do whatever it took to win...even if that meant that she made some kinda not so good decisions. She wanted to push away from her parents and become independent and herself, but also wanted her parents' love and acceptance. Also, Nishat's younger sister Priti is a gem and a treasure. She reminded me a lot of Kitty from To All the Boys I've Loved Before in terms of ruthlessness, sisterly affecting (re: biting of hands) and protectiveness. I hope Priti gets her own book. I also liked (well, to the point that this can be liked) that the topic of cultural appropriation, particularly the appropriation of Indian culture, was addressed. Many aspects of Indian culture and tradition have been colonized and commercialized (*cough cough* yoga), and this book tackles the appropriation of henna and the concept of artwork. And I liked that Flaviá and her culture were also addressed, along with the intersections of two cultures with Ireland (and toxic White culture), and how her views on art evolved over the course of the book. Because art isn't just art and can't be lifted freely from whatever source for art's sake. There is nuance and consideration. Finally, I liked Nishat's parents' arcs. They had been pariahs due to having a love-marriage instead of a traditional arranged marriage, and had left Bangladesh because of it—and had few family who would interact with them. Because of this, they wanted their children to embrace their culture and also follow along in traditional paths to avoid the consequences they had faced. Additionally, in Bengladesh queerness is punishable by death. Their reactions were reasonable, and their slow acceptance of Nishat was heartwarming and touching. The love towards Bengali culture was also wonderfully done. I liked that Nishat began embracing her family's traditions while acknowledging that some traditions were maybe not so great. The wedding scenes were stunning and beautiful. Things I wasn't as fond of: The interchangeability of Nishat's two best friends. Can't remember their names they were so unremarkable—even if they did call Nishat out on her bullshit, particularly her bullshit regarding her love interest. Flaviá's initial inability to see her selling of henna artwork and her copying of Nishat's unique designs as wrong—she had seen something pretty at a wedding and decided to try it out and then sell it. I was a little flabbergasted by the audacity, but then um, White folks do it all the time. The complete and utter lack of consequences—and Nishat's blind forgiveness of Flaviá's very real culpability because ~she's hot~. Let's talk about the lack of consequences for a moment, shall we? Bullying, particularly those of a racist and homophobic nature, were addressed by the school administration. Granted, there were few brown people at Nishat's school, but the administration seemed like they were on top of it? Until the end, when literally nothing happened after vandalism and then queer-targeted bullying. I get that this is a Catholic school but sweet baby Artemis wtaf. Also, I wanted a cosmic lightning bolt to smite Flaviá's cousin Karen (not her name but she is a Karen) because she was a bitch of the highest order, and just deserved a general smiting for being a mean girl. The lack of retribution or resolution on her storyline was so frustrating. But hey, that's life. But this is fiction, and if Mean Girls can have random bus-strikes, then this can have random acts of lightning. Overall, this was a story that tackled the intersection of racism and homophobia and particularly addressed cultural appropriation—and it had a sapphic romance! I received this ARC from NetGalley for an honest review.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Emma

    The ARC of this book was provided by the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. Full review HERE Trigger warnings for racism, homophobia, bullying and a character being outed. The Henna Wars totally surprised me! It deals with quite a lot of important themes, but it does so in an efficient and caring way. This young adult book is about Nishat, a Bengali girl who lives in Ireland and who enjoys creating henna designs. She has an insta-crush on Flávia, a Brazilian girl who us The ARC of this book was provided by the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. Full review HERE Trigger warnings for racism, homophobia, bullying and a character being outed. The Henna Wars totally surprised me! It deals with quite a lot of important themes, but it does so in an efficient and caring way. This young adult book is about Nishat, a Bengali girl who lives in Ireland and who enjoys creating henna designs. She has an insta-crush on Flávia, a Brazilian girl who used to go to school with her when they were younger and who now attends Nishat's school. The relationship between the two girls was described with such an honesty that it's hard to find in YA books. I clearly understood both girls' struggles in regard to their relationship and I truly felt for them. I don't think that their romance was the main part of this book though. The focus was definitely on culture and cultural appropriation. These themes were dealt with in a very honest way and everything that happened felt very realistic. I appreciated Nishat's fight to make people understand the difference between being appreciative of a culture and being someone who takes advantage of it and appropriates it for their own causes. Family played another important role in this novel and I was the biggest fan of Priti, Nishat's younger sister. The only thing I would have liked to have seen was some more in-depth apologies from some people and also a bigger conversation with Nishat's parents. Other than that, this book was a very cute, but also very important read that I totally recommend!

  23. 5 out of 5

    Lea (drumsofautumn)

    This was such an amazing book with so many important topics, all handled incredibly well! So much discussion on racism and cultural appropriation, the queer representation and different coming-out stories were wonderful, the relationship between the main character and her sister was absolutely beautiful and all the character were so flawed and realistic. Plus I had an especially soft spot for how unapologetically the word "lesbian" was used within this book, even if it was something that the mai This was such an amazing book with so many important topics, all handled incredibly well! So much discussion on racism and cultural appropriation, the queer representation and different coming-out stories were wonderful, the relationship between the main character and her sister was absolutely beautiful and all the character were so flawed and realistic. Plus I had an especially soft spot for how unapologetically the word "lesbian" was used within this book, even if it was something that the main character couldn't unapologetically be for a lot of circumstances around her. Highly, highly recommending this book, especially if you want a truly inclusive reading experience! Trigger and Content Warnings for a character being outed, racism, homophobia. This is the August pick for the Dragons & Tea Book Club 💜✨ Instagram | Blog | Booktube Channel | Twitter

  24. 4 out of 5

    Adri

    4.5 Stars CWs: Incurred racism, Islamophobia, xenophobia, homophobia, bullying, and forced public outing of a queer character This book is AMAZING. At its heart, I think this story is really about Nishat confronting ignorance and pain from people and places she once deemed to be safe. I think it's about how the people who love us can still very much hurt us, perhaps more than anyone else, and it's about the complicated roads we take to bring ourselves and our relationships out of that. There's 4.5 Stars CWs: Incurred racism, Islamophobia, xenophobia, homophobia, bullying, and forced public outing of a queer character This book is AMAZING. At its heart, I think this story is really about Nishat confronting ignorance and pain from people and places she once deemed to be safe. I think it's about how the people who love us can still very much hurt us, perhaps more than anyone else, and it's about the complicated roads we take to bring ourselves and our relationships out of that. There's also a wonderful relationship between Nishat and her younger sister, Priti, which rang true on so many levels for me. There's a closeness and familiarity there that I recognized on a very deep level, and it was nice to see someone in Nishat's family always being there for her and being her confidante. In terms of the family dynamic, I also really appreciate the nuance of Nishat's parents not knowing what to do with her or say to her after she comes out to them, but not outright disowning her either. This, to me, is consistent with what I know of brown families (and especially my experiences with my own) and it's nice to see a reflection of that gray area between we'll-cry-first-but-we'll-always-love-you-no-matter-what and I-can't-look-at-you-and-you're-no-longer-my-child. Avoidance of queerness and discussions about queerness is, again, a very real thing in non-white families, and I think there's so much value in seeing that on the page. Cultural appropriation is also a huge topic in this story, obviously. I think it was so well done, because as this competition heats up, Nishat starts doubting herself, even though she has the most knowledge of (and experience with) henna. That is such a real nuance, because POC so often count themselves out and start believing that other people can somehow represent their cultures better than they ever could—or if not "better," at least to a more receptive audience. And that's messed up. It was empowering to see Nishat come to realize over the course of the story that her authenticity is her power and her advantage. Along the same lines, I really appreciate the central romance in this story between Nishat and Flavia. Not only because it was a really sweet f/f relationship between two WOC, but because it's an imperfect relationship. It's a relationship that has to be salvaged after the deep-seated pain Flavia inflicts upon Nishat when she doesn't understand the harm she's causing by appropriating henna and monetizing Nishat's culture. She has to confront that and she has to learn before they can be together. I really love seeing a relationship that isn't easy or perfect right out the gate, and seeing how putting in that work can have a greater emotional payoff when both sides are receptive. Overall, this was a fun, engaging, thoughtful story that hit all the right notes. I will definitely be recommending it left and right to anyone who will listen!

  25. 5 out of 5

    ˗ˏˋ aphrodite ˊˎ˗

    it’s stories like these that remind me I have am capable of emotional vulnerability....... deep deep down lol but seriously this book is rich in bengali culture as nishat navigates how her own identity fits into her world, both at home and in her irish catholic school. I was on the edge of my seat as I listened to her journey with her sexuality and gaining agency with her culture in the wake of cultural appropriation and racism. I also loved the sister dynamics in this story so so much. although it’s stories like these that remind me I have am capable of emotional vulnerability....... deep deep down lol but seriously this book is rich in bengali culture as nishat navigates how her own identity fits into her world, both at home and in her irish catholic school. I was on the edge of my seat as I listened to her journey with her sexuality and gaining agency with her culture in the wake of cultural appropriation and racism. I also loved the sister dynamics in this story so so much. although I wasn’t crazy about the ending (I wish it ended around chapter 29) this shows the importance of diverse queer reads. IF THE ONLY QUEER BOOKS YOU READ ARE WHITE YOU ARE NOT READING DIVERSELY 🗣🗣 this was optimistic in a realistic way and I adored the heck out of it. I can’t wait to read more from this author in the future!

  26. 5 out of 5

    anna (½ of readsrainbow)

    rep: Bengali Muslim lesbian mc, Afro-Brazilian Irish bi li, Bengali side characters, Korean side character tw: homophobia, racism, outing, bullying ARC provided by the publisher. Review also on my blog. If I was to describe The Henna Wars in one word, I would say “comforting”. It’s comforting in a way that it’s a story about a Bengali Muslim lesbian, very clearly not catered towards white audience. The mc’s culture is a central point of the book, it plays a major role and not once is the girl made rep: Bengali Muslim lesbian mc, Afro-Brazilian Irish bi li, Bengali side characters, Korean side character tw: homophobia, racism, outing, bullying ARC provided by the publisher. Review also on my blog. If I was to describe The Henna Wars in one word, I would say “comforting”. It’s comforting in a way that it’s a story about a Bengali Muslim lesbian, very clearly not catered towards white audience. The mc’s culture is a central point of the book, it plays a major role and not once is the girl made to feel as if that shouldn’t be the case. Even when facing racism from her pears, she knows it’s them who should change & adapt. I can’t even imagine what a book like this must mean to South Asian readers. The plot itself isn’t complicated. Nishat has to start a business for a school project and she decides to use this as an opportunity to connect more with her culture and opens a henna shop. A girl she has a crush on - who’s not Desi - does the same. A conflict is born. It’s interesting to see a conversation about cultural appropriation where the person who’s in the wrong isn’t white. Not in a way that “oh, finally, someone gave us a break!”, but rather “hey, it’s actually more complicated than you might have thought”. The Henna Wars tackles more than this one issue, though, and they’re all intertwined perfectly. At the very start of the novel Nishat decides to come out to her parents, who turn out to not be supportive at all, telling her that Muslims can’t be gay. She faces racism at school, gets bullied, and at one point gets outed to the whole school. For balance, we also have a great relationship between Nishat and her younger sister. It was incredibly refreshing to read about siblings who actually seemed real, and loved each other deeply even though they fought a lot. Priti was very supportive of Nishat and it was obvious in every little thing she’s done for her sister. The Henna Wars checks all the right boxes and I’m sure a lot of readers will absolutely love it. My only issue was a personal preference in regard to the writing style, which I found pretty bland (and how it affected fleshing out characters).

  27. 5 out of 5

    anna grace

    i’m.. honestly not sure about this rating? hm. i definitely expected this book to be cuter and less angsty, so when a ton of bad things just kept happening to the main character, it wasn’t great. but i think that’s generally just the way contemporaries go, and it works for some of them, but in this book it felt sort of manufactured? like, especially when priti lashed out, that was really surprising and it didn’t seem to me like she had a great reason to do that. the book definitely brought up a lo i’m.. honestly not sure about this rating? hm. i definitely expected this book to be cuter and less angsty, so when a ton of bad things just kept happening to the main character, it wasn’t great. but i think that’s generally just the way contemporaries go, and it works for some of them, but in this book it felt sort of manufactured? like, especially when priti lashed out, that was really surprising and it didn’t seem to me like she had a great reason to do that. the book definitely brought up a lot of important points (specifically about cultural appropriation, racism, and homophobia), but besides that, i think it fell a little flat as a story. i didn’t really come out of it feeling much. also, i’m still not sure how i feel about the love interest, which isn’t a good sign. and i also felt like certain people were too quick to be forgiven (if you read this, you know who i’m talking about). so, yeah? mixed feelings. it definitely flew by, which is a plus, but i wasn’t really satisfied by the ending. it wasn’t a bad ending but,, idk. also, there is a certain trope in here that i really don’t like in stories, and i won’t mention it because it’s a spoiler, but yeah.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Faridah Àbíké-Íyímídé

    I had the privilege of reading this book a few months ago and it's honestly one of those stories that is life changing and healing. The story is about Nishat, a gay bengali student who enters a business competition at school, selling henna designs. The story is filled with so much unapologetic bengali pride, a beautiful (and hilarious) sibling relationship reminicent of kitty and lj from TATBILB and an amazing romance starring probably what I'd call my OTP. If it wasn't obvious... You NEED this I had the privilege of reading this book a few months ago and it's honestly one of those stories that is life changing and healing. The story is about Nishat, a gay bengali student who enters a business competition at school, selling henna designs. The story is filled with so much unapologetic bengali pride, a beautiful (and hilarious) sibling relationship reminicent of kitty and lj from TATBILB and an amazing romance starring probably what I'd call my OTP. If it wasn't obvious... You NEED this story in your life. I CANT WAIT FOR IT TO HIT THE SHELVES, everyone watch out for Adiba and this amazing story💜

  29. 4 out of 5

    zaheerah

    Nishat becomes obsessed with winning her school’s business competition, but everything isn’t as smooth sailing as she thought it would be when her old school friend Flávia walks back into her life. Nishat is crushing hard but can’t get distracted. That is until Flávia also decides to do a henna business, and it comes to a heated discussion of cultural appropriation. After her parents disregard her coming out, this competition is everything to Nishat, and she can’t stand to lost anything now. Thi Nishat becomes obsessed with winning her school’s business competition, but everything isn’t as smooth sailing as she thought it would be when her old school friend Flávia walks back into her life. Nishat is crushing hard but can’t get distracted. That is until Flávia also decides to do a henna business, and it comes to a heated discussion of cultural appropriation. After her parents disregard her coming out, this competition is everything to Nishat, and she can’t stand to lost anything now. This one’s a hard one to review because I’m struggling a little to put my thoughts into coherent words. It was a super adorable book to read. I truly wanted to love this. But The Henna War was not the book for me. I was not particularly blown away in my reading experience. My first thoughts when I finished this book was: is that it? Nishat is our main protagonist, and I wish I could’ve loved her more. Nishat is one of a kind. I really loved her unapologetic attitude and how she is very adamant in being herself, loving herself, regardless of what anyone else says. She is very proud of her culture (hey, fellow Bengali) and in her situation, she is remarkably strong, standing up for herself when no one else will. Her younger sister is adorable, and I really enjoyed the great sibling bond between them. Nishat also has her school friends, who she ends up splitting with mid-novel due to clash of interest over their business ideas. Her parents are traditional, and it was heart-breaking to see them become so distant to their own child over their sexuality. With her conflict with the parents simmering in the background, it doesn’t help that Nishat also gets a crush on Flávia. That crush is almost squashed when Flávia decides to a henna business, and Nishat is devastated at her blatant disregard for her culture. And then on top of that, Flávia’s cousin is Chyna, one of the school’s biggest bullies who has been continuously dropping racist rumours about Nishat for years. This book introduces a lot of things: Nishat’s decision to come out to her parents, meeting Flávia, discovering Flávia is also new to her school, Flavia using henna as a business idea. Flávia is also dealing with a lot of tension from her cousin’s family. On top of that, all is the central theme of cultural appropriation, which made this a book a great space to discuss such a topic. But I feel like it was all too much and nothing was given the space actually to be discussed. To call it rivals to lovers is a reach, Nishat’s friends were practically sidelined and then reintroduced at the end for the pivotal moment. Nishat has a terrible attitude where she expects everyone else to feel bad for her, but she refuses to extend the same opportunity to everyone else. There was a perfect moment where her sister calls her out on her petty behaviour, but I feel like it was all for nought as everything is brushed away in favour of a happy ever after ending. Nishat’s anger and disappointment in most moments were justified, but she never really seems to learn from any of the bad stuff she does. Overall, this review sounds weird because I was genuinely enjoying this book for the most part, and I will offer this book to another reader because I can see it’s value. It’s super adorable for the most parts with an exciting cast of characters. The writing style was not to my liking. I just couldn’t get to grip with it, and it definitely affected my enjoyment of the books. As I said, I believe in this story, and I’ll give Adiba Jaigirdar credit for writing a story that I haven’t read anywhere else. But it wasn’t the book for me.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Maha

    i am a mess of emotions.

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