The Henna Wars by Adiba Jaigirdar is one of the best young-adult stories that I’ve read this year! This story highlights how important cultural acceptance and strong family ties are to teenagers who are trying to come to terms with their sexuality.
Nishat didn’t expect her parents to jump for joy when she came out but she wasn’t expecting them to ask her to be someone other than herself. She has a choice to make—she can be true to herself or lose her family. In her parents’ eyes she can be a good Muslim girl or a lesbian but she can’t be both because those two things just don’t go together. Nishat loves her family dearly but she can’t stay in the closet for the rest of her life just to please her parents and things get really complicated when her childhood friend, Flávia comes back into her life.
Flávia is gorgeous and outgoing—she is the girl of Nishat’s dreams. Unfortunately, their mutual attraction is put on hold when a school competition invites students to create their own businesses because both Nishat and Flávia have declared themselves as henna artists. Nishat and Flávia have become rivals because they want to prove who is the best henna artist but they can’t deny the fact that they are drawn to each other.
Will Nishat keep her sexuality a secret for her family’s sake or will she be brave enough to take a chance on love and open her heart to Flávia?
Nishat and Flávia are students of an all-girls Catholic secondary school in Dublin, Ireland. Nishat is all for studying and keeping to herself and she is a foodie just like me! She has a passion for henna art because it’s a part of her culture and her beloved grandmother, who lives in Bangladesh used to spend hours putting beautiful henna designs on her arms. Nishat wants her parents to accept her for who she truly is and she is determined to follow her heart no matter what happens.
Flávia loves art more than any other subject in school and she is the epitome of the girl-next-door. Flávia is struggling to find her place in the world because she is Brazilian/Irish and she wants to please both sides of her family but she also wants to be true to herself. I have so much love for Nishat and Flávia because they’re trying their best to juggle family expectations, hectic school schedules and the fact that they’re both queer and they have an undeniable crush on each other.
The Writing Style
Adiba Jaigirdar definitely deserves the highest of fives because this story took me on a wild emotional rollercoaster ride. Even though there were a couple of heartbreaking moments in this story, I must say that I enjoyed the author’s flawless and enthralling writing style. She has done a fabulous job with tackling serious social issues like bullying, racism, homophobia and cultural appropriation without going overboard. This story was told through Nishat’s point of view and I loved the fact that I got crystal-clear descriptions of the beautiful Irish landscape and the other characters’ personalities because I felt as though I was experiencing everything firsthand.
My Favourite Parts
I’m a foodie to the core and I am not ashamed to admit that I went to culinary heaven every time a Bengali delicacy was mentioned. I also enjoyed re-living my teenage years of secondary school assignments, having quirky friends and basking in the unexplainable joy that goes hand in hand with first love. I can’t draw or design anything to save my life but I was happy to tag along with Nishat while she perfected her henna art. I really wished that I could go through my kindle because I would have loved to see her in action and get a henna tattoo as well.
This story contains scenes of bullying and blatant racism. There is also a very painful scene with someone being outed and these scenarios can be triggers for some readers.
This lovely story is so much more than a young adult novel about coming out and falling in love with the girl of your dreams. It is a story that portrays how complicated and delicate family relationships can be and it also emphasizes the importance of self-acceptance and forgiveness. Adiba Jaigirdar has become one of my favorite authors and I’ll be counting down the days until I can read another wonderful story from her!
Excerpt from The Henna Wars by Adiba Jaigirdar
“So is this what weddings in your country are usually like?”
I turn around and come face-to-face with the girl with the curly brown hair who has been dancing in the back of my mind all night. She must remember me to come up to me like this. There’s a hint of a smile on her face; I can’t tell if she’s impressed by the wedding or if she’s trying to insult it.
“Sorry?” is all I can say, though there are a million other things I could have said that would have made me seem a little more charming and a little less dumbfounded.
“You don’t remember me.” Her smile shifts into a smirk. It suits her, weirdly. There’s a dimple that forms on her right cheek.
“I do.” It comes out more defensive than I want it to, but I do. More clearly than I should.
“And my name?” she asks, raising an eyebrow.
I bite my lip. Then, acting braver than I feel, I say, “Do you remember my name?”
“Nisha.” More confident than she should feel.
It’s my turn to smirk. “Wrong.”
She looks bewildered. “No, I’m… that’s…” She knits her eyebrows together, like she’s really thinking about this. “That is your name. I remember, you’re from Bangladesh. Ms. O’Donnell made you do a presentation about it in your first week in class and you were so embarrassed or shy or something that your entire face was on fire, and you stuttered through the whole presentation.”
I do remember that presentation. It was my first week in school, my first month in the country. Everything was still new and everyone’s words blurred together in an accent I couldn’t yet understand.
“It’s Nishat,” I offer. “I can’t believe you remember that.”
“You were kind of distinctive.” She’s trying to bite down another smile. I can tell from the way her lips are turned up at the edges.
“Flávia,” I say, and she brightens at the sound of her name, like she really didn’t expect me to remember.
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Bits and Bobs
- ISBN number: 9781624149696
- Publisher: Page Street Publishing
- Adiba Jaigirdar Online
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