Hello everyone! Today I’m bringing you all a review for a sweet, teen rom-com about two girls, differing cultures, and henna. This book was written by an OwnVoices author who is both Lesbian and Muslim, but I am not an OwnVoices reviewer. I would love to hear people’s opinions about this book, so please feel free to share your thoughts.
Title: The Henna Wars
Author: Aruba Jaigirdar
Rating: 4 ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
Content Warnings: Racism, homophobia, cultural appropriation
Unspoilery Blurb (Taken from Goodreads)
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.
This book was super sweet and entertaining! I had a good time reading it, and I enjoyed seeing Nishat grow into her own person.
The characters were fun- although many of them bothered me quite a bit. Nishat was a fun narrator, but I often found her annoying. That being said, I was still rooting for her. Flavia was sweet and I really liked hearing more about her perspective. Nishat’s sister, Priti is my absolute favorite and I adore her! She is so supportive of Nishat, and I loved their relationship.
The cultural aspect of this book was fascinating, and I thought it was done well. I enjoyed learning about Nishat’s Muslim and Bangladesh culture and seeing how it influenced her parents’ response to her coming out as lesbian. I felt so bad for Nishat, but it was so well-written! It was also interesting to briefly discuss Flavia’s South American background and how that influences her relationship with her cousin’s side of the family.
I loved the competing henna businesses. This was such an intriguing concept for the book. I learned a lot about the significance of henna to Nishat’s culture, and the competition also provided a great backdrop for the struggle between the girls in the book.
Overall, this was an entertaining book that I enjoyed reading! It did a good job tackling the struggles of being a queer, person of color in a white supremacist world, and you could really see Nishat’s struggles withher culture being appropriated and her voice being heard. I recommend this book to anyone looking for a Lesbian romance for a high school audience that has different cultures and views throughout the story.
This was a cute book, and I would love to share some of my favorite and least favorite parts with you all!
- The wedding was fun, and I loved seeing Nishat and Flavia reconnect during the reception!
- It was great to see Nishat’s henna skills improving. She is so talented, and I loved all the conversations about henna that Nishat had with her grandmother.
- I loved learning about her parents’ mildly rebellious love story and move to Dublin.
- I adored Priti and Nishat’s relationship! They were so funny and sweet, and I am so glad that Priti has Nishat’s back during all the coming out madness.
- It was absolutely awful to see Nishat’s parents ignoring her after she comes out as lesbian. All the conversations they had were just painful, and I hated how they were trying to shove Nishat into a box and convince her to lie for her family’s honor.
- The text that outed Nishat to the school was absolutely awful, and I wanted to cry. I am so proud of Nishat for how she dealt with it, and it was wonderful that she chose to embrace her sexuality instead of hiding from it.
- Flavia was nice, but it definitely took me a while to trust her! That being said, Nishat was not always fair about the situations. She made a lot of rash decisions that were just frustrating- like stealing from Flavia’s locker 🤦♀️
- Nishat’s friends who fought with her about Henna and didn’t have her back about the cultural appropriation stuff were difficult to read because by the end I felt like they really did care, they just didn’t really understand that the beginning of the book. I loved the depth that these characters brought to the story because they emphasis the need to be open, honest, and supportive.
- I loved how much Nishat loved her Bangali culture, and she was such an interesting character.
- My main complaint is that I wish the ending wrapped up in a better and less sudden way, but overall I really enjoyed the book!
Have you read this book? What did you think? I’d love to hear your thoughts!
Stay safe, Be Strong, and Change the World! ❤️🏳️🌈✊🏿✊🏾✊🏽✊🏼✊🏻🏳️🌈❤️
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