A solid 3.5 stars.
Before I begin, I’d like to direct everyone to this thread that the author made. I’m not a Bengali Muslim reviewer nor do I want to speak over those voices, so this review is 100% my own opinion and interpretation of the book. However, it is important to recognize that no single own-voices representation can and should be a one-size-fits-all representation for any media (books, movies, songs, etc). You may read this book and be dismayed by the rep, but please remember that this is the author’s story and how she chose to address it.
PRE-ORDER HERE: https://www.tashiebhuiyan.com/books
Karina Ahmed has a plan. Keep her head down, get through high school without a fuss, and follow her parents’ rules—even if it means sacrificing her dreams. When her parents go abroad to Bangladesh for four weeks, Karina expects some peace and quiet. Instead, one simple lie unravels everything.
Karina is my girlfriend.
Tutoring the school’s resident bad boy was already crossing a line. Pretending to date him? Out of the question. But Ace Clyde does everything right—he brings her coffee in the mornings, impresses her friends without trying, and even promises to buy her a dozen books (a week) if she goes along with his fake-dating facade. Though Karina agrees, she can’t help but start counting down the days until her parents come back.
T-minus twenty-eight days until everything returns to normal—but what if Karina no longer wants it to?
This book was extremely fun to read and I flew through it within the span of 48 hours. It’s everything that you would expect in a YA contemporary/romantic comedy novel: friendship chaos, fluffy romance, a bad boy because we were all obsessed with toxic traits in high school, and of course, the fake dating trope. But amongst the adorable romance, we also get to journey with Karina through her struggles with anxiety, parental expectations, and understanding her own place in the world. Although my parents were never really strict on me growing up, Karina’s emotions felt very much raw throughout the pages as she gripes with her own personal wants vs. her parents’.
This book is truly a coming-of-age novel and I deeply appreciate how nostalgic it made me feel. More, it made me feel old! As someone in their early twenties reading about sixteen year olds, it really made me reminisced about how absolutely chaotic I was at sixteen; Sixteen year old me, too, would have fallen for a bad boy like Ace. And that’s exactly why I think that this book hits the bull’s eye when it comes to their target audience—Gen Z, this is the book for you!
Some have pointed out that the writing in this book resembles ‘a wattpad’ story, and frankly, I do agree. The poems didn’t stick with me, but that’s totally okay because I’m not the target audience! I do think that Tashie Bhuiyan wrote a fun young adult novel that’s absolutely meant for young adult but with classic tropes that made me feel the same way that John Green novels did. Instead of the manic pixie dream girl, we get broody and sometimes adorable Ace Clyde. But rather than just being the archetype bad boy, Bhuiyan offered him nuances and complexities behind his character through his and Karina’s interactions. I found their interactions and how they approach her relationship with her parents portrayed really powerful to young girls, in a way that emphasizes her own boundaries and strength instead of the ‘damsel in distress’ trope.
I know that some have expressed disappointment at the ending, but I’d like to offer this: sometimes real-life problems have no easy answers, and we can only make progress one step at a time. Not everything will be resolved, and that’s okay. Overall, this book offers a fantastic high school romance along with a glimpse into filial obligations and finding your own strength.