The Henna Wars Review – Family, Identity, and Culture

I was so excited for this book! After hearing and seeing a ton of highly rated reviews of this book, I had a lot of high expectations. When my copy came, I was so happy and excited! And this book definitely lived up to most of my expectations.

The Henna Wars follows Nishat as she navigates the aftermath of coming out to her parents, who meet her announcement with silence. Not wanting to face her parents’ growing disappointment in her, she throws herself headfirst into a competition for her business class, where she is running a henna business.

One problem for Nishat is that she doesn’t have the only henna business in the competition. An old childhood friend named Flávia is back at her school and has also chosen to create a henna business, even though she is appropriating Nishat’s culture. But that may not be Nishat’s only problem with Flávia. She also might be falling for her. And what if Flávia feels the same way?

This book takes place in Ireland, and the setting really informs the novel, not only from the type of school that Nishat goes to but the way kids act. This is the first book that I have read that takes place in Ireland, so it was definitely really interesting to me to read a book in a new and different setting.

This book covers a lot of different topics and themes, and yet it does a really good job balancing them without being too dark or sad (unless is it was necessary to the story). There was a lot of discussion of not only homophobia (as Nishat and Flávia attend an all girls Catholic school) but racism as well. Nishat struggles a lot being one of the only people of color at her school, stuck between wanting to call people out and wanting to just go along with her life. There are also a lot of important discussions that Nishat has to have about her culture, knowing that she loves it, but also recognizing that it has a lot of flaws (in this story, namely rampant homophobia).

This book also talked a little about cultural appropriation. However, this is one thing that I wish was explored more in the book. I feel like there could have been a lot of interesting and good discussions, and while some were present in the book, I wish there had been more of them.

The romance in this book was very well developed and was not rushed. Both Nishat’s and Flávia’s characters felt very real and complicated (especially Nishat, since the book was told from her perspective). The romance does not overpower the book, rather it is just a side plot that helps to further develop the story.

At its core though, even without the romance or the henna competition, this story is about finding the courage to be yourself. This was definitely one of my favorite books of 2020 so far. I would recommend this book to anyone looking for a romance that isn’t afraid to discuss important and tough issues.

Do you want to read this book? Have you read this book? What did you think? Let me know in the comments!


9 thoughts on “The Henna Wars Review – Family, Identity, and Culture

  1. […] This was a really good book about two girls who are business rivals and fall for each other. I really liked the discussions about cultural appropriation and getting to see a story set in Ireland was really interesting! I loved the relationship between Nishat and her younger sister and I am so excited to see what Adiba Jaigirdar writes next! Read my full review here. […]

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