Review of The Henna Wars

The Henna Wars
by Adiba Jaigirdar
Middle School, High School    Page Street    400 pp.    g
5/20    978-1-62414-968-9    $17.99

Nishat is a Bengali Muslim teen attending a conservative Catholic school in Dublin. When she comes out as lesbian to her parents, she is met with near-silence. Meanwhile, Nishat creates a henna business for a school competition, and her longtime crush Flávia (an Afro-Brazilian Irish classmate) complicates things by creating a rival business. As the competition heats up, so do the young women’s feelings for each other. Their will-they-or-won’t-they? romance will keep readers engrossed. Jaigirdar’s debut novel features realistically complex queer girls of color at its center and honestly addresses the conflicts they face as such — micro- and macro-agressions, hitting up against family traditions while trying to pursue one’s own desires and wants — though always standing in Nishat’s corner is her supportive sister Priti, who offers the approval the protagonist longs for from her family. All major conflicts are tied up, and probably most touching of all is the hopeful understanding that Nishat and her family reach.

From the September/October 2020 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.

Shelley M. Diaz

Shelley M. Diaz is reviews editor of School Library Journal.

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