Adiba Jaigirdar’s The Henna Wars (2020)

Adiba Jaigirdar’s The Henna Wars may be my favorite young adult love story of all time. Jaigirdar has created a smart, awkward, completely believable tale of two teen girls falling in love. Her protagonist, Nashat, is a Bangladeshi Irish teenager with a crush on Flávia, a Brazilian Irish teen new to Nashat’s school. It turns out the artistic Flávia is cousins with Nashat’s racist high school rival. Even worse, the two teens end up competing against each other in a business competition at their school. The book’s clever title references the competition in which both girls sell henna, which causes a potentially irreparable riff in their nascent relationship. Flávia doesn’t understand why Nashat is upset about her appropriation of Bangladeshi culture, which allows Jaigirdar to explore cultural appropriation subtly and smartly.

Nashat and Flávia’s relationship isn’t the only one brilliantly rendered. Nashat has a younger sister, Priti, and Jaigirdar does an amazing job building their enviable sibling relationship throughout the text. It’s a good thing Nashat has Priti, because things are tense when she comes out to her parents. Intergenerational conflicts are gorgeously explored, not only through Nashat’s relationship with her parents, but with her extended family in Bangladesh who she connects with via Skype.

This is just a perfect story. I devoured it and cannot wait to read more by this extremely talented author. I highly recommend this for all lovers of YA love stories. Be prepared to squeal with delight. 🙂

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