I received this for the publisher in exchange for a review. This does not affect my review which is unbiased and honest.
First of all, I want to say that I was genuinely surprised by how quickly I became invested in this book. i already knew I was going to enjoy it because I loved Ayesha at Last (you can check out my review for that HERE) but this one genuinely blew my mind at some points. I’m so glad it lived up to the hype in my head because it was one of my most anticipated books of the year!
This book follows Hana, who works at her family’s halal restaurant in a small desi community. She’s passionate and hard headed and driven and creative and I absolutely loved getting to know her and see her growth throughout the book. I really related to her, especially during the moments when she was angry and stubborn and a little insecure about the future. It made her more three dimensional and real and I loved that.
Hana’s not great with change (same) and things start changing pretty quickly when another halal restaurant opens across the street. it’s newer and flashier and definitely NOT great for business. And of course, the restaurant owner is this totally know-it-all man named Aydin.
Now of course, to make things even more interesting, neither of them knows that they’ve been talking to each other anonymously on Hana’s podcast platform! I loved how this was inspired by You’ve Got Mail but with many more layers to the book.
Not only do we get some really fun moments between Hana and Aydin with their whole frenemy vibe, we also get to see SO MUCH DRAMA. Like for real I thought Ayesha at Last was dramatic, but this one was like watching an Indian drama. I loved the social commentary not only from Hana’s podcast but also in her radio internship where her white “ally” boss tried to get Hana and her brown coworker Thomas to use their brown card to fit the white narrative for the views. The dynamic between Hana and Thomas was really interesting and I really enjoyed seeing that throughout the book!
I also loved Rashid so much. I didn’t expect to like his character in the beginning but oh my goodness he was so funny and earnest and truly made the whole book so wonderful. His humor was top tier! And his interaction with Hana’s friend Yusuf was honestly the funniest thing! I loved that he was sort of played off as this gullible new-to-America kid but in actuality he brought some wisdom and a new perspective to Hana’s story.
The other character I really enjoyed was Zulfa because a) I have a friend named Zulfa so it was just really funny trying to imagine her (shoutout to lovelyowlsbooks lol) and b) because seeing Hana’s perspective change throughout the book to show her growth was BRILLIANT.
I didn’t really care too much about Lily and Yusuf, but I think it was important to have them in the story specifically because of their relationship to Hana. I think it added more relatability to Hana’s character in my opinion.
ALSO I had no idea what to think about Billi Khala but oh my goodness the DRAMA. and like the peak drama at around 80% I WAS SCREAMING. I can’t even talk about it without wanting to spill all the tea about everything that happened!
The only reason this book isn’t a full 5 stars is just some minor issues I had personally but it didn’t hinder my enjoyment of the book at all. I was scared that the little plotlines that were adding up would get to be too much for the ending but surprisingly it wrapped up pretty nicely (though I do wish the ending had been longer so that it didn’t feel so rushed for me).
I would recommend this to anyone who enjoys a great rivals to lovers story inspired by You’ve Got Mail! If you enjoy creating stories or listening to podcasts, biryani, strange combinations of food, Taylor Swift, and great social commentary you will definitely enjoy this book! I would recommend this to people who want really great drama (like edge of your seat screaming at the tv level of drama) and some perfect tension created by the fact that you know they know each other but they don’t know that! Also if you enjoyed Ayesha at Last you might see a cameo! Which made my heart very happy!