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Counting Down with You

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A reserved Bangladeshi teenager has twenty-eight days to make the biggest decision of her life after agreeing to fake date her school’s resident bad boy.
How do you make one month last a lifetime?

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?

464 pages, Hardcover

First published May 4, 2021

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About the author

Tashie Bhuiyan

4 books1,989 followers
Tashie Bhuiyan is the author of Counting Down with You, and a New Yorker through and through. She recently graduated with a bachelor's degree in Public Relations, and hopes to change the world, one book at a time. She loves writing stories about girls with wild hearts, boys who wear rings, and gaining agency through growth. When she's not doing that, she can be found in a Chipotle or bookstore, insisting 2010 is the best year in cinematic history. (Read: Tangled and Inception.)

For rights inquiries, contact JL Stermer at Next Level Lit.

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 3,273 reviews
Profile Image for chai ♡.
321 reviews152k followers
January 6, 2022
Counting Down with You was such a warm joy to read, and it left me with something luminous bubbling bright within my chest. It’s a charming and aching story with a quietly furious heart, a story that would have given me a mirror as a teenager, and now at twenty-two, pried something open in me that had been shut for a very long time.

Counting Down with You pulled me tenderly towards my younger self, and reading it, I could so easily put myself back into the picture of it: that tremulous age when what there is of you feels too heavy to bear but too weightless to have its own gravity, the familiar keenness of helplessness and words crawling back inside your throat even as you thought them—a child’s desperate urge to be seen, to be adored, as who they are, as who they want to be, not as some rarefied version that they ought to be—and the terrible, slowly-dawning realization that perhaps there is no such thing as unconditional love, or unconditional belonging, only love and belonging that seize and weigh and measure before they find you worthy. And something else too, that sharp, glittering edge of defiance, always like flint, a spark away from fire.

I can speak autobiographically to the conflict that resides at the heart of the story which is, perhaps, why the novel landed very heavily within me. Like Karina Ahmed, I wanted to pursue a career in literature instead of one that is empty of passion in medicine, and like Karina, my parents were quick to snuff out that dream like a flame pinched between two fingers. My parents did not understand why I would “waste” my high school diplomat in mathematics and chase after such an unpractical dream, and I struggled for language to explain that a career in books fit into the contours of my heart like nothing else did, that I could not conceive of doing anything else. It was the first time I put my feet down in front of my parents, and it laid me open to a world where I might decide to stand and find the ground beneath me visible and solid.

It was, by no means, an easy decision: my parents’ murmurings of skepticism—their silent disapproval—had a way of cutting me open, and it almost bled me out of what scraps of resolve I’d defiantly managed. Like Karina, I was seventeen, and I felt like a gulf lay between me and my parents. I remember that whole year as an open wound; I felt raw and tender all the time, like if you touched me, my whole body would start throbbing. I longed for my parents’ approval, I longed to find whatever combination of words that might bridge that gulf, that might make my parents understand the hugeness of my passion. Even now, as unspeakably grown up as I feel, I still do.

Counting Down with You channels all those feelings with startling acuteness. I loved the author’s warm, energetic, almost fevered attitude toward her characters. She sees her characters, and wants them to see themselves, and to be seen by those they hold the dearest. She gives Karina a net of support to break her fall: her sweet, kind grandmother and her two enthusiastically supportive best friends. The fake-dating-to-lovers romance between Karina and Ace—which, hilariously, begins when Karina, an unrepentant bookworm, reluctantly agrees to be Ace’s girlfriend only after he offers to take her to a bookstore and let her go wild with his rich-boy credit card—is chokingly sweet, and Ace’s disarmingly silly romantic gestures simply set too high a bar to vault for romance. Ace's fragile vulnerability and fundamental decency, which he is used to hiding behind the thin veneer of an irritating smirk, a black leather jacket, and a carefully crafted "high school bad-boy" persona, was also touching.

All in all, this is a cracking debut—a story lit up like a beacon, a stirring invitation to fearlessly release your dreams into the world, to let them grow, and stretch wings, and soar.

Profile Image for Tashie Bhuiyan.
Author 4 books1,989 followers
October 19, 2020
hello, tashie here! (yes, that was an A:TLA reference)

so, shockingly enough, i'm the author of COUNTING DOWN WITH YOU. i wanted to pop in here for the first and last time to give all of you some information about my book... and maybe give it 5 stars since a piece of my heart resides inside CDWY.

TW / trigger warnings for the main character's anxiety (she has a few anxiety attacks throughout the book, as written based on my own experiences), and for mentions of parental abuse (verbal and psychological.) if either of these concern you, please feel free to reach out via the contact form on my website for more information.

COUNTING DOWN WITH YOU is a YA contemporary romance and it features a bangladeshi american protagonist, a fake-dating facade with the resident bad boy, a chaotic and diverse girl gang, a supportive grandmother relationship, in-depth discussions of mental health, loads of gen z antics (because i'm a gen z myself), and nuanced family dynamics as the main character navigates independence for the first time.

before i depart i wanted to copy and paste the author's note from the book below to give you a sense of what you're walking into. thank you for your time and i hope you enjoy reading this piece of my heart. <3

Dear reader,

We’re about to enter some big emo hours, so hold on tight. Counting Down with You is the story of my heart, and it was written as a love letter to young brown girls. It wasn’t that long ago that I was a brown teenager, not that I really feel like the spitting image of an adult at twenty-one years old. The older I am, though, the more I realize that there is no “right” way to represent all of us, since we are not a monolith. We all come from different backgrounds and have different experiences. However, when I set out to write this story, I chose to write it from a deeply personal place. The main character of this novel, Karina Ahmed, represents one experience—my experience—but she does not represent all. In this book, my goal was to always give her agency, and give her room to grow. This is undeniably a love story, but Karina is not waiting for a knight in shining armor to rescue her from the challenges of life. At the end of the day, this is her story, and these are her decisions. Just like her, we can’t rely on other people to come save us—we must be lionhearted on our own.

When I was younger, I often felt helpless. We don’t always have the freedom we seek, and it’s hard to rise up against our circumstances when we are young and have limited means to protect ourselves. But this is me telling you right now that it gets better. I know it’s hard to believe that, especially when the future seems so bleak, but it’s true. Someone gave me this advice at sixteen years old, and I hope to now impart it on you: stay as strong as you can. That’s all we can do. We might not be able to fight back or run away, but we can continue to believe in a better future. As you follow Karina on her journey, I hope you find a sense of belonging and understanding. Being seen is the most tender form of love, and I see you. I do.

Thank you for taking the time to read this. If there is only one thing you take away from this book, let it be hope.

All the love,
Profile Image for Lia Carstairs.
397 reviews2,127 followers
November 25, 2021
Update [April 15, 2021]: okay, the more i think abt this book, the angrier i get so im just gonna be dropping my rating to 1 star


a lot of things annoyed me but the way the Muslim aspect of this book was handled-

i am rage🙂

this was my first Muslim rep book and the disappointment and frustration im feeling is unfathomable and i was so excited ughhhh

okay, but before i get into the negatives and start ranting, i'll say the good stuff:

-the anxiety rep in here and how the main character dealt with it was pretty good.
-how the MC fought for what degree she wanted to pursue was amazing. parents should never be forcing their child to do what something they dont want to do.
-the sibling relationship was sweet.
-this was a pretty quick read.

thats it.

and i was actually loving this in the beginning.😭 all my highlights literally showed my happiness at how the MC being Muslim was incorporated into this book. all the arabic words, her praying, other religious mentions-

then there was the MC dealing with anxiety and the pressure her parents put on her, and i felt bad for her. she was dealing with so much and was so scared to speak up about not wanting to be a doctor. her parents were absolutely ruthless when it came to discussing a change in career paths, they just went ahead and chose her future for her and i despised them.

but of course what happens next? the white boy comes into her life teaching her to be stronger, believe in herself (etc) and brings her happiness



it's not even that it was a white boy bringing her happiness that got me annoyed, but how the parents were villainized when it came to religion (but i understand them looking like villains when it came to not allowing her to pursue an English major -- that made sense) and that of course it was the white boy who saved her from the pain and sadness she was feeling.

literally what pisses me off so much is that she'd constantly complain of the things her parents would forbid her from doing that you know, are because it's not allowed in Islam??? like i totally am with the main character when it came to her parents not allowing her to pursue the career she wants. parents 100% should not be doing that, it's really messed up, especially with the pressure put on their child. they really should just be happy with what their kid wants to grow up to be, and that's the one thing i disliked about her parents.

other than that--what the hell?? the MC constantly makes out her parents to be the bad guys for other stuff, when that's not even true ohmygod. for one thing, you aren't supposed to date guys/have boyfriends/kiss the opposite gender in Islam. It's not that her parents are evil and do this as a personal attack, its haram (forbidden). Yet the main character here literally is like "i want happiness, why cant they let me have be with him" -- girl, im with you about wanting to find happiness with the job, but you know...shouldn't you be faithful to your religion and understand that it's not allowed to date so your parents are right to tell you it's forbidden?? i am confusion. and im the same age as this girl and i know this. i dont hate on my parents???

i obviously understand that this was marketed as fake-dating trope, so im not surprised with how some of the things turned out, and she can go ahead and date the guy, but it just really makes me angry me that the main character makes her parents look evil for telling her that she isn't allowed to date? *sigh*

okay, but all of that i just said -- maybe some wont mind it, it's probably just something only i and some others would be annoyed with. i just feel like if you're gonna write about a Muslim character, don't break that rule and cast the parents in a bad light?? idk. either way, don't make out your parents to be evil because they won't let you date. and it's not even something that we need to be pitied for or looked at in horror, like what the other characters in this book did when she told them. it's part of what we've learned in our religion, so respect it.

i swear, i feel like this book was trying to push the idea that all Muslim parents are strict to this degree and are harsh. it's in no way like that. maybe some are, but the same could be said with any other race/religion -- it's just that with Muslim rep books (and *cough* Netlfix shows), the parents are for the most part portrayed as villains.

and yes, i saw that the MC would constantly say that she knows her religion isn't bad, she knows her parents aren't evil, but her actions and what she'd say/do after... she says she understands but she would still complain about them the next few pages, saying how they're unfair?? she'd be so bitter about it and then she breaks said rules😐

but again, one thing I did love was seeing the MC go against her parents when it came to doing the degree she wanted and not what they wanted. definitely a lot of people can relate with being forced to become a doctor, engineer, or lawyer. im thankful that my parents have never pushed me to become something i dont want to be.

i just hate what this book implies. i hate that people who will read this may think that all Muslim parents are controlling and cruel to their children. i hate that some may even pity us for some of this. just no. i can tell you that im proud to be a Muslim and proud of my religion. i don't think any of the rules/what we're forbidden to do is harsh at all. it makes complete sense in my eyes and i love my parents. i love everything about Islam.

now let's get to the love interest. I DESPISE Ace with every ounce of my being. he's legit the typical white bad boy who's secretly a softie inside once you get to know him. i do not care about him. He's so cheesy and im all here for the cheesiness BUT NOT THIS. so many cringey scenes and i did not see the chemistry between the two at all. sure, they had kinda similar situations when it came to their families, but like?? thats it?? i dont like either of them, but especially the main character.

i seriously think in general, if an author is going to incorporate religion into a YA contemporary, then you should actually follow through with the religion or at least not villainize it?? bc if you're not going to do that, then literally what's the point-

if you're going to end up casting the religion in a negative light, then again...what's the point?? unless you're just trying to make others think badly on said religion?? Whether it's Christianity, Muslim, Hinduism, Judaism, etc -- follow through on those teachings. dont bother writing about a religious character in a book if you're not even going to follow through on some of the rules and villainize the parents. thankfully at least the MC would eat halal food, occasionally pray, and understood that getting drunk was haram. but the dating and kissing, casting her parents as evil in those aspects...no🤚

and it's sad, because the author is Muslim so i thought it'd actually follow through on that. like the author probably didn't mean to show Islam in a bad way, but that's how it looked like to me. i think that maybe some Muslims, non-Muslims or people who aren't really familiar with Islam will probably like this book, though.

i saw in other reviews that the Bengali rep was done poorly too -- im not from Bangladesh, so i cant say anything bc i wouldn't know, but thats so sad it wasn't done well either :(

anyways, im not going to waste any more of my time with this book. all i've gained from this is that i should never trust books with Muslim reps without having first read reviews by Muslims themselves. i shouldn't have had high expectations🤡


also, just wanted it to be out there, that i know this book is based on her life and im not critiquing her life but the book and my main issue with this is the constant villainizing of her parents and just feeding off of negative stereotypes. you see, when you have movies and other books constantly doing the same thing over and over again, eventually anyone would get sick and tired of it soooo my anger is valid.

and here's a secret -- this review is my opinion. shocking, yeah i know.


Many thanks to Inkyard Press for sending me an ARC in exchange for an honest review!! <33


Pre-read Review:

fake dating trope with a guy who gifts the MC books??? and she's Muslim?? I NEED

dear book, plz dont let me down🙏
Profile Image for Nilufer Ozmekik.
2,130 reviews39.3k followers
October 12, 2021
A grader, smart, responsible, quirky, adorable South Asian girl and badass, handsome, sweet tooth, rebellious white boy unite for tutoring sessions and fake dating scheme, friends to lovers theme, problematic families who reject to communicate or empathize their own children, verbal and psychological abuse, anxiety disorder!

Did you like the formula I mentioned? If your answer is yes, you’re accepted to the full, heartfelt, sweet-swoon-soft, enjoyed ride!

I love realistic young adult books plus sweet romance with so much likable characters! This book checks all of the boxes of my true weakness and addiction of young at hearts premise!

Karina is strong character, who is victimized by her over conservative, domineering parents who also intervene and put limits to everything she likes to do with your life including her love for English literature! She likes to read, writing poems as her parents forced her to become a doctor!

She keeps saying sorry for everything she’s done because her parents incepted the wrong thought patterns into her mind and she never thinks she’s good enough, smart enough or capable enough! She becomes more anxious at each moment which I can easily relate to be helpless when you’re under so much pressure, squeezing yourself into tiny ball not to collapse under the attacks life throws at your way!

Karina’s parents also spoil her brother Samir who is clueless, immature but also caring brother. Yes, I truly have so much negative feelings about them but thankfully Dadu was so much huggable character who is on Karina’s side and who encourages her from the beginning to live her life and make her own choices!

And Ace has issues with his own brother Xander as well but he was sweeter than the lollipops he licks throughout the chapters. He was honest, solid and learning from mistakes, so much likable hero!

The couple’s chemistry was perfect! I liked their connection! Both of them were respectful with each other’s limits and boundaries.

And best friends of Karina: quirky, cheerful and so much supportive, likable!

Overall: I’m giving my five for the love of English literature, lyrical poems, delicious cheesecakes, milkshakes stars!

I love feel good YA fictions with inspirational messages and remarkable characters! Thankfully the author gave me all of them in a beautiful package and creative cover!

Special thanks to NetGalley and Inkyard Press for sharing this digital reviewer copy with me in exchange my honest opinions.
Profile Image for Raeesah Da'Neer.
166 reviews92 followers
February 20, 2021
** UPDATE: the author has reached out to me acknowledging the harmful misrepresentation of culture and religion in this book. They have updated since therefore please keep note my review is based on the initial draft. **

Thank you Edelweiss and publisher for providing an ARC in exchange for an *honest* review. Please keep in mind we are all entitled to our own opinions and my opinion may be unpopular/of a minority.

I was highly anticipating this book, as a Bangladeshi Muslim child of an immigrant representation in fiction is extremely rare hence my excitement for counting down with you. I am also very big on supporting POC authors, especially debuts!

I’ll start with the positives. I appreciated the way anxiety was portrayed and Karinas coping mechanisms of it. It was romanticized at times which didn’t seem quite right. But the mental health representation was done okay. Karinas relationship with her brother was developed nicely. Her relationship with her dadu was probably the best part of this whole book, it was rather wholesome.

I realize this is an own voice story and it makes me sad that the experience Karina has had with her culture and religion has been so terrible. It’s so frustrating to see the minimal representation continuously show south Asian Muslim girls to be oppressed by their culture, religion, and family. And even worse, a white savior comes to solve all her life’s problems.

This book frustrated me for several reasons. Worst of which is the representation of Bangladesh. She said she would have “considered breaking my own leg or something” than go to Bangladesh so the first mention of her ethnic origins is already negative. She also diminished all of Bangladeshi culture to lazy generic south Asian culture (references of khabi kushi khabi gham, kal ho na ho, even the food was vaguely south Asian. Nothing was specifically Bangladeshi.). What annoyed me the most was her only description of Bangladesh being “the air pollution combined with the strange food is never a good combination for any of our stomach.” And that is why I gave it 1 star. The portrayal of Bangladesh was extremely saddening to me. Also, the character only describes culture in a negative light, one line that infuriated me was “my grandparents are incredibly traditional, and I understand, because it’s all they’ve ever known” as if to say because Karina is American she knows better? It was at that point I was considering DNFing and honestly, I would have saved myself a lot of stress if I had. There’s a lot of internalized colonialism that doesn’t get unpacked nor reflected upon. Karina decided she hates her culture and that’s it. She relies on a white boy to be her only source of happiness.

Perhaps this book would be more appealing to white non-Muslim readers who wouldn’t feel the same amount of frustration as me. I can say with confidence Netflix would appeal to this narrative of a Muslim girl who hates her life but a white boy comes to liberates her from oppression. For me, this book was fuelled by harmful offensive stereotypes that white people want to believe for us.

Representation of faith was also done poorly. Karinas Sikh friend didn’t want to grow out her hair anymore which goes against her faith. It is extremely frustrating to see minority religions only being represented when characters are actively going against their religion in order to appeal to a western audience. There was no reader sensitivity therefore the author's biased experiences have shown a misrepresentation that white non-Muslims already assume of us. What I am trying to say is that there are ways to articulate a character's frustration without condemning a whole culture, religion, and race.

Despite the issues I highlighted, the writing was choppy and fell flat leading to the characters appearing one-dimensional. It was a really poor quality writing style with immature narratives even for a 16-year-old POV. The romance between Ace and Karina was superficial, underdeveloped, rushed, and cheesy in the worst way possible. The pacing was off, Ace was a very underdeveloped character who falls for Karina out of the blue, none of it made sense. The ending didn’t even address Karina and Ace’s relationship with her parents which was the climax I was waiting for. Disappointing is the word I would use to describe this book. The authors own voice is very much valid and needs to be told. But they have a platform and their bias misrepresents a whole culture.

I was hoping for better but perhaps my expectations should have not been so high.
Profile Image for Chloe Gong.
Author 13 books18.8k followers
March 18, 2021
I read Counting Down with You way, way back in ye olde days of 2019 and then again as it nears publication, and *clenches fist* it's still so goddamn good. This is a story about a teen girl finding strength and rising to her fullest self. A soft, beautiful romance with a love interest who sees her and supports her but doesn't save her—because Karina can save herself. A cast of supporting characters with absolutely chaotic energy and the cutest grandmother that I would absolutely lay my life down for. I know there's a Dadu Fan Club out there and we need pins. The Internet might say I'm biased because I think Miss Tashie deserves the world, but Counting Down with You is also one of those special books that is going to shine a light on so many teens and make them feel appreciated as they never have before. You need it in your life.

Also stan Ace's eyebrows.
Profile Image for hamna.
639 reviews294 followers
December 2, 2021
this review is based on the ARC. //

i’m actually feeling a little stunned finishing this book. i’d been hearing about it as far back as maybe early 2020 (probably earlier), and while i had a few hesitations.. i figured, a bangladeshi-muslim mc written by a bangladeshi-muslim author, who’s trying to navigate her way through overbearing parents? that’s something i should read, it’s something i kind of relate to personally, especially the pre-med part. and so i read it and here i am, 24 hours later, really really really wishing i hadn’t.

i’m just going to get into it: the book was heavily marketed as a “bangladeshi-muslim” rep; before anything else, this representation was emphasized. i know a lot of people, myself included, read/will read the book based on that alone. i read this, hoping for that, and somehow got double crossed with it’s exact opposite: the book did nothing short of attacking both of those identities. every other page, every other sentence was nothing but a weird repetition of the same issue: how the culture the mc comes from is horrible, how her country her parents grew up in is inferior, how her religion is (indirectly) oppressing, how her family (for following this religion) is “conservative” and “dated”. i am so tired of the same take over and over again, muslim girl hates her religion, muslim girl is oppressed, muslim girl meets white boy, muslim girl is okay.
what took me aback me, however, was how twisted that “islam-hate” was executed. not once in this book did she ever directly say a word against islam, not once. but there’s no end to her tirade against her parents… who are just… asking of her what islam asks of anyone. (minus the career part, and a few other things). for a book lauded for “muslim rep”, i don’t actually see any muslim rep - except when she wants to complain about the religion indirectly, by complaining about her parents.
there were several instances the author could’ve enforced the “muslim” part of karina’s idenity - even as an afterthought, but nope. she, never once, prays throughout the book (despite mentioning twice how she likes it), never checks if the food she’s eating is haram/halal (despite going to multiple different places; except this one time, which felt like a token). it honestly felt like islam existed in the story to give reason for her parents to be “annoying” and “controlling” - proverbially adding fuel to the fire. if i wanted a 1-dimensional words-only more-negative-than-anything muslim rep, i would’ve watched a netflix show.
the other character trait of this book: bangladeshi representation. i’m not bangladeshi, so i’m not going to try to understand how horrible it must feel to be written like this. she says at one point, she’d have “considered breaking my own leg or something” than go to bangladesh; the one time she describes the country is dismissive, “the air pollution combined with strange food…”; the only active “representation” you can attribute to the book is bollywood movies and south asian food -- neither of which are exclusive, or even inclusive, to bangladesh.

with the bottom of my heart, i feel like this book took karina being a muslim and from bangladeshi descent and used them both as the “villians” in her life. there to provide a solid roadblock, that she can then cross with her white boyfriend, and soon completely forgotten about.
the islamic and cultural misrepresentation both are the biggest (and probably, only) reason i’m giving this book such a low rating. i’d give it even lower if i could; i wanted to dnf this book so many times while i was reading, but continued anyway because i wanted to give the author a chance. but the convoluted generalization of a whole culture, country and religion based on one limited experience is… too much for anyone to look past.

and then, we come to the love interest. i’m not going to comment more, just this: i’m so extremely tired of the savior white boy complex yall have. ace had all the qualities of your “perfect 16 year old”.. but that’s all he had. a bunch of qualities and attributes jammed together, tied with a ~bad boy~ leather jacket, with no personality, no appeal. (did the money thing make anyone else uncomfortable?) i couldn’t tell him apart from a brick wall if i tried. all of their romance scenes… over the top, out of place, awkward and cringey at best; i was so bored in every single one of their scenes and that’s from me, who could get a romance iv any day, every day of my life.
the writing, again, felt so perplexing to me. it was immature, stilted, came off as your standard fanfic/wattpad-novel writing, and after i’d heard so many people talk about how well this book was written, it just fell flat and disappointing. the one and only thing i can say about it, that despite being embarrassing a number of times, at the very very least: it was a fast read. if it hadn’t thrown me in a loop over the religious/cultural stereotyping, i would’ve finished it in a few hours.

i am going to say this: i really liked how the anxiety was handled in this book, both by karina herself, trying to navigate murky waters, to her boyfriend and friends trying their best to be what she needed them to be, not who they wanted to be. i liked reading about karina trying out a bunch of different things, trying to see which one of them would be most effective in battling anxiety, from yoga to counting to candles. (although, by the time i finished this book, my anxiety got over the top. so... you gain some, you lose some?)
all in all, i was really excited when i started this book. borderline giddy. but it turned out to be one mess of offensive and harmful stereotypes, and i really wouldn’t want anyone to read this book, thinking it’s “good” rep. it’s not. it’s not even representation, technically, since karina never brings up her heritage unless she wants to bring it down, unless she wants to point out how it’s effectively ruining her life. it’s sad how all of this overshadowed the “plot” of the book - and it’s something i feel could’ve been avoided had the writer been a little more careful. i do understand where the author was trying to go with this, trying to give book-life to her very real experience, but i just don’t think that experience was over yet. and sadly, that tiny thing, made all the difference.
Profile Image for razan.
256 reviews218 followers
April 1, 2022
i tried going into this book with an open mind. i really did. i felt for karina’s struggles with her parents not being supportive of her dreams and aspirations. and that is so valid and a reality for so many teens, specifically those raised in brown and arab cultures. i also really liked the anxiety rep. but as a muslim, i was just too frustrated with the representation of islam.

a lot of times it felt like the lines between toxic cultural ideals and religion were blurred. it was mentioned once or twice that they were two separate things and that karina actually loves her religion, but the book did a really poor job of showing it. some of karina’s parents’ “rules” that she feels suffocated by were really just basic religious guidelines that every muslim is expected to follow. like yeah her parents sucked, and karina is not a perfect muslim, i get that. i wasn’t expecting her to be. i’m not perfect either. but it would’ve been better if there was a clear distinction between what the religion is vs how she chooses to practice, instead of disregarding some parts of the religion and making it seem like it’s a “strict parental rule” under the guise of a toxic cultural ideal. like i wish that there was at least something that said “oh i’m touching and kissing and dating the non-muslim boy, but i’m aware that it’s something my religion very heavily frowns upon” instead of “oh i’m touching and kissing and dating the non-muslim boy, but i can’t tell my parents because it’s one of their strict rules that rob me of my freedom”.

yeah so idk the muslim representation in this book was really not it and made me want to scream in frustration at times. either do it right and respect the religion as a whole or don’t do it at all. shit representation aside, the writing sucked ass and the dialogue and all the gen z references were too fucking CRINGE.

all in all, the whole book was just very white savior to me, and followed the cliché “muslim woc is oppressed and only finds her freedom when she falls in love with a pasty ass privileged white boy”. netflix would definitely eat this shit up.
Profile Image for Jananie (thisstoryaintover).
290 reviews13.2k followers
June 12, 2021
this was super cute and definitely one that a lot of teens will enjoy! Absolutely LOVED Dadu as she was the true MVP ♥️ I also really appreciated the anxiety rep and seeing how Karina dealt with it on the daily. Karina's situation at home & her conservative parents is one I know all too well being a south asian kid and growing up with other south asian kids, but I really wish we dove even more into it in this book—regardless though I think a lot of people will resonate with this rep 💗
Profile Image for Madita.
505 reviews17.5k followers
September 12, 2022
I have talked with multiple people and they have all told me that the muslim rep in this book was not correct nor good.

I am not muslim but I did indeed notice a few things that made me quite uncomfortable with how the religion was represented in this book in correlation to the mc's happiness.

One: her non Muslim friend kept saying that she only wants her to be happy in correlation to the mc wanting to do smth that is haram.

two: the mc kept putting her parents being strict on their religion which I don't think is correct since, yes there are obviously ways you live your life which is influenced by religion but to blame the religion for things she hated that her parents did made me uncomfortable.

three: this book (which I did not know until researching further) was promoted as musli representation. I am not going to tell anybody how to practice their religion but I do think that if a book is promoted as REPRESENTATION that the character should not start shitting on the religion throughout the entire book. That is not really representation if you ask me.
Profile Image for Ayman.
191 reviews70.8k followers
July 30, 2021
thank you for the physical copy, INKYARD PRESS!

this was very cute and gave me the butterflies
Profile Image for sam.
362 reviews522 followers
June 19, 2021
“If I’m lightning, then what are you?”
“I’m thunder. I’ll follow you wherever you go.”

★★★★★ (4.75)

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I was provided with an early copy of this book from the publisher via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own

*trigger & content warnings: in-depth discussions of mental health (specifically anxiety) and mentions of parental abuse (emotional and psychological)*

Counting Down With You is a novel I personally connected with, pretty deeply. It deals with anxiety and parental abuse in a different way.

As a brown woman, I haven’t seen a lot of books where I felt truly represented but this one really spoke to me. It was one of my most anticipated releases of 2021 and it definitely didn’t disappoint. It also happened to be my first five star read of the year.

I definitely feel like this book will appeal to the younger audience, not only because Karina is 16 and relatable but also because of the very Gen-Z style writing. It’s fresh, it’s fun and I enjoyed every moment of it.

I’ve heard from a lot of people that this book had a little too much fluff. To that I say – you’re not wrong. At the same time, I think because it was pretty strong in terms of the mental health aspect of the story, it definitely needed the cute and adorable moments to balance it out.

Tashie really wrote about a boyfriend who buys his girlfriend books just so she’d be his pretend girlfriend and you expect me not to love this? This is literally everything I want.✨I really loved the dynamic between Ace and Karina. It was a very ‘build each other up’ kind of thing which I really liked and not just he makes her better or she makes him better. They bring out the best parts of each other.

In terms of cultural representation, I know Karina was portrayed as a character that wasn’t extremely religious (while still respecting her religion of course), even though she was from a religious family. And I think that’s something we don’t see a lot of in books and it’s something I can personally relate to. So yeah, I definitely identified a lot with her character.

Okay even though I loved Ace and Karina, my favourite character is definitely Dadu. I mean, come on. We love a supportive grandmother. Every time I read a scene with Dadu in it, and how she encourages Karina to do what she loves, I almost teared up. And we can’t forget the moments with Ace where she was protective and berating him 😂.

I did kind of think that the ending didn’t wrap up as well as I was hoping it would. I wish there was a little more conflict because it seemed a little too hasty. Also, the plot of the book didn’t really have as many repercussions as I would’ve liked. It did feel more like a subplot than an overall plot. Personally, it’s something that didn’t bother me too much because like I said, I loved everything else in the book so much. But I think because of that, I can’t give this book all five stars.

This is still definitely on my favourites list for 2021. I definitely recommend picking this one up ASAP because I swear, I was considering rereading it after I finished. That’s how much I loved it. Read it for Dadu, the supportive friend group and the cutest couple you’ll ever meet <33
the biggest crime a person could commit is not rating this book 5 stars. I’d give it more but apparently we’re at a limit. Anyway, i’ll have a full review up on my blog when it gets closer to the release date. until then - ADD THIS BOOK TO YOUR TBR RIGHT NOW. trust me, you don’t wanna miss out on reading this one. I finished it like 20 minutes ago and i’m still looking at it and giving it heart eyes 😍
Profile Image for Emma Lord.
Author 4 books2,789 followers
December 20, 2020
I was so thrilled for the opportunity to read this much buzzed about book in advance, and even *more* thrilled that it not only lived up to the hype, but smashed past it! Truly *chef's kiss* take on the fake dating trope while still juggling the weight of family, expectations, and everything that comes along with them. Tashie handles her characters with such unique wit and insight that they felt all too real to me; I was a sad bean when it was over because I spent so many evenings curled up on my favorite reading rock in the park just happy to be in Karina's brain. (That said, only read this in public if you're prepared to laugh out loud, blush, and occasionally cry in front of strangers!!) I'm so excited for this to hit shelves in 2021 so we can all yell about it together <3.
Profile Image for Mrinmayi.
155 reviews573 followers
Shelved as 'willsacrifice-maryams-soul-for-this'
February 4, 2021
You mean to say we have
Brown parents
The MC dealing with the said brown parent's dreams

get through high school without a fuss, and follow her parents’ rules—even if it means sacrificing her dreams

FAKE DATING!!!! jshgswwegwhdesihcge
I hope we have a scene like this in the book lol

Opposite attracts trope!!

Gimme this book rn!!!
Profile Image for Jessica .
2,048 reviews13k followers
June 8, 2021
4.5 Stars

Okay, this was SUCH a cute YA romance! Karina is used to always following what her parents want, even though she constantly feels like she can never live up to their expectations. She's trying hard in school and has no idea how to tell them she wants to study English in college and not actually become a doctor. When her parents go away on a month-long trip to Bangladesh, Karina starts tutoring the "bad boy" in school when her teacher asks. Karina is hesitant because she knows that Ace is a slacker and doesn't care about school, not to mention her parents would freak if they knew she was hanging out with a boy. As she tutors him, though, it's clear that there's much more to Ace and he enjoys hanging out with Karina. Then, Karina soon finds herself fake dating Ace and has no idea what she's going to do when her parents are finally home...

This romance was so cute. I really loved how slowly Karina and Ace fell for each other as they spent more time together and got to know each other. Karina definitely judged Ace before she go to know him, but she realized there was a lot going on at home for him, just like she had a lot of things going on with her and her own family. I really enjoyed the development of not only the romance but also the relationship with the main character and their families. They both had things to work through and I especially loved Karina's growth with her relationship with her brother. That was adorable.

The only reason I can't give this book five stars is because I felt like there was just too much back and forth with Karina. She knew that she really liked Ace, but she was SO terrified of her parents and what they would think that she would constantly pull away from Ace. That man is a saint for never giving up on her when she would just ghost him so that she didn't have to confront her feelings. That made me love him but also made me annoyed with the plot when Karina was ignoring him YET AGAIN. I got why she did it because of her parents and the expectations and rules she had, I just thought it happened a little too much by the end of the book.

Karina does have anxiety and I thought it was so cute how Ace noticed and tried to understand and make things easier for Karina when she was feeling anxious. Overall, this was such an adorable YA romance that I definitely recommend you pick up!
Profile Image for Booktastically Amazing.
457 reviews380 followers
December 16, 2021
~Thank you to NetGalley and Inkyard press for the ARC in exchange for an honest review!~

[UPDATE:It has come to my attention that the Muslim rep in this book was handled horribly, and I've decided to change my rating upon that criteria, because that's just messed up. I deeply apologize on my behalf for not seeing the signs earlier and for not acting sooner.]

Actual rating: 🌟🌟🌟⭐⭐ 3.4

Why in the crappy world, am I always disappointing when my expectations were like, monumentally high? (right, because I only have one working brain cell, and it is currently drunk on singleness) And by monumentally high, I mean, up there with Cardan and my other 5676 husbands which have no idea that I exist. Or that I'm real, period. Because they aren't real- Okay, moving on. Let's start this ARC review by saying that there are going to be no spoilers involved. Apart from, you know, the basic ones. *laughs in 'gosh I am so smart'*

*turns up 'Singin' in the Rain'*


The main thing that absolutely annihilated any possible reason for me loving this book was...

HAHAHAHAHA, The romance

Wow, such a mysterious thing to experience.
First, it was annoying. Second, beyond cheesy. Third, why the heck did it even exist???
I legit felt like it was against me. And them. Also, Karina, even though the guy annoys me half to death, YOU NEED TO STOP STRINGING HIM ALONG. WHY? WELL, BECAUSE WHO WOULD'VE GUESSED THE GUY HAD FEELINGS.

*intense coughing fit* The love interest

Can y'all see where I'm going here? He was...well you see....he was very... the thing is...yeah.
One of the things I was insanely craving for in this book, was the bad boy romantic aspect. (a moment of silence for all those who don't like the trope) Is it predictable? Yes. Does it include the uber ~baddish~ leather jacket which somehow represents rebellious nature without ever doing anything? *gasp* How did you know? Does it encompass a cigarette in hand, a beat up car, and a tattoo? Woah, creative.
But SUE me, for wanting all of that. I need gasoline for my dreams, okay? Okay. We understand each other. Also, the hate to romance. I was misguided. The synopsis click baited me. That trope and I are tight. (oh, did I forget to mention that all bad boys somehow share the same vocabulary? Ha ha, silly me)

I realize I'm ranting against said trope that I said I loved, but that is ingrained in my nature.


The Characters~

Let's divide this further, shall we? (look at me using words like 'further' I need food)

Karina (main character) _ComplicatedRebel89@_

She was so very sweet.
And so very annoying.
Okay, give me a sec to explain.
The reason why I considered her to be annoying, was her inability to stand for herself. In any circumstance. Like, at all. And I completely understand her anxious behaviors and the pressure instilled by her family to be prefect. I do. I just wish that even sometimes, concerning HER feelings. Not of anything like studies or her career (which her parents wanted to have a say in) just HER emotions towards the love interest. That's what sincerely almsot made me drop the book.

Her: "Well, you see, I care for you [insert love interest name] but we can't"
The guy: (I keep referring to him as 'guy' even though I know his name is Ace. Don't even know why...oh! Because I don't like him) "I have loved you for such a short time, but I feel like we can be together forever"

Me: WHAT. WHY. UM....WHAT???

So yes, that frustrated me JUST a bit. (but to be honest, they had 28 days to fall in love, I can't fault them for being overridden by their need to meet the deadline)

The Grandmother (I sincerely don't remember her name)_QUEEN869$_

We'll refer to her as theonewhoinitiallysavedthisforme
She was the kindest most fierce lady I have ever had the privilege of reading about. And because I don't want to spoil, I'll just say that: When you feel like putting this book down, probably keep on going just for the opportunity to see her bash in some skulls with word only insults.
*chef's kiss* BOOTIFUL

The parents _YouMustBeaDoctor^#_

You see this hand? Imagine it across your face. Multiple times. Repeatedly.
*muttering* I hate people who are like that. Just hate them, gosh darn it.

The little brother _RealisticGuy@45_

He was super adorable, albeit got on my nerves. It was not his fault though. So I can forgive. Okay yeah, it MIGHT'VE been his fault.

The Friend Squad _#GOALS_

This was one of the few things that I truly absolutely loved in this book. Seriously, there is no way I couldn't have.
The girls were honest, the diversity was *sniffling* it was simply gorgeous. And FINALLY a book in which no friends backstab each other. WoW, such a MiRaClE.


Guyssss *giggle giggle* he bought her books.... he was saved from my wrath by simply doing that. Still don't like him, though.

And the fake dating. Gosh, I am a sucker for that trope.


The fact that I wrote this entire thing without majorly spoiling anything, is an act worthy of Hercules coming down from his pedestal among the gods and giving me a free passage to Olympus.
The book was good, not great. But good. Was entertaining. I cried a bit (internally). My feelings were slightly touched. My swoon-o-meter was nowhere to be found, sadly. *sigh* I think it was mostly my fault. High expectations and such.

I truly recommend this book to people who want something less 'fun and sparkles' which is seen quite a bit in YA rom coms , fake dating trope lovers (ahem, such as I) and who are in the mood for something short, pungent, and realistic (minus the love part, of course).
Profile Image for myo ✧༺ ༘♡ ༻∞.
700 reviews6,256 followers
May 9, 2021
this was one of my most anticipated releases and i did really enjoy the story i like the relationship with her grandmother and the relationship with her brother. i think the platonic relationships in this book are written very well, i even liked her relationship with ace

i do like that the main character got character development because the way she didn’t like Ace because he was a slacker in school? that’s not a good reason to dislike someone and it made her seem very prestigious but as the book went along she got less judgmental.

I felt as though the friends had no personalities, i couldn’t tell you a single thing about them besides when they were obsessing over the main characters lives. these group of friends talked and interacted like stan accounts. i noticed in the beginning of the book they don’t have normal conversations, like they literally only talked about the main characters issues but that’s not how conversations flow.

but i didn’t like how many pop culture references and gen z talk was in the book. i’ve been reading a lot of older ya contemporaries and one thing that sets new and older contemporary apart is the fact that older contemporary had longevity, i was able to read a book from 2013 in 2021 and not think anything was outdated or thing “oh that didn’t age well” anyways i think the story is good and i’m so glad it was well received, i’m extremely proud of the author and i cant wait for more books to come.
Profile Image for J. Elle.
Author 11 books821 followers
September 25, 2019
This book.
This book!
Where to start...

It's difficult to sum up (with brevity) just how enjoyable and powerful COUNTING DOWN WITH YOU is. The author's ability to make me absolute googly-eyed swoon as if I were back in high school is probably my favorite part of this story. This is one of those stories that's like an exquisite piece of chocolate after a long day. You nibble and savor and TRYYY to make it last because the thought of not being able to hide away with this delectable treat is unbearable.

I read this book as slowwww as I could (during a busy work week) and I finished it in less than 2 days.

The author pulls you in with the voice of her main character, immerse you in her family dynamic, make you love the things she loves, and make you worry about the things she worries about. Before you know it, you're face to face with the love interest and YOU--the reader-- are crushing HARD. The author's hand is so incredibly deft here. You can see the love interest, hear him, and practically SMELL him. And as you dip your toe into their fake dating situation you find yourself being tugged--alongside the main character--headfirst into affections you didn't know you had.

This book TRANSPORTED me to my first crush. That giddy feeling when they walk into a room, that dousing of feelings that feel all too real all too soon, that rollercoaster of emotions AND the ride-or-die supportive friends that hold us up through it all. With an emotive quality that's simply astounding, this book oozes finding love in unexpected places, while examining the complexity of a girl learning to live with integrity to her truest self.

Reading this, I was a teenager again and it was like my first time being in love. There were tears, up-all-night reading, giggling, blushing, and OUT LOUD squealing. This book is for anyone who loves witty sarcasm, sharp girls, and those hungry to tarry in that feeling of falling in LOVE! ADD this to your to-read shelf and pre-order it AS SOON AS it's available! This is a book you call in sick for, skip class for, cancel plans for. It's intoxicating and beautiful and will stick with you long after you've read the last page.
Profile Image for Chloe.
516 reviews44 followers
October 30, 2020
*Spoiler free*

I heard fake dating and I was in. I knew the main character, Karina, was going to tutor the resident bad boy, while also going through with a fake dating scheme. That's pretty much where my knowledge ended, but not my excitement for it. The cover is adorable and I'd seen so much love for it online that I was ready to read it as soon as I could. Trigger warnings: anxiety, anxiety attacks, parental abuse (verbal, phycological)

Oh my gosh. Oh my gosh. How do you put into a words the feelings a book gives you when it feels like your love for it is swelling in your chest to burst into a million Sour Patch Kids and lollipops? Because I'm going to try and do just that. This is going to be a full on gushing review and I'm not even going to apologize for it, because this book is that good.

I'm going to start off with Karina, specifically her anxiety. I just got her anxiety. I got the feeling of wanting everything to just stop. I got the constant apologizing. I got being afraid of so many things that it's overwhelming. I got being terrified over how many things there are to be afraid of. I got the feelings of anxiety so strong that it felt like the only thing to exist. I just got her in that sense. I also loved Karina as a whole, because she's not just her anxiety. She loves English, she's passionate, she's an amazing poet, she hilarious, and she's brave.

I guess I'm going by character here, so Ace is up next! Ace is the biggest and sweetest dork ever. He's so incredibly kind. He understands Karina's lines and he won't cross them. And when he makes a mistake he apologizes and actually tries to do better. He's solid, both as a person and with Karina. He's a bad boy who loves lollipops and space and the piano. Seriously, he was all around adorable.

On to Karina's friends. They seriously have the most chaotic relationship, but dang was it hilarious. Plus, they text and act like actual teens! They're dramatic, use humor every chance they get, and are dramatic some more. They are also always there for Karina and Karina is always there for them. They might not completely get each others experiences, because they're different people, but they always try to support and understand each other. Really, they're just really great friends.

I was going to move onto families next, but Karina's grandma and Samir get a paragraph of their own. Karina's grandma was just so cool. She was supportive and loving and the person in Karina's corner that she needed. I loved seeing her love Karina when she so desperately needed it. And Samir! He was such a typical boy, oh my gosh. He was annoying and clueless, but also really sweet and compassionate at the same time.

Alright, not it's time to talk about families. Ace and Karina both have complicated relationships with their families. There is lack of understanding, lack of trying to understand, and just a disconnect between parent and child. I didn't fully connect with Karina's struggles with her parents, simply because that is not my experience, but there was a part that really resonate. The part about experiences shaping people and being handed down. It's a painful part of the story, but one that is powerful as well. It allows Karina's bravery to shine through. It's a chance for her to grow and a chance for her to figure out what she really wants.

The amount of sweets in the books was nuts! There's a literal sweet shop and it's a big part of the book and it has cheesecake and milkshakes and more! Ace loves lollipops and Karina loves Sour Patch Kids. I have a huge sweet tooth, so all these sweets needed to be mentioned of course.

The humor in this book was also spot on. I snorted and cackled out loud pretty much throughout the entire thing. It's amazing, and it felt authentically teen like!

It's also so beautifully written. It was easy to fly through and it felt as sweet as the relationship and the actual sweets. Plus, the poetry was top notch. Seriously, it felt like it nestled right next to my heart. It was beautifully, beautifully written.

LETS TALK ABOUT THE TITLE TOO BECAUSE WOW. It was integrated into so many aspects of the book that I actually kind of want to scream. It was so, so smart and the ending basically made me want to burst into tears.

So, if you couldn't tell, I love this book a whole heck of a lot. Like, I actually started crying when writing this review. I'm even going to inset a picture as proof because this book made me feel a whole lot of things.

Absolutely completely sweet and adorable, anxiety rep that had me pretty much in tears, amazing best friends, complicated, painful familial relationships, good familial relationships, trying to learn and change, fake dating, and so much more that I could go on and on. Seriously, this book is amazing. And I love it so much.
Profile Image for Ilhaam.
315 reviews234 followers
July 5, 2021
On the one hand, I’m definitely the target audience for this book. Seventeen, muslim, and in the middle of an identity crisis? Yes. Karina’s story was wonderfully family oriented, focusing on her rough relationship with her parents, her growing respect for her brother, and the love she has for her grandmother. It never fails to delight me when an mc has a good grandmother/granddaughter relationship because it’s always so wholesome and wonderful. I adored the way she grew into herself; the way she learnt what makes her who she is and how to choose happiness. Her friendships with Nandini and Cora were a bonus; especially because Tashie didn’t include a friendship conflict for them. However, I dislike the whole romance aspect in this novel. Focusing solely on Karina and her personal and familial development would have been absolutely perfect, relatable, and a really really good book. The whole concept of a man, in this case a caucasian one, helping an ‘oppressed’ muslim girl break free is literally the worst trope ever written into anything. I die a little every time i see it happen. Karina couldve easily been supported and encouraged by her grandmother , friends, and brother, but instead she was drawing on courage given to her by Ace, and I was not happy at all. I understand that he had his own familial issues and drew on her for strength, but his issues were just the typical ones that make up the ‘bad boy’ romance character, whereas hers were the issues that make up the oppressed muslim female who needs a white saviour in order to be happy and free. I hate it so much. Where are the Muslim girls living normal lives and being happy and falling in love? Why are we always unhappy and oppressed? Of course it is a reality for many women, but it’s not everyone’s reality, and this character enforces the stereotype. Another thing that bugged me about Ace and Karina was that in the beginning of the book she is uncomfortable with him touching her because she knows that boys are a No-Go. However, as the book progresses their relationship becomes more physical, which is fine if she’s okay with it, but there are scenes in front of her family members when he’s coming too close and she’s blatantly uncomfortable. I dont know if it’s a muslim thing, but that irked me. I think that a lot of aspects of Ace and Karina’s relationship were dragged our way too much, and in the end didn’t have the time to be resolved because of Karina’s other parental conflict.
All in all this was a very long and frustrating read for me, but anyone is welcome to pick this up- we’re all entitled to our own opinions.
Profile Image for Isabel ✰ 	.
475 reviews29 followers
January 5, 2021
i was approved for this arc *checks email* nine hours ago, and here we are -- finally time for me to gush about how much i loved this book!

Counting Down with You is the story of Karina Ahmed, a Bangladeshi Muslim teenager who feels stifled under her parents strict standards for her. When they leave Karina and her brother to spend the month in Bangladesh, Karina starts to live the life she'd been hoping for, and is forced to confront her family and herself about what happiness looks like for her.

I adored this book -- it was just the right balance of funny and emotional and delightful and inspirational. I loved the depth that Bhuiyan put into the side characters and the humor of bad boy Ace and the emotional intensity of Karina. I saw a lot of the realities of my own anxiety in her (I might even try her counting habit, who knows?)

I cannot recommend this book enough for lovers of YA contemporary/romance. You will love it.

ARC provided by the publisher in exchange for a review
Profile Image for Em Lost In Books.
857 reviews1,730 followers
September 5, 2021

I really loved Katrina's character. Her coming out of her shell, her friends, and her grandmother, we're some of the best things about this book.

What I didn't like was how parents of a certain community were represented as overbearing, strict, and how they loved their boys. Perhaps if the author has showed these things in few families, it would be understandable but she applied these to everyone. Not each and everyone is same so putting them in the same box and telling others who are not aware of culture that everyone there behaves this way is just so wrong.
Profile Image for Nana.
135 reviews60 followers
June 24, 2022
Final thoughts on the published book -

Representation discourse aside, Counting Down With You was a bit of a generic and okay read for me. There were certain parts that were nice but the story felt reminiscent of childish cliches and it read as corny. For example, Karina is a great character, with cultural depth and teenage problems - her character is one I think will resonate a lot with people her age. But Ace on the other hand did not read like a 16-year-old boy. He was far too unrealistic in his behavior and dialogue, which made me feel like the story did not flesh out his character. Cora and Nandini, Karina's best friends, also felt like they existed to only add to Karina's character growth when it would've been nice to have insight into them as people.

Overall, I appreciated the journey Karina was taking with her life in this story (especially when she interacted with Dadu, Samir, her cousins) but the romance is what brought it down for me. The love story felt superficial and instant. I think this book could be a great read for some younger readers looking for a light romance read, though older readers might find it cheesy.

Review for the ARC which was then changed and the specific quotes I mention were removed -

Let me preface by saying that as a Muslim brown reader, I was so sure I was going to love this book and it hurts me to have to be the one to steer fellow Muslim brown readers away from it because of the problematic representation.

The premise is that Karina Ahmed, a Bangladeshi-American teenager, ends up in a fake dating scheme with the school's bad boy after her parents leave to Bangladesh for a month. The fake dating comes in after 100 pages though so the beginning is a little slow (but that's not really a complaint). Karina is generally very sweet, her friend group is great and she does seem true to the teenage experience.

But I have two very big problems. The first is the cliche/Wattpad-like writing style and plot development. However, I will not focus on that (although it did definitely affect my reading experience) because the author is young, this is a debut, she can most definitely improve and I will be happy to see how she does.

However, the second problem is too much for me to overlook, which is why I have to unfortunately write a negative review - the representation.

This book was heavily marketed as an ownvoices story about a Muslim Bangladeshi main character. I can understand what the author was trying to do when discussing some of the limitations brown people grow up with (we all have very overbearing parents and it is very fair for the story to focus on that because that is a true experience of being a brown daughter). However, the hints of anti-Islam / rejecting-culture in that representation is just not it.

It is important to emphasize that I am very flexible when it comes to ownvoices representation. One brown person's experience might be relatable, another's might not. I do not go into an ownvoices story expecting every word on the page to speak to me. But what I do expect is that the representation be done without bashing the culture or turning the culture into the villain.

Karina has suffocating parents but the line between criticizing her experiences and criticizing Islamic/cultural values was blurred too much for my comfort.

Here are some examples that made me uncomfortable:

"There are far too many rules in my household, and not dating is one of the big ones... [cont] Whether it's revealing clothes, going to a party, eating food that's not halal, or hanging out with boys - all of it is forbidden." (page 40)

"But I'm not like them. I'm Muslim and I'm Bangladeshi, which means there a million things other people can do that I'll never be able to do." (page 60) (I understand the intent but the way this is written implies that non-Muslims get to live happily whereas Muslims have to live under negative strict rules...?)

"Most conservative Bangladeshi Muslims don't like dogs... [cont] They're seen as impure or whatever. I think it's dumb and dogs are cute, but my parents freaked me out about it really bad when I was younger, so I'm kind of... hesitant." (page 109)

"Nandini has more freedom than me, because she isn't Muslim..." (page 279) (Once again, I understand the intent but this is not the way to phrase it... why couldn't Karina say Nandini has more freedom because her parents don't impose religion or her parents aren't strict with religious expectations? Why did she have to say it's because she isn't Muslim? I really don't understand)

There is a very weird tone when talking about cultural/Muslim things... Why does Karina put down her parents in front of some white boy just for raising her with the only values they know? Modesty, eating halal, etc. - these things are part of Islam and her parents are immigrants who do not have the same American life experience as her. Her parents are trying to instill the values they grew up with in her and while they are over-the-top doing that, Karina attacks the values rather than the parenting. I'm not saying she's obliged to follow them at all but what I am saying is: there is a way to discuss overbearing parents and putting down their religious beliefs is not one of them. The discussion of overbearing parents went more into the category of her discussing how "wack" her heritage values are and how she basically looks down at them for following it.

The reason I'm concerned by this representation is because it's almost akin to the Netflix style representation of Muslims. Non-brown people will read this book, read sentences that only imply oppression and have a completely warped view of our culture and religion. I am not denying there are flaws in the culture, Karina's experiences are very real, but the way she talks about them is where the problem lies.

Had Karina adopted a perspective that shed insight on her cultural background while not tearing it down in the process of falling in love with the savior-white-boy, I would've loved this story. But this is not the representation story it marketed itself as at all. This representation is feeding a very biased narrative that we've already seen and we are sick of. Muslim representation always seems to have some underlying challenging-the-beliefs type of story, and there's always some non-Muslim love interest who eggs that on. Maybe if the love interest had also been a POC immigrant and the story showed him helping Karina coming to terms with balancing her cultural values along with trying to break free of expectations, it could've worked.

Sorry that this is so long, I just had to get my thoughts across to other brown Muslims who were expecting something else. This book really upset me so, if you are a brown Muslim reader, I would advise you to skip it.

Some other reviews that also explain the rep problems, maybe better than me lol:
Profile Image for Mis Hashmi.
30 reviews22 followers
July 9, 2021
This was the book I've been waiting for my whole life, apparently.

As someone who is Muslim, has lived in Bangladesh for most of her adult life, and the rest of which I've spent in India, where the society is not all that different, CDWY hit me right in the feels. Karina has been one of the most relatable protagonists I've ever read about in my whole life, and Tashie has a unique way of infusing life into every character she writes.

Full review on my blog: https://mythsnmisadventures.wordpress...
June 29, 2022
3.75 ⭐️ cute!! i’m not obsessed like I thought I would be, but very cute.

“poetry doesn’t begin to do your soul justice” <3
Profile Image for Aayushi.
250 reviews9 followers
March 14, 2021
What the FUCK this book had no business cutting to the heart of my fears and apprehensions about failing my parents and also being the first depiction of anxiety that I've seen matching my more lived experience?

It hit all the sweets spots for me in terms of romance too, Ace was a perfect love interest in my opinion. The main problems stemming from the weight of spoken and unspoken expectations placed on the shoulders of desi diaspora but ESPECIALLY on the shoulders of eldest daughters. This was the first time I'd ever seen an accurate depiction of what sibling relations can become under that stress and how friends outside of it seem to think things are easier than they are.

This book was It and you should all preorder it, tbh. Here’s a more detailed review on my blog: https://doubleareads.wixsite.com/webs...
Profile Image for ananya.
96 reviews29 followers
August 7, 2021
where do i even start
it was beautiful absolutely heartbreakingly beautiful
as a south asian girl struggling with anxiety and familial pressure, reading this book felt like i was reading about my life, every single thing hit home so hard. i’m so thankful for miss tashie for writing this book for us brown girls, now i just need an ace clyde and all will be well in the world!

this has definitely become one of my comfort books and the way i felt myself being represented in the very pages of this book is just something so special i don’t think you would understand

just waiting for someone to want me with my lines and all !

10/10 i would definitely recommend you to add cdwy to your tbrs and i hope you all like it as much as i did when it comes out on may 4th!!
Profile Image for sana.
351 reviews287 followers
May 30, 2021
gonna make a list of pros and cons to explain this rating, so here we go:


- i didn’t go into this book expecting karina to be this perfect muslim. there’s no such thing as perfect muslim, God knows i’m not one either. but what really, really disappointed was how again and again the treatment of the main character’s parents towards her is blamed on the religion (how a fight about tv remote control where her parents end up taking her brother’s side turns into karina thinking about islam, for example). nowhere in islam does it say that men should be treated better than women, it has nothing to do with religion.

- a lot of asian or brown parents especially immigrants don’t view career outside medicine and engineering as a viable career. i promise you it’s not a religion thing! i also found it weird that both nandini and cora were also asian but somehow it was only karina whose parents didn’t approve of her career path.

- i live in a muslim household and i’m from a muslim country. i was never taught to be afraid of dogs and neither have i ever seen it happen anywhere. a lot of muslims love dogs and adopt them, so imagine my surprise when karina says we don’t like dogs. (we just can’t pray in the space where animals have been, it’s just a matter of hygiene.)

- i love fake dating but the reason for ace and karina fake dating was simply stupid. this is my problem with a lot of fake dating romance releases lately. romance authors realized that fake dating is a universally liked trope and now they don’t even try to find a good reason for making their characters fake date.

- it was painfully obvious that ace clyde was inspired from leather jackets misunderstood bad boy wattpad harry styles…

- it’s funny how karina says that she doesn’t need a white boy to save her over and over again but in the end she doesn’t learn to stand up for herself on her own, does she?

- didn’t really feel a lot of chemistry between ace and karina and there were a few corny lines that made me cringe but that’s not my main issue with this book.


- good anxiety rep.

- supportive group of friends.

i know a lot of people defend the rep in this book saying that it came from a muslim author but bad rep can come from muslim authors as well.

lastly, toxic unsupportive parents exist in every community. for once, i would’ve just liked to see a supportive muslim household where parents are not the villains of the story. representation like this only gives into the stereotypes and gives non muslims the wrong idea about islam and i’m just tired!

these are my personal thoughts about this book. other muslims are allowed to have different opinions, of course, and that’s totally valid.
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