Nina is Not Ok is the debut of the year. If you’re looking for something that completely embraces and questions the YA genre, this is it.
Synopsis of Nina is Not Ok
Nina does not have a drinking problem. She likes a drink, sure. But what 17-year-old doesn’t?
Nina’s mum isn’t so sure. But she’s busy with her new husband and five year old Katie. And Nina’s almost an adult after all.
And if Nina sometimes wakes up with little memory of what happened the night before , then her friends are all too happy to fill in the blanks. Nina’s drunken exploits are the stuff of college legend.
But then one dark Sunday morning, even her friends can’t help piece together Saturday night. All Nina feels is a deep sense of shame, that something very bad has happened to her…
*Please note: I received this book gratis in order to provide a review. This review is my honest opinion and is unaffected by the receipt of this for free.*
I want to start by saying this book is a very unforgiving narrative and if anything in this review is something you find triggering then it is possibly not something you would want to read. This does not speak to the brilliant book that Shappi has created, but I want to make sure that everyone who reads this goes into it with an awareness of what it entails.
I’ll admit, like many reviewers, when reading a book written by someone with considerable levels of fame, I go into the book wondering if it’s going to be a disappointment. I’m so glad I was 100% wrong about this book. Shappi Khorsandi is a brilliant writer and deserves every ounce of praise for this book. She has nailed the tone of a 17-year-old with clarity and extensive focus on the narrative as a whole.
When first read this book I stated on twitter that Nina is No Ok covers the following subjects (trigger warning):
- Sexual Consent
- Familial Death
- Emotionally Abusive Relationships
- Mental Health
- Rape Culture
When you look at this extensive list of subjects you can start to understand the complexity of the narrative that Khorsandi has managed to authentically create. The story of the protagonist Nina also looks at the lives of those around her and how everything is intertwined.
Let’s talk about Nina as a character. She’s everything that I’d be terrified of as a parent, but equally a lot of her experiences are entirely normal – though some do go above and beyond what you might expect. Nina is in an experimental phase, she’s drinking and discovering her sexuality and in many ways Nina represents the internal struggle that many teenagers go through. I was thoroughly impressed by her growth as a character and how Shappi Khorsandi really truly understood the message she wanted to put out into the world.
Another element that this book explores really well is a teenager’s relationship with their parents and step-parents. Again this demonstrates the character lead narrative of this book and how impactful small changes are to a family. The change of tempo in the book is reflected in Nina’s increasingly strenuous relationship with her mother which is turned on its head towards the latter half of the novel.
The third key element of this book is emotionally abusive relationships. One of the first things we learn about Nina is how her boyfriend abandoned their relationship on a plane, when flying out to live with his dad for a year. He hadn’t even reached international waters before he’s moved on to another woman. Their relationship becomes increasingly uncomfortable as the novel goes on. This is echoed through Trish, Nina’s friend, and her relationship throughout the novel, which demonstrates a more physical element to emotional abuse.
As much as Nina is Not OK is a very serious book, it is also absolutely hilarious at points. The advantage of having a comedian as the author is that the dramatisation and comedic aspects of the narrative are spot on and really believable. I spent a lot of the novel rooting for Nina and her friends, and equally genuine disappointment at every hurdle.
If you read any book this year it should be this one.