So many books, not enough time (or indeed brainpower) to review them all! Let me try to catch up on my review backlog by telling you about a book I read recently; Nina is Not Ok by Shappi Khorsandi.
Nina Is Not Ok by Shappi Khorsandi
Publication Date: 28 July 2016
Publisher: Ebury Press
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…
I first became aware of “Nina Is Not Ok” when an advert for the book popped into my inbox, claiming the novel was ideal for fans of Louise O’Neill. Seeing as I am a big fan of Louise, I couldn’t wait to read “Nina Is Not Ok”. I had a feeling that it was going to cover some serious issues, and indeed it does.
True to its title, Nina is not ok. She’s got a bit of a drinking problem, and by that I mean a big problem. She’s having a bad time; struggling to cope with life after the break up of her long-term and serious boyfriend. Within the first part of the novel, we see Nina get physically thrown out of a night club for attempting to become intimate with another man’s crotch… if you know what I mean. If that sentence has filled you with dread, perhaps give this novel a miss – it only gets worse from there.
I found the narration of “Nina Is Not Ok” to be rather jumpy and inconsistent at times. Whilst this initially annoyed me at first, on reflection I think this is to show the scattered and hyperactive mind of a teenage girl with a drinking problem. The overall tone of the novel is very teenage; chatty and with some immature language. I found “Nina Is Not Ok” to be easy to get into. Even when I had to put the book down for a while, *curses life’s commitments*, I found it easy to pick up and carry on where I left off. I will warn you that “Nina Is Not Ok” does feature some scenes of an embarrassing and sexual nature, often together, so if you are of a sensitive disposition please do bear this in mind.
Turning to characters now… Whilst Nina does get up to bad things, she’s not a bad person. She’s a likeable character and I did find myself rooting for her to get better, and to be “ok”. I thought the supporting characters of her college friends and family were also likeable, but the story is very much about Nina and focused on what is happening to her.
I initially awarded “Nina Is Not Ok” 3/5 stars on GoodReads. However, after a lorra lorra thought and consideration of the novel, I amended my rating to 4/5 stars. I found myself thinking about this book a lot. In YA novels, there is a lot of focus on topics such as first love and mental health. No one talks about alcoholism, or indeed talks about a teenage girl with a problem with alcohol. I dearly hope that this book makes it into the hands of someone who is struggling, or into the hands of someone who knows someone who is struggling, and wants to help.
Whilst “Nina Is Not Ok” isn’t exactly a hard hitting look at teenage alcoholism, it doesn’t shy away from the subject, and I do think it shows an accurate depiction of alcoholism. I would recommend this book for older and mature readers of YA, and I would suggest from perhaps 16+ to avoid upsetting younger readers. I’m 23 years old, and even I found myself hiding behind my hands, or picking up my jaw up off the floor at some of the scenes! I can’t wait to see what Shappi writes next, and I’ll definitely be keeping an eye out for what she does next.