Nina Is Not OK
by Shappi Khorsandi
Publisher: Ebury Press
Publishing Date: 28th July 2016
Source: Received from the publisher, thank you!
Number of pages: 352
Genre: General Fiction, Young Adult
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…
A dark, funny – sometimes shocking – coming of age novel from one of the UK’s leading comedians. NINA IS NOT O.K. will appeal to fans of Caitlin Moran and Lena Dunham.
I can’t express how excited I was when my review copy of “Nina Is not OK” arrived at my doorstep. I’ve seen some early reviews, I’ve heard incredible praises for this novel and the synopsis was great – you’ve no idea how much I was looking forward to reading it. However, very quickly, I’ve used to put this book down a few times in frustration as I couldn’t believe that I was reading it at all, wondering what in fact am I reading? My biggest problem was with the main character – I just didn’t like her. And it is really hard to like the book and to feel it if you don’t like the main character. Nina was for sure not OK but in my opinion she had all this at her own request. I might have fell for her eventually but to be honest I haven’t seen any remorse in her, she was weak, erratic and she only thought that she’s so “cool”. Yes, I know she was young, she was teenager but we can expect something even from teenagers, right? If I only could see a small sign of will to change I’d give her a standing ovation but for me there wasn’t any. While mostly she was not in control of situation, she didn’t do anything to not to put herself in such situations! She was repeating the same pattern, the same mistake again and again. What kept me reading was the promise that it’s incredibly funny read – but sadly, I haven’t laugh once. I didn’t even smile. I’d rather cringe with disbelief and distaste.
I probably didn’t get this book, but on the other hand I think we can’t dodge comparisons to Louise O’Neill’s “Asking For It”, as the books are relatively similar in plot, which I’ve also read and which gave me a major hangover because it was a brilliant read that I “got”. It happens – sadly. I started reading “Nina Is Not OK” full of enthusiasm, was absolutely intrigued by the synopsis but it turned out that it’s not a right read for me. I appreciate what the author did with this book, she tried to give us a deep insight into Nina’s life, to make us understand her and her choices but I just didn’t buy it.
Nina was a very complicated and difficult character – to like. She wasn’t nice, even in her better moments. Sure, the author gave us a chance to see her when she was low, as well as when she was high, but I think her personality didn’t change a lot and she didn’t learn her lesson. You could feel sad with the way Nina’s life turned out but I personally felt annoyed and angry. But also other characters, I just found some of their actions so unbelievable, for example Nina’s mother, who actually abandoned her moving to another country – I know Nina was 17, but huh? To strike off a daughter because her new husband had got a chance for a better job? Zoe felt like your typical, mean blonde, I couldn’t believe how naive and foolish she is, this character could be so interesting and adding a lot of intrigue but she just felt totally under – developed. Pity.
The story itself felt a little chopped, jumping between scenes and characters, not stopping or concentrating on something particular for longer. It felt so bleak, and it dragged on incredibly and I was blinking hard trying to find something happening. It made me feel depressed and I didn’t find a positive thing in this story, to be honest. The first part of the book feels very repetitive, I really had a feeling I’m reading about the same thing over and over again.
I feel really bad when I’m rating a book so low, especially as it had its points – it was brutally honest and dealt with alcoholism in a very realistic, truthful way, without beating around the bush, which is a great thing. It also shows that rape has many faces and it deals with real family’s dynamics and raw relationships. But no matter how important the book was, I couldn’t feel any connection to it, I didn’t have any positive feelings towards the characters and it is really difficult to enjoy the novel when you feel like this. I am sure the book is going to find its fans, I am only sad that I won’t be one of them.