Book Review: Nina Is Not OK – Shappi Khorsandi *****

Many UK readers will know Shappi from her appearances on the comedy circuit and on prime time television shows like Mock the Week. She has already published her autobiography detailing her early years as an Iranian immigrant in London (A Beginner’s Guide To Acting English) and this is her first work of fiction. 

Aimed at an older teen or Young Adult audience Nina is Not OK is the story of Nina. Aged seventeen she is in her final year at a sixth form college about to take her A Levels. Her boyfriend of the last three years, Jamie, has taken a gap year and gone to visit his Dad in Hong Kong. Unfortunately Jamie falls in love with an American girl that he meets on the plane and Nina is unceremoniously dumped. The book opens with Nina on a night out with two girl friends Beth and Zoe. 

 Like many girls the country over they are heading out to the nightclub pre-loaded as it is cheaper to drink at home and Nina is intent on drowning her sorrows. So much so that she soon becomes separated from her friends and ends up being thrown out of the nightclub for going down on someone that she’s just met, in public view of the bar.

With no phone or coat Nina is barely coherent as she staggers away from the club alone and is pleased to see the smartly dressed boy she was just fellating come running out after her. The next thing she knows the boy and his friend are bundling her into a taxi and making sure that she has enough money to get home and that the taxi driver knows her address. Nina doesn’t know what has happened. She can barely keep a rational thought in her head. All she knows is that she is clutching her knickers in her hand and she doesn’t know what happened. 

All of Nina’s support networks are failing her. Jamie left and broke up with her. Her Dad died of pancreatitis when she was nine and now her Mum, step Dad Alan and little sister are moving to Germany for a year because of Alan’s work. Increasingly Nina finds herself relying on alcohol as a crutch to get through the day. As a means of blotting out all of the bad things that have been happening. Sadly the increasing quantities of alcohol mean that more and more bad things are happening and the confluence of events sees Nina sinking lower and lower. 

Beautifully written, this is a story that documents a fairly normal teenage girl and her descent into alcoholism. It isn’t always an easy book to read and there are some quite graphic scenes of drunken sex and rape. It is a book that speaks though and one that has a very positive message for other girls going through similar angst and issues. In this world of cell phones and social media it is a difficult time to be a teenager and the thought of any indiscretion being shared worldwide for anyone to see must be horrific. This book should be compulsory reading for every girl at the age of sixteen. Consequences cannot be undone and Nina is not OK. 

U.K. Publication Date: 28 Jul 2016. 352 pages. 

Supplied by Net Galley and Ebury Press in exchange for an honest review. 

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