Nina is Not OK
Ebury Press (2016)
Nina does not have a drinking problem. She’s like any other seventeen year old: partying, drinking, having fun. Her mum and her friends worry about her, as her drunken exploits become worse and worse and she remembers less and less of what has happened the night before. However, when a night gone wrong is broadcast on social media Nina’s world comes crashing down around her.
Louise O’Neill has described this book as a YA Rachel’s Holiday. I would say it’s a cross between Rachel’s Holiday and Asking For It. Like Keyes and O’Neill, Khorsandi does not hold back when showing us her protagonist’s pain. At times it is hard to keep reading and to witness Nina spiralling out of control. Nina’s voice is fresh and honest, and her story feels very real. I liked that a lot of the book was given to her recovery, and what a struggle this can be. Nina is far from perfect but she is a likeable and sympathetic protagonist, someone the reader wants to help and protect.
This book is also notable in that is has a mixed-race protagonist. Nina’s sexuality is explored in the novel too, with her own prejudices and misconceptions about bisexuality being challenged. Crucially, just as Nina is more than her addiction, she is also more than her race or her sexual orientation. The other characters are also nuanced and interesting. The dynamics of Nina’s relationships with her friends and family are well drawn out and explored. This is a book about drinking, about consent and social media, but it also a coming of age novel that has a lot to say about family, friendship and self worth.
This is an engaging read with a strong voice at its core. Highly recommended to older teens, and to adults also as this book has definite crossover appeal. I look forward to reading more of Shappi Khorsandi’s writing.