This Fringe season I had the opportunity to attend Shappi Khorsandi’s live comedy show. So I thought I’d read her new novel, Nina Is Not Ok before the show, which was the following Thursday. I needn’t have worried about finishing in time: this book is one of those compulsively readable novels that pulls you in and doesn’t spit you out again until you’re finished with it.
Normally the progression for me is to pick up the book if the cover attracts me, then read it if the blurb sounds interesting, but as I said, I started this book without even knowing what it was about. So I was pleasantly surprised when Nina Is Not Okay turned out to be engaging from the first page, with a likeable-if troubled-protagonist and a cast of well drawn, interesting characters. The plot is accessible, relatable and fast-paced, and at the same time unexpectedly moving and emotional; I found myself deeply upset and laughing out loud from page to page.
Khorsandi especially succeeds, in my opinion, in the rendering of the voice of the teenage protagonist. Nina is relatable and funny but also vulnerable: in her we see both the rocky self-esteem of youth and the inner thoughts of an addict too young to know she is one. Nina’s struggles throughout the book are extreme, outside the realm of possibility for many young people, but her emotion-her shame and anger and ultimate vindication-feel real, and read true to life.
Overall Nina Is Not Ok is an engaging, entertaining read. Khorsandi writes a tender teenage romance but also deals with adult themes like sex, violence and addiction with a deft, mature hand. This book is perfect for anyone who wants a funny, romantic teen read with a solid, meaningful core.