Counting Down with You by Tashie Bhuiyan | Book Review
From the first line of Tashie Bhuiyan’s YA contemporary debut Counting Down with You, I was hooked. I was so hooked, in fact, that I paused reading to take a note in my journal of said line and indicate just how much I loved it.
This book was an easy five-star rating for me, because I just loved it from the get-go. Karina, our main character, has a strong voice right off the bat, and I was immediately sucked into her world. Bhuiyan effortlessly captured the teenage voice in this novel.
A reserved Bangladeshi teenager has twenty-eight days to make the biggest decision of her life after agreeing to fake date her school’s resident bad boy.
How do you make one month last a lifetime?
Karina Ahmed has a plan. Keep her head down, get through high school without a fuss, and follow her parents’ rules—even if it means sacrificing her dreams. When her parents go abroad to Bangladesh for four weeks, Karina expects some peace and quiet. Instead, one simple lie unravels everything.
Karina is my girlfriend.
Tutoring the school’s resident bad boy was already crossing a line. Pretending to date him? Out of the question. But Ace Clyde does everything right—he brings her coffee in the mornings, impresses her friends without trying, and even promises to buy her a dozen books (a week) if she goes along with his fake-dating facade. Though Karina agrees, she can’t help but start counting down the days until her parents come back.
T-minus twenty-eight days until everything returns to normal—but what if Karina no longer wants it to?
There are two aspects of this book that especially meant a lot to me: the anxiety representation, and the way Karina and her parents interact.
When it comes to the anxiety rep, that was important to me because it’s something I, also, live with. We all experience our mental health conditions differently, so Karina was not my exact match of course, but she did experience some things I have. What was especially interesting were the coping mechanisms Bhuiyan explored, through Karina, on the page.
For reasons I don’t want to divulge because you should definitely read the book to find out, Karina uses self-made coping mechanisms, and I loved the sheer number and creativity of them.
And now for the big one — the parents. You may be wondering how big a part the parents can play, when they’re not on the same continent for much of the book. The answer is: a big part. Karina’s parents are never far from her mind, and they also call often and check in on her and expect an answer.
Both her mom and dad are incredibly strict and have the highest of expectations for Karina, and one of the things she struggles with throughout the book is disappointing them by making decisions they wouldn’t approve of.
And that hit me hard. My parents didn’t immigrate from Bangladesh and our family dynamics are very different from those of the Ahmeds (for one, we’re white, and that does change things), but even though I’m 27 and have been on my own for nearly a dozen years now, there are still expectations placed upon me, and the weight of disappointing my parents is heavy.
In addition, I can relate to the fear Karina has of losing her parents: despite their harshness, she loves them deeply. It doesn’t make sense to everyone in the book, but it makes sense to me, and I found it beautiful.
There was so much more than those two things to love about this book, though! The relationships — from her friendship with besties Cora and Nandini to her bond with her brother Samir and the beautiful, absolutely gorgeous portrayal of her relationship with her grandmother Dadu to, of course, the banter and cute flirting and eventual opening up between her and Ace — this book truly has it all.
And then there’s poetry on the page! And the poetry was stunning. I haven’t been a serious poet in many years but I still appreciate the art form and was absolutely in awe of the beauty of Karina’s poetry in this book.
Any review of Counting Down with You would be missing a key element if it didn’t talk about the romance. It was, to put it plainly, freaking adorable.
Honestly this book is just really good. If this is how Bhuiyan is writing at 22 — if this is the depth of emotion and the turns of phrase she’s bringing to the table now — I both shudder and am elated to think how great she’ll be in five years, or 10 years…truly it is terrifying and amazing.