Counting Down with You by Tashie Bhuiyan is a combination of almost every rom-com storyline built into one. Bad boys turned good, enemies to lovers, fake dating turned real, these classic tropes all appear within this novel. To be honest, I would’ve found this book basic and unoriginal without the unique perspective it’s told in.
Karina Ahmed is a Bangladeshi American teen, crippled by anxiety of disappointing her parents. She feels like she’s living a lie, pretending to enjoy science and premed, when in reality her heart yearns for English and writing. When her parents leave for 28 days to Bangladesh, it’s the perfect opportunity to let down her guard and breathe. But when she gets roped into fake dating Ace Clyde, the resident bad boy, things start to spiral out of control. She realizes that her feelings matter too, about college, about freedom, about boys. As the clock keeps ticking, will she have the courage to stand up to her parents and tell them the truth? Or will she continue putting on an act and risk her happiness?
As I said before, I didn’t find anything especially new or exciting about the plot. I felt like I had read or seen the story all before, the saving grace being the different characters. Bhuiyan writes in the opening that this book was her “love letter to young brown girls.” She meant it as a way to increase representation in books, and show the strength and courage she didn’t always have as a younger girl. The vulnerability and strength in Karina’s life, specifically struggling with her anxiety, is important for all young girls to see and be able to relate. I admire and support the message behind Karina’s character, just feel that the overall plot could’ve done with a little more work.
I recommend this book for anyone seeking a classic rom-com with more representation and greater vulnerability. – Kira Kaplan