Counting Down With You by Tashie Bhuiyan
Published by: May 4th 2021 by Inkyard Press
Genre: Young Adult // Contemporary, Romance
Trigger Warnings: discussions of anxiety, parental verbal/psychological abuse
**This book was bought with my own money for reading. This in no way alters my review.**
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?
I’ve been waiting to read Counting Down With You for months: understatement of the year. This book was out of stock, unavailable and so sought-after that I had such a hard time getting my hands on a copy until release day! I literally wanted nothing else but to get lost in the world of Karina and Ace – and that’s exactly what I did when it arrived over three, glorious afternoons.
(This might be my longest review ever, so hold on tight.)
Right away, I knew Karina was a kindred spirit. Anxiety seems to rule her life (same, girl) and it seeps it’s way into not just how she lives, but what she does and how she acts. As a Bangladeshi American protagonist, the anxiety stems from wanting to live up to her parents overly high expectations, conditioned to think that if she were to choose a “creative” avenue for her future, it would be considered wasting her potential and make her an embarrassment. She feels that she’s constantly the least favourite child, always feeling like a failure because she doesn’t want to be a doctor like her parents want her to be. English, namely poetry, has Karina’s heart. At school, she’s one of her English teachers top students, and that’s why she asks her to tutor notorious bad-boy Ace Clyde, known for slacking off and his standoffishness. Not wanting to potentially disappoint another parental figure type in her life, Karina agrees reluctantly.
After all, her parents are visiting her mother’s family in Bangladesh for four weeks, leaving her and her brother in the trusty company of Dadu, her grandmother, who is a lot more lenient and doesn’t ask too many questions. Dadu is honestly the most supportive, truly caring figure for Karina and she remains (alongside Cora and Nandini) one of my favourite characters. Through this plan, Karina believes she can get through these 28 days – tutor Ace, impress her teacher, and never let her Parents find out – without a hitch.
Until, well, reality hits and she sees the real Ace. Not the one that is portrayed to the outside world. He’s not a bad boy like she thought. For a start, he’s not a slacker. He loves space and piano and so many things that leave Karina feeling drawn to him even more. As their study sessions progress, things hit another startling discovery: Ace announces to his family, unwilling to tell them he needed a tutor, that Karina is his girlfriend. Totally thrown, she doesn’t know how to react. Firstly, her parents would never let her have a boyfriend. She’s not supposed to even be alone with a boy. What happens if this gets back to them somehow? And then there’s the fact that, well, she might kind of like him. That part, however small at the start, grows significantly with each pretend hold of her hand, kiss atop her head and fake date. It’s the feeling of being free for the first time in forever that lets Karina believe she can follow her own dreams of studying something in the English department at College and drop the whole pre-med career path her parents want her on. But when her Parents return, Karina’s world comes crashing down suddenly. Her freedom in tatters and far from fake connection with Ace on the backburner, she’s left wondering if she can ever have the life she deserves.
Overall, I just am SPEECHLESS. I finished this book at almost 1am last night and had so many thoughts that my notebook looked insane. The character development? HEAVENLY. Karina + Ace? PERFECTION. Banter, music, diversity and friendship? EPIC. I just have so much love for this book that I can’t wait to reread it over and over and recommend it to anyone that will listen. Tashie, thank you so much for writing one of my favourite books I’ve possibly ever read. It was bliss to actually read about anxiety in YA portrayed truthfully. I can’t wait to see what the future brings for you and to read more of your story worlds. If you haven’t read Counting Down With You, don’t wait any longer – this is going to be your next favourite book. Five stars COMPLETELY.
About The Author
Tashie Bhuiyan is a Bangladeshi American writer based in New York City. She recently graduated from St. John’s University with a bachelor’s degree in Public Relations, and hopes to change the world, one book at a time. She loves writing stories about girls with wild hearts, boys who wear rings, and gaining agency through growth. When she’s not doing that, she can be found in a Chipotle or bookstore, insisting 2010 is the best year in cinematic history. (Read: Tangled and Inception.)
Her debut novel COUNTING DOWN WITH YOU (Inkyard/HarperCollins) releases on May 4th, 2021. For rights inquiries, contact JL Stermer at New Leaf Literary & Media.