'Nina is not OK' by Shappi Khorsandi is a dark and unusual coming of age tale

Ebury Press

Ebury Press

Many of us have had nights that we can’t (or, perhaps, would rather not) remember. Seventeen-year-old Nina has these nights (and mornings, and afternoons) daily. The passing of her alcoholic father when she was nine left Nina with unanswered questions about his emotional inconsistencies. In many ways, Nina idolizes her father; but she also remembers his inexplicable mood swings—his Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde bipolar behaviour—brought on by his alcohol addiction.

When Nina is abandoned by her long-time boyfriend, who has found love elsewhere, her true downward spiral begins. Abusing alcohol to deal with her heartbreak begins to have increasingly detrimental consequences—from dangerous sexual activity, to destroyed friendships, falling college grades, and poor health.

Shappi Khorsandi’s first novel reads like a memoir, blurring the lines between the experiences of the fictional characters and events that the reader may have shared with the protagonist in reality—but this is what makes Nina is not OK the fascinating and enthralling story that it is. Khorsandi uses her novel to evoke strong connections between the reader, and, not only Nina, but her friends and family as well. It skilfully employs characters of different age groups and backgrounds to reach a wider audience—from parents, to addicts, to teenagers coming of age, and to those friends and family members who have experienced the difficulties that come from trying to help those in need.

 While Nina is not OK may hit too close to home at times, leaving the reader uncomfortable and sometimes mortified, Khorsandi swiftly masters the art of manipulating her readers to feel emotions that can change suddenly, surprisingly, and often unnervingly. Readers, and not only those who are of Nina’s age, will experience a combination of sympathy, empathy, anger, shame, embarrassment, and many more emotions that are carefully woven into a novel that is, at its core, comedic, but in the saddest of ways.

'Nina is not OK' will be available August 23, 2016.