Nina is Not OK by Shappi Khorsandi

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Nina is Not OK by Shappi Khorsandi

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Category: General Fiction
Rating: 4.5/5
Reviewer: Ani Johnson
Reviewed by Ani Johnson
Summary: Forget about Shappi the comic. Whether you like or hate her comedy, Shappi the writer is different as well as excellent. Dark, funny, poignant, hard hitting, engrossing… this should be required reading for everyone 15 and over… perhaps (with parental guidance and permission) even younger than that.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 352 Date: July 2016
Publisher: Ebury
External links: Author's website
ISBN: 978-1785031366

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Nina is a typical 17 year old. She lives with her mother, stepfather and little sister, goes to college and plays as hard as she works. Ok, perhaps she plays a little harder but Nina's fine with that. Not everyone is convinced though.

Shappi Khorsandi is known for being an accomplished stand-up comic and TV/radio panel entertainment show guest. However those who have read her autobiography that covers her childhood years A Beginners' Guide to Acting English will know her family's life has had its darker side. There Shappi takes the disturbing and sinister, making it entertaining without diluting or discounting the danger. That talent gets another airing in this, her first novel. This time it's about someone who can't see the dangers of her lifestyle as well as we can, presented to us in a particularly clever way. Indeed, this is clever at its most authentic, non-judgemental, engaging best.

We live this story through the narrative of Nina – really live it. Nina is a teen of our time. She lives life to the max, taking any opportunity that comes along to enjoy herself. Her friends love her, thinking she's good value on any night out. Then things start to go out of control…

From my description this may sound dour, predictable or even boring but this is where Shappi's skill comes in. Nina is bright, with a turn of phrase guaranteed to make us smile or see things differently, a bit like a 17 year old Adrian Mole in parts. We care about her so, when we see things on the horizon she may not have noticed, we're engrossed as we want to be there to see her through.

Just over half way in we may get to a stage where we seem to be hitting a predictable groove. That's when the author picks up a new direction, providing one heck of a literary stomach punch while reversing the situation. Before this we older people have always been aware of the possible side effects of Nina's choices. This particular moment and it's far reaching aftermath may pass us by, leaving younger audience nodding in recognition. Just when we think things are on their way to being wrapped up, it comes at us contributing to a realistically non-Hollywood ending.

Talking of young people, this isn't YA fiction. The themes are adult while affecting young people. I therefore fully believe, despite the frank language and graphic scenes (or perhaps because of them), this should be required reading for everyone over the age of 15. (Perhaps even 14 with parental permission and guidance.) My reasons? Ok where shall we start?

Shappi shows teens that she understands their motives and pressures, making this a cautionary tale they’ll recognise without an off-putting preach attached. This is important as even if they aren't going to be a Nina, they may know one. It also shows teens-to-twenties lads the other side of the coin.

For those of us longer in the tooth, Shappi translates Nina, her life and times (and therefore that of our children and/or grandchildren) so that we develop an understanding rather than a judgement.

This is a compelling story not a counselling/help book, but by achieving so much with the former, it overlaps organically into the second. I was very pleasantly surprised. This is Ms Khorsandi in a way we haven't seen her before and she's eye-openingly good.

(Thank you Ebury for providing us with a copy for review.)

Further Reading: Several stand-up comedians have transferred to novels successfully so if you'd like to continue that theme, try The Death of Eli Gold by David Baddiel or Eleven by Mark Watson. Whereas if you would like more adult orientated teenage memoirs, we also heartily recommend The Fields by Kevin Maher.

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Buy Nina is Not OK by Shappi Khorsandi at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Nina is Not OK by Shappi Khorsandi at Amazon currently charges £2.99 for standard delivery for orders under £20, over which delivery is free.
Buy Nina is Not OK by Shappi Khorsandi at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Nina is Not OK by Shappi Khorsandi at


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