*I received a copy via the publisher and Edelweiss in return for an honest review. This in no way affected my opinion of the book.*
Karina Ahmed’s plan for success means keeping her head down and getting to medical school. So when her parents go abroad to Bangladesh, she is finally rewarded a month of peace, away from their watchful eyes. That is until her agreement to tutor Ace Clyde turns awry, and now she’s spending her twenty-eight days in a fake-relationship with him. As she counts down her days, Ace Clyde gives her all the reasons to stay and maybe this facade could have a happy ending.
Karina is a high school junior, attending alongside her high-achieving younger brother whose interest in robotics has her parents singing praise while she’s barely keeping afloat. And when her English teacher asks her to tutor ever absent classmate Ace Clyde, she immediately assumes the worst. Aft. They start, and a missed lesson, Ace finally shows up, and he knows exactly how to push Karina’s buttons, tip-toeing over the lines she has made herself. Knowing exactly how her parents would react, she keeps Ace at an arm’s distance until she realises Ace has secrets of his own which is why she agrees to his plans. Keep up this act for three more weeks, and they part ways as unlikely friends. (and for Karina, a handful of books, courtesy of the Bank of Ace Clyde.) As the return of her parents looms overhead, Karina realises that these past days are the happiest she has ever been, and with the support of her grandmother, her best friends, and Ace, maybe she can gather the courage to face her family once and for all.
Counting Down with You is a refreshing and hilarious read. I’m not big on contemporary novels, but I found Bhuiyan’s voice to be outstanding. If anything, I am blown away at how much I could relate to Karina Ahmed. Like Karina, my family had also left Bangladesh in search of a different life. Her traditional parents’ ideals and expectations are all too familiar; their harsh words and criticism almost mirrored my own family, almost word-for-word. Karina’s humour to her anxiety felt all too surreal to read this book and realise the main character is an almost exact copy of yourself at sixteen.
The cast of Counting Down with You are some of the biggest sweethearts you’ll ever meet. Ace Clyde is one of the school’s notorious students, rumours upon rumours piles upon him. His character reminds me of Aiden Thomas’s Julian Diaz (Cemetery Boys). Very understanding and wholesome once you get to know him. Karina’s best friends, Cora and Nandini, are as thick as thieves and supportive as hell. They might not understand her refusal to stand up to her parents, but they’re there for her, no questions asked. It was quite refreshing to see them talk and act like teens; their text conversations were hilarious and realistic. While her parents are away, Karina’s grandmother takes care of her and her younger brother. Her grandmother is pretty much amazing and supportive. Her brother is the best example of a desi little brother who doesn’t realise how easy he has it compared to his sister. Whenever he said something wasn’t deep, I wanted to flick him like he was my own brother. Bhuiyan encapsulates the experience of growing up with traditional parents perfectly. Her parents’ aren’t physically present in most of the novel, but their presence is there in most of Karina’s thoughts, dragging her down both mentally and physically.
Counting Down with You was extremely sweet and immensely relatable. I’m not the type to throw around the phrase “I wish this book existed when I was teen”, but I feel like if this book had existed when I was a teenager and struggling, I would have felt a lot better about myself at sixteen.