I think Nina is Not OK is a brilliant book about a difficult subject.
17 year old Nina is an A-level student who, like many young people, likes a drink even although she is under age. The problem is the next day she can’t always remember exactly what happened the night before.
Then one night when she is very, very drunk she is ejected from a club and separated from her friends and her phone because of her very inappropriate behaviour. She remembers the guy she was being inappropriate with coming out with his friend and they took her down to an alley. The next thing she remembers is ‘Alex’ and his friend putting her in a taxi then going back into the club. The taxi driver gets her home but there is a huge gap in her memory.
The next day she learns that one of her friends ‘got off with’ Alex after he went back into the club.
Following this incident things got so much worse for Nina and it becomes clear that Nina has issues that she is unable to fix by herself. She often says she’s fine when she’s definitely not okay; she has been dumped by her boyfriend who had gone abroad for a year and had met someone else; she misses her dad who was an alcoholic and died at a young age.; Nina drinks far too much. Her relationship with her Mum is a bit strained.
My heart sank every time Nina got herself into a bad situation again and again and she got on a downward spiral. The voice inside my head was saying, “No. Please no. Don’t do it! Please, not again, walk away!” Her poor mother and stepfather.
What was so good was that even when she got completely out of control and at rock bottom, I didn’t feel the need to judge her harshly. She did some awful things but she always came across as basically a good person and we do get to see some of that better side.
My emotions were all over the place. Things were looking up when she went into rehab; then the relapse; Jamie the ex-boyfriend appearing again; and then the horrendous shaming when a photo of her appeared on social media. media. My heart sank for Nina. I kept hoping for a good ending but Shappi kept me ‘strung out’ right until the end.
I actually had some sympathy for all the characters in the book, apart from Alex and his friend.
The book is extremely well written and the dialogue believable. It deals with issues of alcoholism, rape culture, slut shaming and victim blaming. I felt as if I was living through every mother’s (indeed every parent’s) nightmare. While it might not be to everyone’s taste because of the subject matter (there is sexual content and a quite a lot of swearing) it is still one of my favourite books this year. I would recommend it for anyone from young adults to older readers (it reminded me how difficult it can be for teenagers nowadays).
Shappi has written a powerful story which is entertaining and very readable. A great debut novel.
The book is available in the UK from 28 July 2016.