Nina Is Not OK by Shappi Khorsandi

Having read Shappi Khorsandi’s autobiography, and the quotes of praise on the back of Nina Is Not OK, I was anticipating a humorous novel.

Do not be fooled as I was.

Nina is NOT OK.

Written in the first person, the book follows the life of a seventeen-year-old girl called Nina who is a self-loathing alcoholic, damaged by the early death of her father when she was only eight years old. In the first few chapters, you quickly learn of the self-destructive path that Nina is determined to pursue, propelled by experiences of rape, sex, mistakes, shame, regret, and erratic judgement calls.

Despite being surrounded by so many people who love her and are willing to hold her, Nina is lost, and so she runs blindly, led by a bottle of vodka or whatever else it is that she has been able to lay her hands on.

As Nina herself does so in the book, you find yourself completely aware of the direction she is heading in but incapable of doing anything about it. You will her and she wills herself, but both of you remain helpless. You are captivated and trapped by her self-destruction as she herself is.

Khorsandi’s writing is so intimate that for a whole week I was thrown into living a dual life. By day I went to work, but by night, holding that book, I was Nina.

Khorsandi is brutal in her negligence of ambiguity. She shies away from none of the grime.  At no point are you sat there thinking, “oh my goodness, did what I think just happen, just happen?” Instead, you are thinking, “fucking, shitting hell, that just happened.” You are not allowed you to witness Nina’s journey, only experience it. And sometimes, it’s grim.

At times I felt my body cringe, wince, and cry.

The evening I finished the last chapter I lay in bed and thought about Nina’s future. But I wasn’t. I was thinking about my future. I was Nina. She was still inside my head. I was still drowning in her thoughts. I was worrying about her next steps. What would happen at university? Could she cope? What if…? My concerns were real. They swilled around in the bit of my stomach trying to find somewhere to settle.

From lows to highs, Nina Is Not OK takes you on one hell of a journey.

A superb book that is absolutely well worth a read. Khorsandi’s insightful and personal touch in dealing with such heart-wrenching issues such as the loss of a parent, sexuality, rape, adolescence, and alcoholism, is done with flawless tact, and at times, leaves you utterly speechless.

There is not a single person I would not recommend this book to.

But please have some tissues on standby.


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