The title kind of says it all, but let me explain what this book is about. The concept of “A Show for Two” is based on author Tashie Bhuiyan’s absolutely wild high school experience, where Tom Holland went undercover as a transfer student at her high school in order to better understand American high schools before filming his first Spider-Man movie.
Bhuiyan’s version of Tom Holland is named Emmitt Ramos, and he’s a Chinese-Spanish-British actor best known for indie films. After accidentally running into him and cussing him out while she’s having a terrible day, protagonist Mina Rahman finds out Emmitt has dyed his hair blond and adopted an American accent in order to attend her school to do research for his upcoming role in a highly-anticipated movie.
Mina, determined to win a short film competition, decides casting Emmitt will be the easiest way to propel her to victory. Emmitt, who longs to pursue photography, wants to participate in a competition but doesn’t know his way around New York City. And so, despite their unfortunate first meeting and their lingering dislike of each other, Mina and Emmitt agree to help each other.
And then they fall in love. You know how these stories go.
Mina and Emmitt’s relationship is absolutely adorable. I love a good hate-to-love story, and I was captivated by the way that the two of them slowly open up to each other. Neither of them are perfect people, but as far as straight people go, they’re doing pretty well. I loved reading about their travels around the city, searching for the perfect places to take pictures. Emmitt’s lack of knowledge on city culture was wonderfully endearing, from his ignorance on halal carts to his inability to swipe a MetroCard.
But “A Show for Two” is about so much more than movies and photography and famous people who are definitely not Chinese Tom Holland. Mina has depression, exacerbated by her relationship with her verbally abusive parents. The Rahmans treat their children cruelly, trying to mold Mina and her sister to their unrealistic expectations, and Mina’s dream — to go off to film school in California — stems from a desire to be as far away from her parents as possible.
I loved Mina’s journey into figuring out her own true hopes for her future. She makes a lot of mistakes along the way, but she learns a lot about what truly matters to her, as well as what represents home for her. Despite “A Show for Two” ostensibly being about her romance with Emmitt, her relationships with her sister and friends were a highlight of this book for me.
But what I think Bhuiyan does so well in “A Show for Two” is making it clear that Mina’s parents do not act this way because of their culture or their religion. Mina yearns to be more in touch with her Bangladeshi Muslim roots as so many other children of a diaspora do. Other characters are shown with loving, caring families who support their dreams; Mina knows that her culture is not to blame for the way her parents are.
As is typical with books involving culture or family or diaspora, this book did in fact make me cry. My roommate was none the wiser, and then I tweeted that I cried from reading this book, and she saw my tweet and turned around in her seat, concerned for my well-being, but at that point, I’d already stopped crying. Love that for me.
“A Show for Two” comes out on May 10, 2022. I received an early copy from the publisher, Inkyard Press, in exchange for an honest review.