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'The Dos and Donuts of Love' is a delectably delightful, reality TV tale

‎ Feiwel & Friends

Summer is officially just a few days away — meaning it's the time of year here in the global north when many of us are invited to gatherings where we feel pressured to bring a Great British Bake Off-worthy dessert.

But if the confections you're craving are of the literary sort, I highly recommend the delectably delightful The Dos and Donuts of Love, the latest YA romance novel by Bangladeshi-Irish author Adiba Jaigirdar.

Our heroine is 17-year-old Shireen Malik, baker of fabulous desserts and inventive donuts alongside her parents at Drive me Glazy, a boutique donut shop in Dublin, Ireland. Across the street is another donut shop, The Baker's Dozen, whose Taiwanese owners are personal rivals of the Maliks'. To make matters worse, their daughter — Christina "Chris" Huang — is Shireen's ex. And both Shireen and Chris have been invited to appear on the very first season of the Junior Irish Baking Show.

Tensions are high even before the reality show starts filming. When Shireen and Chris find themselves paired up in the first challenge, they somehow have to find a way to work together. They also must find a way to weather the neverending storm of bigoted comments aimed at both of them on social media once the first episode airs: the price that comes these days with this level of fame.

Chris, despite being Shireen's ex, is the one person who can relate to being attacked by racist internet trolls for the crime of being Asian while also being Irish. The two young women handle both this and their ex-relationship with an incredible about of maturity.

Through Shireen's contact with her best friend Fatima, who is summering with family in Bangladesh, the novel also touches on the topic of South Asians who no longer live in South Asia — not so much how children of the diaspora are seen by others, but how they are seen by other South Asians. There's also the fact that Shireen is queer, which would not be acceptable in Bangladesh. Right wing internet trolls aside, Ireland in general is more openminded.

The fast-paced plot of The Dos and Donuts of Love never failed to grab my attention, and the punny chapter titles and the celebrity judges' names made me laugh out loud. Padma Bollywood in particular (think Padma Lakshmi + Paul Hollywood) is a fabulous character, and a huge hero of Shireen's. As insecure as Shireen feels watching herself bare her soul on national television, she realizes that she could be an inspiration to some young chef out there, just as Padma was for her.

One of the best aspects of reality shows in this vein is that the competition rarely feels competitive — on screen, the bakers often seem more like a family by the end of each season. This same dynamic begins to play out as Shireen befriends Niamh on the very first day. Niamh obviously has a crush on Shireen, but Shireen might still be hung up on her ex. Niamh also harbors an incredible animosity for Séan, the pompous guy she's partnered with on the first challenge.

But such sparks make good television. In true reality show fashion, the longer Shireen stays on the show, the higher the stakes are raised, and the more it becomes clear that one competitor is willing to do whatever it takes to snag that winning title. Without spoiling anything, I can promise that with a spoonful of drama and a dash of deception, Shireen's story ultimately comes to a romantic and well-baked resolution.

And perhaps, through Adiba Jaigirdar, Shireen will truly become an inspiration to some young chef out in the world.

Alethea Kontis is a storm chaser and award-winning author of more than 20 books for children and teens.

Copyright 2023 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

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