Azra is a sixteen-year-old chemistry whizz who lives in Sydney with dreams of going on to university once she’s left school. In many ways she’s a regular teenager but she has little freedom. Speaking to boys is out and she can’t hang out at the mall with her best friend Bassima. Above all, her protective and traditional Pakistani family don’t believe in further education for girls and she strongly suspects they are secretly arranging a marriage for her. Azra has to cook and clean for them, help in the shop during the holidays and look after her little sister. Meanwhile her older brother does nothing very much except dabble in drugs and have run-ins with the police. Being male, he is cossetted and protected and this ignites Azra’s resentment.
She’s thrilled when chosen to represent her school in a science competition but the extra tutorials are impossible and she has to plot and scheme to attend a science camp. As a forced marriage seems more and more likely Azra is trapped in a desperate situation. She yearns to avoid it but doesn’t want to upset her family and cause a permanent rift.
I became so caught up with Azra and her predicament that I could barely wait to discover the outcome. The conclusion is dramatic and you realise how skilfully the author has built up the story to reach this point. You can see both sides of the situation and why Azra’s family believe they are right to arrange a marriage for her. You also feel Azra’s anguish as she struggles to balance old traditions with new ones in her adopted country. She’s smart, strong and thoroughly likeable and this extremely good book highlights the very real plight which many girls face every day.
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