This story is about a teenage girl caught between cultures. Should Zeyneb abide by the Muslim standards taught by her parents, meaning never developing a romantic relationship with a boy until she’s married? Or should she go on the barbeque and funfair and cinema outings with school friends, knowing that Alex who fancies her will be there? She’s just begun her periods, so there’s pressure from home to put on a hijab and play the part of an unmarried Muslim woman. On the other hand, none of her friends wear headscarves, and some are wary of those who do. And Alex isn’t just good looking; he’s kind and understanding too. Zeyneb is torn between fitting in and pleasing those she loves on either side of that divide, as well as being her own individual person.
This is a very accessible read, told in the first person and full of dialogue. It’s interesting and romantic and touching, and, goodness me, it’s a story about a teenage girl falling in love but has a beautiful cover that is NOT pink (well done, Chicken House)! I would have liked to learn a bit more about quite what Zeyneb’s faith is when she decides that she ‘wants to show her faith’, but maybe that would have made for a heavier sort of read.
There aren’t enough stories which tackle cultural issues of an everyday kind. Here we have a very likeable girl and her funny nice Turkish background family (her relationship with her father is particularly touching), living the decisions that many of our girls have to face. And the message is positive. Choices you make don’t have to be forever. Try one way, and then change if that doesn’t work happily. And it’s possible to compromise. Zeyneb decides that, after all, she will choose to wear the headscarf (for now), but she’s also very determined to become the first person in her family to go to university, to study botany, a passion shared with her allotment-loving gentle father.
This is a book which should be in all secondary school libraries.
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