Book Review: Marrying Ameera by Rosanne Hawke

Released just this week, Marrying Ameera is the latest YA novel from award winning South Australian author Rosanne Hawke.

Whatever you read this year, put this novel on your MUST READ list.

Ameera, 17 years old, is the daughter of an Australian mother – a Christian – and a Pakistani father who is a devout Muslim. Seeking to be like her Australian friends, Ameera discovers that her father strongly and actively opposes any social contact with non-Muslims. He tightens his grip on her activities until he discovers her interest in a Pakistani Christian boy.

She is suddenly sent off to visit relatives in Pakistan thinking she is attending the wedding of her cousin Jamila. Soon after she arrives she discovers the awful truth: it is she who is marrying her wealthy cousin through a business transaction organised by her own father.

When her passport, return ticket and mobile phone are confiscated by her uncle, Ameera realises she is trapped. There seems no way out of going through with the wedding. Only her determination, courage and a growing love for Tariq can see her through this nightmare.

This is without doubt the best novel I’ve read this year, and the best YA novel in a long time. The author has drawn a wide range of believable and very memorable characters, all of them true to their particular culture, either Australian or Pakistani. I found the conflict experienced by the characters caught between two cultures as portrayed in Ameera, for example, to be both compelling and authentic.

Rosanne Hawke has used to great advantage the time she lived in Pakistan while teaching, and later on a fellowship while researching this novel. Her understanding of the Pakistani culture brings this story to life as she describes the customs, foods, clothing, ceremonies and even the elaborate jewellery used in weddings.

While this is a story which carries the reader along – a page turner – it also has a very serious message. The people living in countries like Pakistan still practice arranged marriages, and have done for centuries. This story is different. It portrays a forced marriage which is now illegal in Pakistan. Sadly, many forced marriages, in a range of countries, still occur. Few girls caught in such a situation don’t have the means to escape, or have the courage of the character Ameera to face the consequences of their plight.

This novel is a love story.

A tragic love story with just a touch of romance, romance shattered by reality. I believe, however, it is not a novel just for girls. Sure, it will appear to be most attractive to teenage girls, and they won’t be disappointed.

If I had my way however, I’d make this compulsory reading for every teenage male in Australia. There is so much they could learn about love, respect, honour and relationships. Besides – it’s an exciting read with danger abounding on every page.


Update: this book sold out in the first week after publication. It is about to go to a second print run. Fantastic.