Title: Promising Azra
Author: Helen Thurloe
Publication date: 27 July 2016
Publisher: Allen & Unwin
Australian RRP: $19.99
Having Looking for Alibrandi vibes, Promising Azra by Helena Thurloe didn’t disappoint. The story centres on Azra, a gifted science student, who wants to chase her academic dreams but family traditions are in the way and the more she resists obligations, the more her relatives push their agenda of marrying her off before high school finishes for the sake of honour. What would you do if your family is the only obstacle to your future? And being a good daughter means being obedient?
Promising Azra explores identity, balancing school/social life and family life, especially if you have migrant parents or of an ethnic background with strong traditions. The beginning didn’t pull me in as much as the beginning of Azra’s family’s desperation to marry her off. Despite subtle to little character development, the characters were likable and manage to reflect the frustrations with being pressured and dealing with traditions – and yes, it’s hard to ignore them and stand up for yourself as the importance of family has been drilled into your head.
I liked Azra for being this ambitious chemistry student, using science jargon in her everyday life. And yes, we need more female characters who are into science. Though I thought the science competition and camp could’ve been expanded. It felt like there wasn’t enough of them to feel the full force impact of Azra’s time away from the family and obligations.
The nature of Azra’s family is ironically not living up to a honourable state. They’re quite strict on maintaining a reputation but their relationship with each other is not healthy – if anything, the desire to honour and not lose face ruins them. I was unsettled by how loyalty goes far, how it’s used to manipulate. There’s no unconditional love there.
The open ending leaves you asking questions and unsettled. By the end of the book, you would want to wrap your arms around Azra and form a protection squad.
If you love contemporaries like Looking for Alibrandi and books dealing with identities, then I recommend Promising Azra.
Rating: 3 and a half/5