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Secrets of the Henna Girl

3.86  ·  Rating details ·  433 ratings  ·  63 reviews

Life as Zeba knows it could be over for good . . .

Zeba Khan is like any other sixteen-year-old girl: enjoying herself, waiting for exam results . . . and dreaming of the day she'll meet her one true love.

Except her parents have other plans.

In Pakistan for the summer, Zeba's world is shattered. Her future is threatened by an unthinkable - and forced - duty to protect her

Kindle Edition, 292 pages
Published March 1st 2012 by Puffin
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3.86  · 
Rating details
 ·  433 ratings  ·  63 reviews

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Ikhlas Hussain
Sixteen-year-old Zeba Khan is waiting for her exam results to come, when her parents decide on a family vacation to their home country of Pakistan. Zeba considers herself British, and visiting her parents’ home country isn’t exactly on her top vacation picks.

But to Pakistan she goes, to the blistering heat, where she finds out that her parents have decided she is to marry her cousin Asif, her father’s older brother’s son, who is in the military. Zeba becomes a scapegoat in a battle of family pol
Sahina Bibi
First off, thank you to Penguin Group for sending me this book for review. I was particularly interested in this novel based on the culture and mix of different ideas that Sufiya Ahmed promised to bring forth - a taste of something different.

Being a Muslim myself, throughout the book, I found myself nodding along with certain phrases and the ideas that were presented from the parents of the main character Zeba as well as the relatives she visits when she goes abroad. Though it's quite a step bac
Karen Barber
Zeba has just finished her GCSEs and her parents plan to take her to Pakistan for a holiday. Upon arrival, it's very clear that she is to be forced into marriage.
The story focuses on Zeba's experience in this remote village. She comes to understand more of her parents' culture, and we see some of the consequences of these beliefs.
As a young girl alone in what is, to all intents and purposes, a foreign country Zeba struggles. Thankfully her grandmother is a little more forward thinking than some
Zunaira Sumbal
Nov 29, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Secrets of the Henna Girls started as a typical tale by a foreign writer who has spiced up the novels by adding Patriarchal commands in the highest ratio... Zeba a British raised and British nationality holder went to Pakistan for summer vacations, but ends up knowing that she is to be married to her only male patriotic army officer cousin to save him from sudden death or to say death of martyr... she protested but for Honour she gave in and became ready to meet her fate written by her father an ...more
Michelle (Fluttering Butterflies)
Finished this with tears in my eyes. Loved Zeba's relationship with Nannyma!

Secrets of the Henna Girl by Sufiya Ahmed is a very different book to what I'd normally read. It is very much an 'issues book' as the main thrust of the story involves forced marriage. While I found some parts of the book felt like a learning exercise and therefore didn't feel like natural to the story, other parts were very emotional. This book tells the story of 16 year old Zeba and how her and family went on holiday
Dec 01, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I really enjoyed this book but I was so frustrated at the same time. At the fact that these girls who are forced into arranged marriages have no choice and are manipulated by men who are arrogant, unfeeling, cold and barbaric. Even the women who serve these men condone this and I felt myself really annoyed with Zeba's parents because they see their honour as being more important to them than their own daughter. They are also cowardly as they could not tell her the truth until she was stranded in ...more
Jan 27, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
It's late, so I'll write a better review for this another time.

I've never been outside of my country since I got here when I was a wee lil one. I haven't left the city for an overnight stay in years and I work in the summer. But if you have a life and go places in the summer, then imagine being sixteen and going to visit your home land. The beautiful landscapes, the relatives, and the food, all await your arrival. Your parents seem testy, but you're not too bothered. It's been awhile for them si
Neelam Babul
Mar 17, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A brilliantly narrated story that left me teary eyed and touched my soul. Being a Muslim myself I was well aware of all the restrictions that society and family exerts on young children especially girls. My parents love me dearly and though I'm residing in an urban area where I was able to follow my dreams and get a decent education, I can still experience the extremities that other girls face from being married at an early age to being victims of domestic violence.

Zeba lives in Britain and aft
Leonie Byrne
I read this book as part of the Rotherham's children's book awards as I work in a school. We basically have 4 books to read and then vote for the best in our opinion. This is the first one I've read but I've got to say I can't see any of the others topping it. What a fantastic story and what an eye opener it has been I suggest anybody who is prejudiced in any way against people of different race and religion reads this book. The story is about a young girl named Zeba a British Muslim with Pakist ...more
An important read about a forced marriage.
I think this is ownvoices Pakistani representation, since the author's other series also has a Pakistani main character, but the only info I could find was that the author was born in India.
Be aware of a transphobic joke on page 102 (one girl tells another that her makeup makes her look like a tr*nsvestite).
May 26, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I love this book my mum brought it for me I just can't get enough of it!!!
Overall I thought it was a good book but I did want to see more character development of Asif and Zeba`s mum it really irritated me while Zeba`s dad was a believable character Zeba`s mum was literally a piece of cardboard and Asif was confusing..... I mean he refuses to stop being a soldier but doesn`t mind being married knowing full well that he could be killed doing his job? Another thing I find weird is how he talks to Zeba he talks to her like he`s her older brother or something. I mean woul ...more
When her family decides to take a trip to Pakistan, sixteen-year-old Zeba finds herself trapped after her father decides to marry her off to her cousin. Lost deep in family politics, Zeba has to find a way out before it’s too late.

This was a little difficult to review, especially since forced marriage plots are prevalent in books with SEA leads. But this book was quite interesting.

I hated how 2D the secondary characters were. The only people who were developed was the band of friends Zeba makes
Jodi Choi
Jun 01, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I personally thought that the secrets of the henna girl was a fantastic book that could be easily read.
The story was very interesting and well written that it kept me going with the book.
Some parts of the book annoyed me or made me angry, but I think that's what makes a good book a good book; the readers feeling emotions while reading the book!

I recommend other people to definitely read this book to know about Zeba's story!
Jun 09, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Well written

I enjoyed reading this book. It captured my attention and the storyline was very imaginative. She wrote with compassion and a focus on family values and feelings. It was good because she did not blame nor hate but just relayed her story.
Feb 19, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Alison Caller
May 15, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Thoughtful discussion of a difficult topic. I enjoyed it and learnt about Islam and the Qu'aran's view of marriage.
Sep 25, 2018 rated it it was amazing
A right page turner

I really enjoyed this book it gives you the whole true meaning of what life is like for a young Muslim being... female or male ....
Sep 23, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I thought this book was beautiful, portraying something not everyone understands...
Nazia Ahmed
Nov 12, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I had been wanting to read this book for ages, and finally finished reading it today with tears in my eyes... really enjoyed this book.
Saarah Niña
Jul 10, 2018 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Saarah by: An aunt
Shelves: recommendations
A thoughtful novel of a family burdened by circumstance and traditions within a Pakistani culture.
May 16, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
3.5 Stars

Imformative and interesting. Loved Nannyma :)
Review to follow
Secrets of the Henna Girl was a really interesting, thought provoking and informative read, right from the first pages I started to learn about Indian culture and way of life, all of which I found really intriguing. There were really great descriptions when Zeba travels to Pakistan of the landscape and the clothes so I could visualise everything.

But, that being said, the storyline itself, whilst being different, was pretty straightforward and I didn't feel myself excited by it but I was enlight
Zeba has finished school for the year and is eagerly awaiting the results for her exams and is looking forward to school the following year. The annual trip home to Pakistan to visit her parents relatives isn’t something she’s been looking forward to, she’d rather spend the summer with her best friend.

Arriving in Pakistan, Zeba’s life is drastically changed. She finds out that her parents have promised her hand in marriage to her cousin and the wedding is happening in only a matter of weeks! She
Turkan Taskin
Ok, contemporary is just not doing it for me. For some reason I just cannot fully connect with contemporary books, maybe because I'm not really used to reading them (more like horror, YA, fantasy, ect.) or maybe it's because contemporary is realistic, so things that can happen in real life; therefore, I find it quite bland and I get bored quickly. Like this one. Or it's just because I couldn't really connect it. I don't know.

It was a real shame because the author, Sufiya Ahmed, came to visit my
Apr 13, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I gave this book 4 stars rather than 5 because tbh I felt the writing was vague and shaky at times. The character developments were a bit abrupt, and some scenes carried no logic.
However, when it comes to the positives this book was definitely an eye opener to me. Being half Pakistani myself, the descriptions of Pakistan were A++.
yet I don't think this mentality still exists over there... or maybe it's because we come from the city area, Karachi. This book marvelled me with its morals presente
Mar 12, 2019 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
This book is very insightful into the issue of forced marriage, but other than its educational value, there wasn't much else I could take from it.

All the characters were okay, apart from Zeba's mum who had the personality and character development of a stale piece of bread. Zeba herself, although being fine, did frustrate me quite a bit, mainly in the fact she just didn't tell Asif about anything. Why wouldn't you tell him you were being forced into the marriage? Why wouldn't you tell him the on
Jun 04, 2013 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
From a professional book reviewer

The secrets of the henna girl by Sufiya Ahmed -
A story that can be highly captive for the west but no so much for us asians. It is a touche topic no doubt but I think the author chooses to gain sympathy for the protagonist by portraying what's worst of our tradition and society. Remember there are good things and there are bad things in every culture and every deed cannot be called following culture. it varies from person to person too. lets us not be biased abou
May 21, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A story which'll keep you at the edge of your seat while you turn the next page hoping to find out what happened next.
This beautifully written story of Zeba and her life will keep you wanting to know more like a gossiping aunt prying into the life of this strong-willed individual. The story allows you to think without being overly imposing of the main theme at hand. The author has taken care to introduce it to the reader without force-feeding the reader with it. It was a wonderful read (althoug
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Sufiya Ahmed was born in India and arrived in the UK as a baby. She lived in Bolton, Lancashire, before moving to London where she still lives. Sufiya has worked in advertising and in the House of Commons, but is now a full-time author. In 2010 Sufiya set up the BIBI Foundation, a non-profit organisation, to arrange visits to the Houses of Parliament for diverse and underprivileged school children ...more