Killing Honour by Bali Rai

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Killing Honour by Bali Rai

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Category: Teens
Rating: 4.5/5
Reviewer: Jill Murphy
Reviewed by Jill Murphy
Summary: A beloved sister and daughter goes missing but her family won't look for her. Why? Honour. An honest and hard-hitting look at a controversial issue by one of Bookbag's most trusted teen authors. Bali Rai was kind enough to be interviewed by Bookbag.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 336 Date: June 2011
Publisher: Corgi
External links: Author's website
ISBN: 0552562114

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Sat comes from a prosperous Sikh family in Leicester. His mother spends a lot of time at the gurdwara but his father and brother don't and are not above breaking parts of the Sikh code - they both eat meat and drink alcohol. Overall, though, Sat's family is a traditional one and so when his parents hear a rumour that his sister Jas has a boyfriend at college, they withdraw her and arrange a marriage to Taz Atwal, a wealthy local businessman.

Sat finds all this cultural tradition very stifling and keeps away from the endless round of family weddings and reunions as much he can. So he really doesn't take too much notice of Jas's wedding or spend too long wondering whether or not she is happy in her new marriage. He is a typical self-centred teenager and his life centres around hanging out with his mates and trying to get a girl.

But then Jas disappears. And the explanation given by Taz - that she has run off with a Muslim guy she met on Facebook - just doesn't ring true for Sat. Jas is a good and respectful Sikh girl. She would never do anything to ruin her family's izzat or honour. And when Sat starts to search for the truth, he is blocked at every turn: by Taz, who threatens him, and - shockingly - by his own family, who seem to care more about appearances than they do the fate of their own daughter.

This isn't a book about honour killings - it's a book about the concept of honour itself and how it is seen and interpreted within British Asian families. Sat's family are so concerned with the public shame of a daughter who was unfaithful to her husband that they don't stop to question the truth of his story. Even when prompted by Sat to think again, they refuse. And Bali Rai, right from the inversion in his book's title, is asking his readers what kind of honour that is.

So the book is all about the conflict between the attitudes of Sat, a second (possibly third?) generation British Asian and his parents, who are very Indian and very traditional even though they eat meat and drink alcohol. There are ways of telling this sort of story that won't engage readers but I promise you this hasn't happened in Killing Honour. I'm a big fan of Rai anyway, but I think this is my favourite book of his so far. We're clear from the outset that things didn't end well for Jas, but we don't know how they'll turn out for Sat, or if he will ever find the truth. And the tension in this is sustained right up until the very end. It's a real page-turner and I read it in one, rather breathless, sitting.

Rai has an easy style so he is easy to read, and he isn't afraid to show drinking, drug-taking and violence when they're a part of his story. His characters are believable and his dialogue is well-observed. Sat's voice will be instantly recognisable to thousands of readers and the story he's telling is an important one.

Highly recommended.

My thanks to the good people at Corgi for sending the book.

If you're into exploring important and controversial contemporary and cultural issues through novels, you might also enjoy Where I Belong by Gillian Cross, an unusual, subtle and absorbing story about supermodels, kidnapping, and a young Somali girl sent to London to get an education and earn money for her family. You might also like An Act of Love by Alan Gibbons. Chris and Imran are childhood friends - but can that friendship survive jihad, domestic terrorism and an IED during a tour of Afghanistan?

Bookinterviews.jpg Bali Rai was kind enough to be interviewed by Bookbag.

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Buy Killing Honour by Bali Rai at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Killing Honour by Bali Rai at


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