Saints and Misfits by S.K. Ali
Published by Salaam Reads on June 13, 2017
Genres: Young Adult, Fiction, Contemporary
Pages: 336 Format: eARC Source: NG
I acquired this ARC from the publisher through NetGalley. This does not impact my thoughts and opinions in any way.
How much can you tell about a person just by looking at them?
Janna Yusuf knows a lot of people can’t figure out what to make of her…an Arab Indian-American hijabi teenager who is a Flannery O’Connor obsessed book nerd, aspiring photographer, and sometime graphic novelist is not exactly easy to put into a box.
And Janna suddenly finds herself caring what people think. Or at least what a certain boy named Jeremy thinks. Not that she would ever date him—Muslim girls don’t date. Or they shouldn’t date. Or won’t? Janna is still working all this out.
While her heart might be leading her in one direction, her mind is spinning in others. She is trying to decide what kind of person she wants to be, and what it means to be a saint, a misfit, or a monster. Except she knows a monster…one who happens to be parading around as a saint…Will she be the one to call him out on it? What will people in her tightknit Muslim community think of her then?
Janna knows all to well that life as a teenager is a difficult maze to navigate. What with her brother moving back home, divorced parents, and crushes she can’t quite explain. Compounding this is an incident Janna cannot bring herself to talk about. Thus begins a wonderfully accessible and eye opening story about faith, family, and everyday life from S.K. Ali.
Saints and Misfits provides the reader with an honest, endearing voice through Janna, a biracial Muslim teen who wears hijab by choice. She’s funny and sincere yet struggling with the aftermath of an attempted rape. Janna’s also just trying to figure out how faith and life intertwine, learning every step of the way. Her thought process is so compelling and makes it easy to see through her eyes.
Adding to her excitement and woes are a formidable group of family and friends. Muhammad, Janna’s brother so sweet and laid back, not to mention ridiculously cute when wooing Sarah. Then there’s Tatyanna, a best friend for the ages, always having Janna’s back. Sausan, was a surprise for me, brisk and stand-offish but super fierce, and goofy and kind Nuah who is always observing. Plus old Mr. Ram offering insight and understanding along the way.
One of the most engaging aspects of the book though was how it highlighted the Muslim community and Islam itself. Being an #ownvoices title, I appreciated the authenticity it delivered with direct quotes from the Quran and Jana’s uncle answering questions on how the Prophet’s words apply to modern life. As I do not identify as Muslim, I’m going to link to Leenah from The Tales of Two Readers review HERE for a more in depth discussion on the representation within the narrative.
Overall I really adored S.K. Ali’s Saints and Misfits. From a myriad of complex characters to a plot that was so earnest and relatable, Janna’s story truly has it all. It’s honest, not glossing over the bad, and it invokes real emotion at every page. And thank goodness for it being #ownvoices. I will absolutely be recommending this to everyone and cannot wait to see it on my library’s shelf.
So are you excited for Saints and Misfits? Have you read other stories with excellent Muslim rep? Any recommendations?
Let me know your thoughts in the comments below!