Title: Saints and Misfits
Author: S.K. Ali
Genre: Young Adult
Publisher: Salaam Reads
Release Date: June 13, 2017
Janna Yusuf says there are two kinds of people: Saints and Misfits. The girl her older brother likes, Sarah, is a Saint. She spends lots of time organizing activities at the mosque and being a “good Muslim girl.” Janna is a Misfit. She is torn between being Muslim (and being the only girl to wear a hijab at school) and being part of the non-Muslim community (by liking a white boy). However, there is also a Monster. The Monster is her friend’s cousin, Farooq. Everyone thinks he is a Saint because he has memorized the Qu’ran. One day he tried to rape Janna, so she knows he isn’t as nice as everyone thinks. But since everyone from his family to Janna’s family thinks Farooq is the perfect Muslim boy, Janna can’t say anything against him. Janna must find her inner strength to stand up for herself.
The conflicts that Janna faces are very realistic. It’s hard for Janna to go to a non-Muslim school and follow her religion by wearing her hijab, when the other girls in her class don’t wear it. The mean girls at her school also don’t understand what it stands for, because they post pictures of Janna without it. Janna’s other Muslim friends go to a Muslim school so they don’t face this problem.
Janna also has the dilemma of liking a boy who her family wouldn’t approve of. I think most girls have had this problem before too. However, Janna’s problem is unique because Farooq, who tried to rape her, is friends with the boy she likes and he tries to come between them.
I would have liked the relationship between Janna and her father to have been explored more. The first half of the novel shows him not approving of her wearing a hijab and being completely covered at the beach. He has a new wife who isn’t Muslim so he thinks Janna should be more open like her. This would have been an interesting aspect to explore, since part of Janna’s family also didn’t accept her Muslim beliefs.
This is a very good YA book. I hope there are more to come that put Muslim characters at the forefront. It’s important for everyone to have role models in literature, especially young adults.