My name is Ardis and I am an avid reader and budding writer. I want to share my love of books with others. I work with kids and am interested in finding and creating books that will ignite the reader in everyone. Contact me at: ardis.atkins@gmail.com

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Friday, June 16, 2017

ARC Review: Saints and Misfits by S.K. Ali

Please Note:  I received an advanced reader's copy of this book from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.  This did not influence the opinions in my review in any way.

Synopsis (From Goodreads):
Saints and Misfits is an unforgettable debut novel that feels like a modern day My So-Called Life…starring a Muslim teen.

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 tight knit Muslim community think of her then?

Janna, the main character in Saints an Misfits, by S.K. Ali, is an American girl that many can identify with.  She has friends, is a good student, and has crushes on seemingly unattainable boys.  She is also being harassed by a boy many see as a "saint".  This could be the plot of any YA book out right now.  What makes this book different from others is that Janna is a Muslim teen who is active in her religious community.  She also wears an hijab.

I love this book.  It shows a positive representation of a Muslim teen dealing with issues that can happen with any teenager.

What I Liked:
Living The Faith:
There are very few YA books that show any teens who have active religious lives.  Yet, I had many friends growing up who were very involved in their church.  They went to youth groups, church services, camps, and had many friends from among the same religion.  

I really liked the author's depiction of all the ways that Janna lived her faith.  As the author explained parts of Islam (and why Janna did certain things), I felt I learned a lot about this community.  It also showed how important Islam was to Janna.  Too often, religion is shown as oppressive, or is absent altogether.  This is a huge part of many teen's lives and deserves to be depicted in YA books.

Janna is a teen who is dealing with her parents divorce, and the inequity of a dad who has much, but a mom who is struggling.  She is often angry at her parents and wishes for the idyllic life they had before the divorce.

She is also figuring out how to be a modern teen  but also be true to her values as a Muslim.  Can/should she go out with non-Muslim boys?  Why is wearing an Hijab important to her?  And can she understand another Muslim girl's desire to wear a Niqab (a garment that completely covers the body, leaving only an open space for eyes)?

Janna is also struggling with harassment from a boy in her religious community.  As he is someone everyone believes to be a pious young man, will anyone believe her accusation?

There are other characters that Janna, herself, sees only as stereotypes, but are later revealed to be much more complex.  There's much more to "saint" Sarah than someone who is perfect.  And another girl, Sausun, has a very good reason for the chip on her shoulder.  But it takes a while for Janna to see past her own preconceptions.

Central Problem:
It may seem strange for me to say I "liked" this, but the topic of dealing with harassment is very important.  Although Janna knows that the boy is at fault, she has a hard time standing up for herself.  Not getting what he wants, the boy knows just what to do to shame her in their religious community.  Sadly, this happens to girls at high schools all the time.  A boy gets rebuffed by a girl and retaliates by starting rumors about her.  

What I Was Mixed About:
I am being deliberately vague, but I think the resolution of the book was not as complex as it should have been.  I would love to say more, but doing so would give away the ending.  This is a very small quibble.






Release Date:  June 13th, 2017

Genre:  YA Contemporary Fiction

Source:  Netgalley

Format:  ARC E-Book

Recommendation:  A diverse YA book that has a great main character, living in a community that feels authentic and realistic.  I can't wait to read more from this author.
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1 comment :

  1. I really loved this book too. The characters were fantastic and I agree with you that it was refreshing to read about a teen who was so actively involved with her religious community.


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