November 21, 2017

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Saints and Misfits by S.K. Ali | SLJ Review

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redstarALI, S.K. Saints and Misfits. 336p. S. & S./Salaam Reads. Jun. 2017. Tr $18.99. ISBN 9781481499248.

Gr 9 Up –Life has settled since Janna’s parents’ divorce, but several new obstacles are making things difficult. Her brother, Muhammad, is moving back home as he changes majors and pursues marriage, while Janna silently battles against a respected boy at her mosque who attempted to rape her. To cope, Janna has separated people into categories. Farooq is a monster, but there are also saints, like Muhammad’s fiancée. And then there are misfits, like Janna. This categorization isn’t expressed overtly other than through chapter headings and occasional references, but it allows readers to see the world as Janna views it. Yet where there is darkness, there is also light: Janna has a lovely relationship with an elderly gentleman she cares for weekly, loves Flannery O’Connor, is a focused student, and has a crush on a boy, though he’s non-Muslim. Ali’s writing is balanced between Janna’s inner dialogue and what transpires around her. The structured delivery magnifies the teen’s rich voice in a character-driven novel about identity, highlighting her faith and typical teenage stress. Readers can empathize with Janna’s problems, and the pages will turn quickly. Each secondary character adds depth to the narrative and simultaneously strengthens the diverse portrait that the Toronto-based author shares. VERDICT This timely and authentic portrayal is an indisputable purchase in the realistic fiction category.–Alicia Abdul, Albany High School Library, NY

This review was published in the School Library Journal May 2017 issue.

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