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Saints and Misfits

Review

Saints and Misfits

In her first book, SAINTS AND MISFITS, S.K. Ali explores the problems a Muslim teenager named Janna faces while she adapts to her new life.
 
After being uprooted due to her parents’ divorce and being sexually harassed by the cousin of her close friends, Janna is struggling to pull the pieces of her life together in a way she can cope with. She must learn to overcome her adversities despite the negative people in her life.

"SAINTS AND MISFITS is a reminder for us all that there is a little bit of saint, misfit, and monster in all of us....This book is a perfect summer read for all, but those who may struggle with discovering identity may enjoy this even more."

Janna categorizes the people in her life into three categories; saints, misfits and monsters. The saint is Sarah, the girl her brother, Muhammad, is courting to marry. Irked by Sarah’s ability to be kind and charitable to everyone while remaining beautiful and feminine the entire time, Janna avoids her at all costs. That is, until Muhammad blackmails her into helping with his courtship and in exchange promises to not tell their mother about the beginnings of her forbidden romance. Janna considers herself a misfit: intelligent and nerdy, she struggles with fitting in at a school of people who don’t understand her religion and the expectations it has. The monster is, of course, the boy who tried to rape her at a family gathering. Trying to forget that night, Janna refuses to tell anyone about it, until she is helped by the most unlikely girl and she is taught to overcome. Through the help of the “niqab ninja,” Janna confronts her attacker, but she doesn’t get the outcome she was hoping for.
 
In the midst of this, Janna is dealing with her loving, protective mother. As a single mother, she works long, long hours and spends the remainder of her time making sure her children are coping well with the divorce and their schooling. Janna also hears the criticism of her father who does not understand her decisions to wear her hijab.
 
The teenage years are awkward enough for the average teen, but add in sexual assault and a separated family and it seems unbearable. Ali does a wonderful job creating Janna. She is a relatable character for most, struggling with school, family, friends, crushes and making the right decisions. She is a fully-developed character, showing her soft side as well as her meaner side at times. The book is split into chapters titled with different combinations of saints, misfits or monsters depending on which characters appear throughout the chapter. This formatting is unique, providing readers with the information they need to mentally prepare themselves for each chapter, especially for chapters that involve Janna’s attacker.  
 
SAINTS AND MISFITS is a reminder for us all that there is a little bit of saint, misfit, and monster in all of us and that it’s okay to be confused and frustrated. This book teaches readers that even when going through a tough time, there will always be someone to help you, even those who you would least expect. This book is a perfect summer read for all, but those who may struggle with discovering identity may enjoy this even more.

Reviewed by Mikenzie R., Teen Board Member on June 27, 2017

Saints and Misfits
by S. K. Ali