Book: Saints And Misfits by S.K. Ali
Published June 2017 by Salaam Reads/Simon Schuster Books For Young Readers|325 pages
Where I Got It: I own the hardcover
Genre: YA Contemporary
Saints and Misfits is an unforgettable debut novel that feels like a modern day My So-Called Life…starring a Muslim teen.
There are three kinds of people in my world:
1. Saints, those special people moving the world forward. Sometimes you glaze over them. Or, at least, I do. They’re in your face so much, you can’t see them, like how you can’t see your nose.
2. Misfits, people who don’t belong. Like me—the way I don’t fit into Dad’s brand-new family or in the leftover one composed of Mom and my older brother, Mama’s-Boy-Muhammad.
Also, there’s Jeremy and me. Misfits. Because although, alliteratively speaking, Janna and Jeremy sound good together, we don’t go together. Same planet, different worlds.
But sometimes worlds collide and beautiful things happen, right?
3. Monsters. Well, monsters wearing saint masks, like in Flannery O’Connor’s stories.
Like the monster at my mosque.
People think he’s holy, untouchable, but nobody has seen under the mask.
I wanted to like Saints And Misfits more than I actually did.
I was never completely invested, and while Janna seems to like photography and books, it wasn’t as explored as it could have been. For the most part, I was bored reading it but I was determined to finish the book.
As for the monster that we see referenced in the book, I knew where it was headed, and I waited quite a bit for the reveal. Unfortunately, I found that I could care less, since I I was pretty sure of what was coming. And it didn’t have the effect that it should have. It was built and then it just sort of…went nowhere. Well, that’s not completely right. I thought it was built up for nothing, and it didn’t go in the direction I thought it would. Which is unfortunate, because I thought it could have been interesting.
Still, I thought Janna was a pretty normal teen. She has a crush, who is a non-Muslim boy. She hangs out with her friends and takes a neighbor to game night at the local senior center. She has to deal with people sharing pictures of her without her hijab.
I’m not Muslim, but it seemed like it was a really big thing. It’s not something I completely understand, of course, but I can understand her being upset that those photos were posted on Facebook. I was bothered by how easily her classmate posted that photo, without a single thought about how Janna might feel about it. I’m not sure if it didn’t occur to her classmate that it was inappropriate and disrespectful (particularly because said pictures were taken during gym), or if her classmate knew and just didn’t care.
I did like how important her faith and identity was to Janna, and it was nice to see how, no matter what your beliefs are, we all have to with school and not-so-cool people and dating. I also liked the interfaith conversations and that there wasn’t any Islamophobia. At least that I saw, but it’s possible I missed it so…
I didn’t care for Janna, and she did keep people at a distance. She was judgemental and mean and hard to like. I’m fine with unlikable characters, but in this case, Janna was just…sort of…there. Which is a weird thing to say, since the book is about her, but this book clearly isn’t my cup of tea. I’d still recommend it, because it does seem like a good representation of a Muslim teen dealing with things a lot of teenagers deal with.
2 stars. I was bored reading this book, and it’s clearly not for me, but I still think it’s worth checking out.