Summer 2018 Reading Group Indie Next List
“This is a fantastic contemporary teen debut that tells the story of a Muslim teen, Janna, and her acceptance of her identity. Janna has some preconceived notions about some of her close friends and needs to be strong and brave as she fights others’ preconceived notions of good and bad. Questioning herself, her motives, her strengths, and her faith, Janna is a fully formed heroine for our time! Appreciating differences and strength in family are key themes in this terrific book.”
— Maureen Palacios, Once Upon a Time, Montrose, CA
A William C. Morris Award Finalist
An Entertainment Weekly Best YA Book of 2017
Saints and Misfits is a “timely and authentic” (School Library Journal, starred review) 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.
About the Author
S. K. Ali is a teacher based in Toronto whose writing on Muslim culture and life has appeared in the Toronto Star. Her family of Muslim scholars is consistently listed in the The 500 Most Influential Muslims in the World, and her insight into Muslim culture is both personal and far-reaching. A mother of a teenage daughter herself, S. K. Ali’s debut YA is a beautiful and nuanced story about a young woman exploring her identity through friendship, family, and faith.
*"Ali pens a touching exposition of a girl's evolution from terrified victim to someone who knows she's worthy of support and is brave enough to get it. Set in a multicultural Muslim family, this book is long overdue, a delight for readers who will recognize the culture and essential for those unfamiliar with Muslim experiences. This quiet read builds to a satisfying conclusion; readers will be glad to make space in their hearts—and bookshelves—for Janna Yusuf."
— Kirkus Reviews, STARRED REVIEW
*"This timely and authentic portrayal is an indisputable purchase in the realistic fiction category."
— School Library Journal, STARREV REVIEW
*"Ali’s debut offers a much-needed, important perspective in Janna, whose Muslim faith is pivotal but far from the only part of her multifaceted identity. . . . For readers unfamiliar with Muslim traditions, Ali offers plenty of context clues and explanations, though she always keeps the story solidly on Janna’s struggle to maintain friendships, nurse a crush, deal with bullies and predatory people in her life, and discover her own strength in the process. A wide variety of readers will find solidarity with Janna, and not just ones who wear a hijab."
— Booklist, STARRED REVIEW
"[A] sympathetic and thoughtful study of a girl’s attempt to find her place in a complicated world."
— Publishers Weekly
"Ali brings to life a nuanced intersection of culture, identity, and independence as Janna endures the typicalities of high school and the particularities of her evolving home life alongside the insidious impingement of rape culture. Readers will cheer Janna’s eventual empowerment."
— Horn Book
"[R]eaders . . .will appreciate Janna’s finding of a way to embrace her anger, receive support, and keep her faith. "
— Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books
“Saints and Misfits is an engaging portrayal of a young woman and the abundance of differing, loving people who make up her extended family.”
— Shelf Awareness