Publisher: Salaam Reads / Simon Schuster Books for Young Readers
Pub. Date: 2017
Genres: Young Adult, Contemporary Realistic Fiction
Rating: 5 of 5 Stars
Janna Yusuf is a high school sophomore and hijabi who is dealing with a crush and a monster. Beyond this, the three main types of people in her life are saints, misfits and monsters. I was more sold by the first scene of the book than the synopsis. In this scene, she wears a burkini to the beach despite her father’s criticisms, and shortly after we learn about the monster. S.K. Ali’s Saints and Misfits visits the crushes, friendships and struggles of a Muslim girl.
The tone of this book aimed for something light, and that made the chapters dealing with her monster make me feel the angst I do when I read fanfics in the Angst genre if muted. It was a strange balance because the rest of it is generally light and sexual assault is such a heavy topic, especially when only the victim and attacker are the only ones who knew about it. I think it matched the tone of the rest of the novel as well as it could, but it was strange for me. The tone worked well for every other scene and interaction.
It’s been a while since I last read a YA book that had a girl with a big crush on a guy, and I think this was done well. There are the friends who want to help, the people who want to destroy you, and the nosy family. The awkwardness in some of their interactions and Janna’s reactions to some things about her crush felt sweet and real. It wasn’t forced, and I loved that.
The relationships Janna shares with others was important to this book, and I like that it explored more than crushes and predators. Her friends exist in almost separate worlds. The relationships change, as they do when you’re in high school. Boundaries are tested and trust changes. The old man she cares for once a week makes her day and has changed her life with his wisdom. Janna’s family relationships are strained from leftover hurt from a divorce and from her perceptions of her mother and brother, and she has to figure out a way to get along with them. She also deals with her father’s opinions about her choices but enjoys his daily emails.
I haven’t read much in the way of books with Muslim characters, so I like the exploration of beliefs among her Muslim friends and family. Janna chooses to be hijabi, Fizz is proud of her family’s success, Saint Sarah is very into her religion, and Sausun is an awesome niqabi. We also see from the beginning that Janna’s father has pulled back from Islam. Amu, Janna’s uncle, also provides liberal answers to questions. His advice not only allows people to work out what works for them within their beliefs but also helps Janna through her issues of the day.
Saints and Misfits is a great book about a girl finding her voice. If you want more #ownvoice books with Muslim characters or if you like to read stories of girls dealing with crushes and trauma, you should try this book.