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.
Sophomore Janna Yusuf is caught between her Muslim faith and the parts of her life that clash with it: her nonpracticing father; her crush Jeremy, who isn't Muslim; and the pious boy from her mosque who attempts to sexually assault her during a party. This push and pull gives readers unfamiliar with Islam a deep understanding of Muslim practices and women who wear the hijab without limiting the scope of the story. Instead, debut novelist Ali taps into universal thoughts and situations, including the feelings of not fitting in, oppressive social stigmas, and the difficulty of truly connecting with and trusting others. Everything is perceived and digested through Janna's lens as she questions a world that she finds is mostly gray areas: a photo project serves as an ironic twist for a girl pretending she wasn't assaulted, a woman she thinks is a saint turns out to be a typically flawed human, and her relationship with an elderly Indian man exposes her own shortcomings. It's a sympathetic and thoughtful study of a girl's attempt to find her place in a complicated world. Ages 14 up.