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Saints and Misfits

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Saints and Misfits is an unforgettable debut novel that feels like a modern day My So-Called Life…starring a Muslim teen.

How much can you tell about a person just by looking at them?

Janna Yusuf knows a lot of people can’t figure out what to make of her…an Arab Indian-American hijabi teenager who is a Flannery O’Connor obsessed book nerd, aspiring photographer, and sometime graphic novelist is not exactly easy to put into a box.

And Janna suddenly finds herself caring what people think. Or at least what a certain boy named Jeremy thinks. Not that she would ever date him—Muslim girls don’t date. Or they shouldn’t date. Or won’t? Janna is still working all this out.

While her heart might be leading her in one direction, her mind is spinning in others. She is trying to decide what kind of person she wants to be, and what it means to be a saint, a misfit, or a monster. Except she knows a monster…one who happens to be parading around as a saint…Will she be the one to call him out on it? What will people in her tightknit Muslim community think of her then?

336 pages, Hardcover

First published June 13, 2017

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About the author

S.K. Ali

11 books2,181 followers
About-the-author, bare bones: S. K. Ali writes the Muslim characters she never saw growing up — Muslim characters living life in color, in all sorts of stories. Insha'Allah.

The official, accoladey version: S. K. Ali is the NYT bestselling and award-winning author of several books. Her debut novel, Saints and Misfits was the winner of the 2018 APALA Honor award, the 2017 Middle East Book Honor Award, and a 2018 William C. Morris Award finalist. Her widely acclaimed second novel, LOVE FROM A TO Z, a story about finding love in the time of Islamophobia, was an Entertainment Weekly Top Ten Young Adult Book of 2019 and a Goodreads Choice Awards finalist . It was also the first teen novel chosen for NBC Today Show's Read with Jenna Book Club. The sequel to Saints and Misfits, Misfit in Love, was a People magazine best book of summer 2021. Her newest YA novel, LOVE FROM MECCA TO MEDINA releases Oct. 18, 2022. She also has a picture book co-authored with Team USA Olympic Medalist, Ibtihaj Muhammad, THE PROUDEST BLUE, which debuted on the New York Times bestseller list. Her Middle Grade novels include the critically acclaimed anthology ONCE UPON AN EID co-edited with Aisha Saeed, and the soon-to-be-released GROUNDED (Spring, 2023). She lives in Toronto with her family, which includes a very vocal cat named Yeti and his new pal, Mochi. Find her on twitter at https://twitter.com/SajidahWrites, on instagram at https://www.instagram.com/skalibooks/ , on TikTok at https://www.tiktok.com/@skalibooks , and on her website at https://skalibooks.com/.

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 1,624 reviews
Profile Image for ♛ may.
802 reviews3,763 followers
June 15, 2017

This is the first contemporary I’ve read with a muslim main character and damn, I was excited as heck but also so fricken worried that it would show a bad representation of islam.

The first thing I think all people need to understand is that the religion of islam is perfect but muslims are not. We all have faults and its not about judging and boasting about who the best is, but it’s about working your hardest on a daily basis to be the best and most honourable you can be.

There’s a lot of things I want to discuss but also a lot of things I’m not sure I have the capacity to explain (due to my lameness in language and expressing myself). If anything is confusing or unclear plz let me know, I’ll try my best to explain.

Be warned that I will be mentioning minor spoilers but I will try my best to be as vague as possible.

Pros
- Janna has a wholesome and realistic and beautiful relationship with her brother, Muhammad
- Loads of banter but theres still the underlying love and respect they have for each other
- I loved how the author used Janna’s uncle as a means to explain Islamic laws and rulings
- For example: Dear Imam, can Muslims grow (medicinal) marijuana? I’m all for helping people. Besides, God grew it here on earth, right?
- Which the answer for was: the laws of God ask us to not come near anything which alters our senses…to be mindful of Allah’s creation at all times...And yes, God did grow it. But he also grew poison ivy.
- R O A S T E D
- Islamic traditions were mentioned and explained without being preachy
- There was a good grasp of the muslim community
- Janna was trying to figure out life like most kids but still wanted to be a practicing muslim and tried to stand her ground (even if she didn’t always)
- The whole thing with non-causal “dating” in islam was discussed though progress throughout the entire plot of the story

description

Cons:
- I felt that the way the hijab was handled could have been better
- There was a moment where a non-related male saw Janna without her hijab and instead of freaking out and rushing to get her hijab, she stood around and sulked
- AND TO MAKE IT WORSE
- I just feel like that needed to be addressed again but it wasn’t
- And while Janna is still young and is bound to make mistakes, she made the choice to wear the hijab and so she has to fulfil those guidelines
- Hijab isn’t a cloth you take on and off as you please, it’s a piece of identity and a commitment made to God
- And pulling it off and on as you please only belittles the sacredness of it
- SO be respectful and don’t bloody do it

I’m really glad we got to see a closer-to-actual muslim representation in contemporary YA and I hope this is the beginning to many more diverse books being released because it was v v v refreshing to read.

Now I probably forgot to mention 50% of the stuff I intended to mention but I’m TRYING MY BEST OKAY

That’s all for now, folks.

4 stars!!


~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Buddy read with my babes, Jia & Em & Prag
Profile Image for Jiana.
296 reviews821 followers
August 4, 2017
Full review

The review includes one unmarked spoiler. There is a warning before it is stated.

When I heard this book is about a Muslim MC, I bumped it right up to the top of my TBR, because this is the first time I hear of a book portraying Islam. I admit I was very scared to see how my religion was going to be portrayed, especially when we live in a world where Islam is associated with stereotypes and bad generalizations and many false negative ideas... so I was deeply hoping this book would portray the religion as is. I have so much to say about this book, since it is very important to me. I'll try to cover everything I remember.

Janna is a Muslim Egyptian Indian teen living in the USA, and like any other teen, she encounters the regular day-to-day issues a teen encounters, but she encounters additional issues because she is Muslim. But the thing is, Janna is continuously criticized, and as a Muslim, I go through that. In this book, it is clearly shown how Muslims are always criticized and expected to be perfect. The thing is: Muslims are not perfect. We, like any other human being, make mistakes. Just because we're Muslims does not mean we are unallowed to make mistakes. Some people who don't understand our religion think the religion is faulty and they believe it when the media presents false ideas and brainwashes people who are too simple-minded to use their brain and think. Our religion is a beautiful religion that's for sure, but what's not for sure is that every Muslim is perfect. We are not perfect, yet we try to follow our religion as much as we are able to. Unfortunately, there are also "Muslims" who are Muslims by name and nothing more.

The first scene in the book is very powerful. It shows Janna wearing a burkini and her dad criticizing that. That brings about the wide-spread false idea that Muslim women wearing the hijab are "oppressed". Janna tells her dad that it is her choice she wears the hijab and it is not anyone else's choice.

Janna is continuously criticized by her family and friends. Just because she is a hijabi Muslim, they think it is okay to put that label on her. Wrong. Yes, being a hijabi Muslim is a big part of her identity, but it does not constitute 100% of who she is. Janna is so much more than that. And all Muslims are much more than that "label" automatically put on them. We are our preferences, our likes, our dislikes, our hobbies, our thoughts, our personality, our friendships... And I just wish people would remember that every time they encounter a Muslim and not just automatically assume all those stereotypes and generalizations that go around...

What I didn't expect is that the book is dark. So don't expect a fluffy contemporary. Janna is almost raped by a Muslim guy who's viewed as perfect just because he memorized the Quran and she's too scared to tell anyone, because who would believe her word against a word of a "perfect and pious" man? That's a big example of a Muslim individual by name only. Memorizing the Quran is something amazing, that's for sure. However, what's the point in memorizing it and not following its core messages? What's the point of memorizing it and not understanding and following what it calls for?

“Your cousin ruined himself. And you enable it with your stupid belief that just because he memorized the Qur’an he’s untouchable. The Qur’an is a book of messages. And he didn’t get one of the main ones in it: respect.”


My only complaint is how the hijab was portrayed. SPOILER AHEAD!!!! Janna has a crush on a non-Muslin boy and during gym class she took off her hijab, which is okay when the room is only full of girls. However, what happens is the boy she has a crush on comes in unannounced and see Janna hijab-less. Janna, instead of doing what is logical i.e. covering herself/hiding... and asking/demanding him to leave, she stood there, all frozen, and even curled her hair the next day. I was not okay with that. Yes, Janna is a teen and she is young, but when you choose to wear the hijab (Janna has been wearing it for 3 years), you have an obligation and a commitment towards it and you can't just disrespect it.END OF SPOILER! Janna goes through more tough situations in the book, all related to her being a hijabi Muslim teen.

I loved Janna's family, particularly her brother. She has such a beautiful relationship with him, despite being tense at some times. That's completely normal. Also, her relationship with Mr. Ram, who is viewed as a mentor to her and understands her love for literature. In addition to that, Janna's friendships: Tats, Sarah, Sausun... those ladies took me by surprise to be honest. They turned out strong in their own way. The characters in this book are one of the strongest points in it. This book is so character-driven and so diverse in personality. It's great.

I loved how easy S.K. Ali explained Islam and its guidelines and its core values. It wasn't complicated and it was done just right and I thank her so much for that and I hope she continues writing books with Muslim MCs because the book community is in dire need for such books. So, if you decide to read the book and you are unfamiliar with Islam, don't worry, this book will explain the religion in a very simplistic and clear way.

Yes, I struggled big time with the writing and the pacing of the book. It took me over a month to read. I struggled a lot with the first 50% of it to the extent I put it on hold for a few days, but a nagging voice in my head made me pick it up again because of how important that book is. I'm so glad I did! It got extremely better in the second half.

So.... read this book, guys. It's very important.

Update 26/7/2017: Yes, I am indeed back to this book. Ignore the fact that I put it on hold a few days ago. I'm a mess, okay, someone save me from myself. Anywaaaaay, I'm determined to finish it this time.

Update 18/7/2017: So........................ I've been "reading" this book for a month so far and I haven't made it to 50%. It's just so utterly boring and I have zero motivation to continue it. I tried to push myself to read it because it is an important for me as it has Muslim rep, but I just can't force myself anymore. As much as it pains to do this, I'm going to have to DNF this for now. I may decide to continue this someday. Who knows.

13/6/2017 :A YA book with a Muslim teen? You bet I'll be breaking my ebook ban for it! The rep better be well done or I'll cry.

Buddy reading with Em, May, and Prag
Profile Image for Yusra  ✨.
249 reviews510 followers
May 29, 2019
wow. who knew this book was going to be such a breath of fresh air, and at the same time, hold an incredible emotional burden?

tw- sexual assault

to be honest, i think the best way to write this review is just tell you what i loved and what i … hated? because me jumping into this expecting some great muslim rep + a cute contemporary did not prepare me and it made my reading experience so much better

the good

- this was so rich in culture. i loved the close-knit family dynamic that is so present in our culture today, the family rep and the various perspectives given. i related so much to the experiences that the characters shared together, despite not sharing the exact same culture… comes to show how we can all find some connection if a story covers it properly, which this book definitely did.
- muslim rep. I LOVED IT. done so so well. (except for a few things which i shall explain in my hate section) i loved the connections between each character and asdfdfsdl i was so happy to find this rep!!

characters:

janna
i found myself liking her more & more as the book went on. her thoughts and emotions are portrayed in a very natural and realistic way. not a “thou must be pious and be as pious as me!” or on the other hand, “let me rebel against my religion!” which i adored. she was the perfect in-between.

fizz

she has a very strong religious connection while still being funny and living her life without limiting herself at all, which is so easy to relate to.

muhammad
i’ve alwaysss wanted an older brother so you can imagine how much i loved his character!

nuah

YES YES YES 1000% YES. you already know i was shipping him had janna like nothing else. he was funny!!! that’s so important!! get yo head in the game janna, you’re missing out.


saint sarah

tbh despite janna thinking she was the most annoying girl on the planet, sarah was actually one of my favs!

soon-lee

SUCH A FIERCE QUEEN that needed a lot more coverage. therefore i have not much more to write for her. sorry to let you down soon-lee.

sausan

she was a NIQABI !!!!!!!!!! this was the rep that has been missing! i loved it !! i also have the most respect for niqabis. especially in this day & age.

all in all the characters were done extremely well.

*what i’m going to mention below is not exactly a spoiler bc it’s a trigger warning as well as happening in the 2nd chapter but don’t read it if you don’t wanna *

- janna is sexually assaulted my her best friend’s cousin, who also happens to be hafiz (memorizer) of the Holy Quran. so naturally, everyone thinks he could never do something like that. guys this was SO important. so so so important. recently i’ve seen news stories where imams (leaders of mosques) molest young girls. this is not a representation of an entire religion but it happens, and the fact that the author managed to craft such a heartbreaking and raw story around this topic literally gave it all the stars. it was so real and emotional, and made me relate to janna even more because I can only imagine what it’s like to have nobody believe you, to have someone who is regarded as a “saint” to the rest of your community to have done something so violating... it’s a lot to digest.


the bad

okay y’all.
- i am not, in any way, saying that muslim girls are not allowed to have crushes on non-muslim guys, okay? or vice-versa. the difference is that guys can end up marrying non-muslim girls, while the other way is not permitted . i’m not trying to preach anything here, just stating the facts that should have been at the very least discussed by an ownvoices author who was advertising (and delivering on in most aspects) muslim rep.
regarding the next point: when a girl wears a hijab it is a commitment. however i am not degrading or demoralizing anyone who chooses to take it off, because it is not in my place to judge.
- so what was the issue? janna has a crush on a guy named jeremy. janna has an all-female gym class in which she takes off her hijab. jeremy walks in, sees janna without hijab. janna is aware of this fact and still resumes to sit there and gawk at him. and you know who ends up reminding her that she is uncovered? HER TEACHER. who pronounces the word as “hajeeb”. and then janna gets embarrased. not even because she wasn’t wearing her hijab but because HER TEACHER “EMBARRASSED HER” in front of the whole class, more specifically JEREMY.
- i would be fine by this. i would have waved it off. but here is the deal. the next few days, she begins to condition her hair and plan on leaving it out purposefully because she wants to look good for jeremy. Jeremy tells the gym teacher he needs to practice softball during the female gym class, and once again, the gym teacher (ms.hajeeb) is the one who calls janna and tells her to wear her hijab to class.
- but janna takes the wide opportunity to not wear it and is once again embarrased that she was called out on it!!! by ms.hajeeb!!!!
- and when there is a supply teacher, she is ecstatic because that means she doesn’t have to wear her hijab. & I just don’t understand why this was necessary?? why it had to be about janna taking off her hijab to, what, make jeremy like her?
- in conclusion, my personal opinion is the author should have known better than to elaborate on jeremy and janna’s relationship in the way that she did, using the plot that she did. it was unnecessary for them to meet just so they could feed chickadees.

despite my little rant, don’t let it take you away from this book; it was really cute, good, and still holds the strongest message at the roots.
758 reviews2,357 followers
February 17, 2018
I'm crying. MUSLIM. TEEN. AKA ME. REPRESENTED. It was kind of meh but i still enjoyed it.

REVIEW TO COME!!!!

《》《》《》《》《》《》《》《》《》《》《》《》《》
what am I going to do with my life until June?
:) :) :)
Profile Image for may ➹.
463 reviews1,851 followers
March 14, 2018
This was such a great contemporary with the right amount of fluff, heavier topics, and diversity!!

I actually was not expecting this book to handle such heavy topics like rape & sexual assault, but I felt like that really added a lot more to the story and made it even more poignant.

I was also very excited to read this for the Muslim rep that I’d heard was overall quite accurate. I recommend reading ownvoices reviews (like May’s, Em’s, and Jiana’s) to see how accurate they thought the rep was, since I’m not Muslim and cannot comment on that!!

Janna was a very well-fleshed out character, and I enjoyed reading the from her perspective. She had a strong personality and was the exact opposite of a boring, flat protagonist. She was so three-dimensional and real, with flaws and doubts that made her human, and seeing her grow throughout the story was beautiful.

Despite handling heavier topics, this book was quite cute and fluffy. Fluff books are either hit or miss with me, and this one was definitely a hit. I mean, I totally called the love interest (and so did everyone else, probably), but it’s okay because I 100% ship it.

Empowerment was a huge thing in this book, and I LOVE how it was tackled?? Janna grows to become an even stronger character and has the courage to speak up about what happened to her, despite fearing what people would think at first. She learned that she has to take action for herself, and that was so so beautiful to see, especially in a novel aimed towards today’s teens!

This is a very underrated yet important book, so I hope to see more people picking it up soon! The character development and themes of empowerment were truly beautiful, and not only is it a significant book, but also a really fun and enjoyable one.
Profile Image for Romie.
1,053 reviews1,270 followers
July 25, 2017
Trigger warning : sexual assault, photos posted on the internet of the MC without her hijab without her consent, disrespect of the MC’s faith with ignorant comments and microagressions.

It’s so hard to articulate my thoughts, because there are so many things I want to talk about and I’m afraid I won’t do the book any justice! Which I’m pretty I actually won’t.

This book is extremely important, and I’ll try my best in this review to explain why I think so.

Here we have a YA Contemporary with a Muslim teenager girl, opening with a scene of Janna wearing a burkini at the beach and explaining it’s her choice to wear it. Not somebody else’s. This first scene shows you what you’ll get in this book : Muslim girls choosing for themselves ; a girl choosing to wear a hijab, a girl choosing the wear a niqab, another choosing not to wear anything on her head . . . It’s their choice. Their power.

This book also shows how society is being unfair to the Islamic community : it’s like every Muslim person has to be absolutely flawless if they don’t want to be judged. They can’t make mistake, because if they do, people think ‘what people say about them on TV is right’ or some BS like that. But here’s some news for you : nobody is perfect. Muslims don’t have to irreproachable just to please the idea you have of them.
In this book, Janna is still trying to find who she is as a person, what are her values, her beliefs, who she can and can’t trust . . . and she makes mistakes, BIG DEAL. So does the entire humanity. And yet people judge her, and what is more upsetting, they think they have the right to judge.

It deals with what happens when we put people on a pedestal. How it’s nearly impossible to remove them from it once they’re here. I’m going to leave this quote here :
“Your cousin ruined himself. And you enable it with your stupid belief that just because he memorized the Qur’an he’s untouchable. The Qur’an is a book of messages. And he didn’t get one of the main ones in it : respect.”
Janna is stalked and nearly rapped by Farooq, a guy everybody loves for the simple fact that he’s ‘Mister Perfect’ and when Janna fins the strength to fight back, she’s met with a wall. People prefer to believe perfect Farooq rather than flawed Janna.
Farooq, at least to me, is misogyny and male privilege personified. There’s no better to put it. It takes what he wants, and then finds a way to make people feel guilty for something he did to them.
My best friend’s cousin tried to rape me and now thinks it’s a mistake but still wants me to admit I wanted him in the first place.
No. She didn’t. When someone gets rapped or nearly rapped, they NEVER asked for it. Understood?

Being Muslim and a hijabi isn’t everything there is to know about Janna. A lot of people don’t see her as her own person, but as a window to how a Muslim teenager girl should look/act. But she’s so much more.
Janna loves photography - the pictures you take in the moment, when you capture an expression on someone else’s face, the details - she loves to read books written by Flannery O’Connor or the emails her dad send her everyday. She wears black because it’s her comfy colour, loves halal gummy bears, or the moments she spends with Mr. Ram . . . and so many more things.

Janna has to face microagressions daily - even from her best friend who doesn’t see why it’s so bad if a guy saw her without her hijab, or people who think it’s okay to post pictures of her on the internet . . . every day her faith is dismissed, sometimes by people who say ‘I can’t pronounce hajeeb it’s too hard’ HOW IS PRONOUNCING HIJAB TOO HARD? HOW? Because she’s different - and difference is good - she has to face and deal with other people’s ignorance. They dismiss her pain.

If there is one thing I absolutely loved in this book, it’s the friendships. I loved Soon-Lee, Sausun, Sarah, and even Tats when she didn’t say something hurtful. These are smart, great, strong and powerful women. They don’t take a no from the patriarchy as an answer, they fight for what they want and believe in, they don’t pity themselves, they act. Janna is lucky to have them, but it goes both ways, they’re also really lucky to have her.

Please please please, do yourself a huge favour, and read this book. I swear you won’t regret it.
Profile Image for leenahreads.
209 reviews
May 14, 2017
I.finished.the.book. *a lot of incoherent screaming and squealing and oh my god*
You can find my, very long, full review here the tales of two readers

This book has EVERYTHING: family (one hell of a cute brother that I demand a full book about), friendship (truly tatyana is best friend goals), romance, character development AND positive Muslim representation. YOU REALLY WANT THIS BOOK IN YOUR LIFE!

Saints and Misfits is a multidimensional #ownvoices story that portrays the good and the bad of the Muslim community, the side that no one bother to speaks of. Did you know that Muslims get up in the morning, have breakfast, brush their teeth, fall in love, pay their bills, and have normal stories? Did you know that we aren’t just terrorists or NOT terrorists? Well, Saints and Misfits does just that. It shows you the men within our community that are despicable just like many others, but it also shows you the good ones, the ones who are 100% faithful without being on the extreme. It also shows you Muslims on various degrees of religiosity. This is a story of feminism, rape, interfaith, all intertwined in the complex characterization of our 15 year old narrator, hijabi, Janna Yusuf. And by the end of the book, you’re left with a tinge of hope that maybe everyone can start seeing Muslims just like that: not black or white, but people who don’t have to be on either side of the spectrum. That is why #ownvoices representation is very important, because we get to tell our own stories and not have them told by others who only see us as one thing or NOT that one thing.


UPDATE (22/3/2017): WE HAVE A HIJABI ON THE COVER PEOPLE!! THIS IS NOT A DRILL LOOK HOW GORGEOUS IT IS!!


Muslim? Arab? and Indian? You mean, I, a both Muslim and an Arab, am finally addressed in an upcoming YA book? wow. GIVE IT TO ME NOW.
Profile Image for lady h.
639 reviews182 followers
May 11, 2017
I loved this book. I loved it, I loved it, I loved it.

I will try to write a coherent review, though mostly I just feel like squeezing this book and hugging it tight and typing something nonsensical in all-caps, so forgive me if this isn't especially eloquent. As a Muslim woman (and Egyptian! like the protagonist of this novel! I've literally never read about an Egyptian girl before!), this book meant so much to me. I've been reading for as long as I can remember, but I do not recall ever reading a book where I saw myself and my community represented. Especially not in such a positive light. I am so happy this book exists now. Not only that, I am so happy that it is a good book. A positively excellent, hilarious, entertaining book that I will be recommending to every single Muslim girl I know.

Janna Yusuf is a high school sophomore with plenty of wit and snark to spare. The story is told entirely in her perspective, which is fantastic, because Janna is one of the most realistic, likeable protagonists I've ever come across. She's hilarious, sarcastic, intelligent, and oddly self-aware for a teenager. She's also half-Egyptian, half-Indian, Muslim, and a hijabi. She's a part-time photographer, part-time graphic novelist, part-time Flannery O'Connor geek.

There are no stereotypes in this book. Out of habit, I tensed when the older brother Muhammad was introduced, because I am so used to Muslim men, especially older brothers, portrayed as misogynistic oafs. But Muhammad is delightful - your typical annoying older brother, sweet, charming, caring. He wants to study philosophy and marry his "girlfriend," whom Janna refers to as "Saint Sarah" because she seems to be perfect (though there's more to her than meets the eye)!

Janna's uncle, an imam at the local mosque, answers religious questions with humor and wisdom. Janna's father is ultra-liberal and secular, now married to a white woman. When we first meet him, he loudly proclaims to anyone who will listen that he would rather his daughter wear a bikini rather than a burkini - not the best thing to say, but still, a refreshing change of pace from what we're used to seeing of Muslim fathers.

Another great character is Sausun, a niqabi girl who also wears Doc Martens and is the Muslim equivalent of goth/emo teen. She's tough as nails, hosts a YouTube show about niqabis, and absolutely shatters any stereotypes about women who wear niqabs. The niqab itself, the act of wearing one, is given nuance: Sausun implies she wears it because she wants to decide who is worthy of seeing her face. Janna talks about the protection the niqab offers, to someone who perhaps might wish to see but not be seen.

And then there's Nuah! A black Muslim boy who clearly has a crush on Janna (though she doesn't see it until the end of the book), he's sweet, optimistic, and silly. I loved him so, so much. Please, give me a sequel to this where Janna and Nuah are dating!

Not all is rosy, however: the main conflict in the book is that Janna has been sexually assaulted by Farooq, a boy who has memorized the Qu'ran and is seen as the most pious Muslim around. For those of you non-Muslims out there who don't know, memorizing the Qu'ran is a big freaking deal. Doing it pretty much guarantees you're untouchable, which is why Janna has such a difficult time telling anyone what happened. She worries people won't believe her, especially as Farooq has started talking about how Janna is "straying" from Islam. Janna is also hesitant to say anything for fear of making her community look bad.

There are two important things I want to say about all this:

1. There's a slang term in the Muslim community called "wallah bro." It is used to describe a Muslim man who thinks waaaay too much of his own alleged piety and takes the time out of his day to admonish Muslim girls on how they should behave. Wallah bros, a side effect of patriarchy as it manifests in Muslim communities, are pervasive and annoying as hell. Now, Farooq, attempted rapist, takes this to a whole new level, but he still displays the utter hypocrisy of a wallah bro when he posts vague statuses on Facebook about how it's "sad" that Muslim girls are straying from their religion (in response to Janna accidentally being seen without her hijab), when he's literally going around assaulting women. Growing up Muslim, I've witnessed this hypocrisy so many times that it was so validating to see it utterly destroyed here on the page.

2. When Janna talks about not wanting to make her community look bad, my heart hurt. I completely understood. No community is perfect, but non-Muslims are always so ready to talk about backwards Muslims and men who beat their wives and savage religions that it's difficult to say anything in criticism of your own culture, for fear of it being co-opted by others. It's not that our cultures shouldn't be criticized - but these outsiders looking in, blinded by prejudice and ignorance, simplify an enormously complex issue to suit their racist existing narratives.

I fully expect this book to see criticism from such people who will insist that the representation of the Muslim community in this book is "too positive" or "unrealistic" or whatever. To those people, I would say two things: first, screw you for thinking that Muslim communities can't be good and kind and supportive. Second, yes, Muslims communities have their issues. You know what? So does literally every other community. We're not special. What is special about us is that we're nearly always portrayed negatively, so let us catch a fucking break for once. We don't always have to talk about our intra-community problems just because that's the narrative that people have come to expect.

This is one of very, very, very few #ownvoices books about Muslims by a Muslim, and it's lost in a sea of books written by non-Muslims that portray us as violent sadists at best, ignorant savages at worst. It's nice to have some positive representation for once. We deserve it. If that bothers you, work hard to make sure that thousands of other #ownvoices books about Muslims flood the publishing industry, so we can see more variety of stories.

Anyway: you guys, this book was so, so, so good. Every time I read something in this book that I related to, I got this...jolt. Like, hey, yeah, that's me! That's my family! That's my community! It was an amazing feeling. Is this what everyone feels when they read books with people they can relate to on such a personal level?

Read this book. Even if you're not Muslim - actually, especially if you're not Muslim. Especially if you don't know much about Muslims or have conflicting feelings about Muslims. You'll learn a lot. And even if you rarely read YA contemporary, I highly recommend picking this book up. It's worth your time, I promise. It's not juvenile or overly preachy and though it discusses many heavy topics, it's never heavy-handed with them. And I literally could not put it down. Janna's hilarious and deadpan narration kept me hooked, in a book where not too much happens! This is one of the few books I can see myself reading again and again, and I can't wait for it to come out so I can buy a copy for my bookshelf.

Thank you to NetGalley for providing me with an ARC of this book!
Profile Image for Norah Una Sumner.
845 reviews446 followers
August 8, 2017
3.5 stars

Buddy read with the one and only Sara.

I was really torn on how the rate this book but I'll have to settle for 3.5 stars. Saints and Misfits is a good and important book and I would recommend it to my dear Goodreads friends who maybe didn't have the opportunity to read a book with a Muslim protagonist and learn more about Islam. Everyone knows that I love YA books with developed family dynamics and I was happy to see how nicely the relationship between Janna and her brother developed throughout the book. I loved Janna's fierceness and the way SHE chose to be a hijabi despite her father's nagging. My first problem, however, sort of lies there. . Out of all supporting characters, I loved Sarah the most and thought she was a great addition to the story. My second problem was that the rest of the supporting characters seemed manic, from the way they talk to each other to the way they act. Janna dealing with the "monster" was another, however, powerful part of this book and I think it was done rather fantastically. I love that Saints and Misfits took a darker turn than I had expected it to. My third problem is the fact that in this book, like in many other YA books, there is always the need for a love interest. Janna is 15 years old, she doesn't need a love interest after love interest just because the first one didn't work out. And my fourth problem was the writing style - it's choppy and a bit of a mess at times.

BUT I did really like Saints and Misfits. Janna's story is an important one and as someone who grew up in a Christian and Muslim family and was always sort of torn between two religions I could strongly relate to Janna. I loved seeing Islam represented in YA literature.
Profile Image for Fizah(Books tales by me).
621 reviews50 followers
April 27, 2021
Thank you Netgalley and Publisher for this review copy.
“The truth does not change according to our ability to stomach it.”

I wanted to read a light and cute read and from nowhere I picked this one, and I only have one problem with this book and that is Why I haven’t read before, I started in the morning and finished it at night.

I was completely submerged in this book. My most favourite thing about this book is that it is different from other books on Islamophobia, It didn’t even slightly try to manipulate Islam in the name of culture or for the sake of glamorization of the book… The content was so original.

Again this book focused that this is not religion that makes someone bad, it is people who are bad and it doesn’t have anything with any religion.

Janna Yusuf, who is a hijabi but also a teenager, is trying to follow Islam but still, she is human and makes mistakes. It is so easy to relate to her.

I loved her family who never investigates her too much on her any action, Muhammad is such an ideal brother we need this kind of brother in our society. Sausan is such a cool character which I really enjoyed. Characters weren’t one-dimensional as most of the books show Muslim characters so stereotypical. We have characters from Amu, a practical Imam to Farooq, a monster who is using religion to hide his evilness.

“the why you do something is important.”

*Spoiler start*
I read reviews of people complaining that the ending was quick or sudden, I think the ending was perfect, It was about Janna’s bravery and as far as Farooq is concerned, a humiliation in a mosque in front of a community you know for all your life is satisfactory.

*Spoiler end*

P.S I found my name in a book finally, I never thought I’ll ever found it, it was with Arabic pronunciation but who cares I got a book with my name 😁
Profile Image for Grace (BURTSBOOKS).
153 reviews347 followers
July 2, 2018
It's so nice that a book like this exists and I appreciate all it was trying to do but .... yikes. RTC
Profile Image for Fafa's Book Corner.
510 reviews297 followers
December 29, 2020
DNF

Mini review:

I was so excited to read this! This is one of the first books featuring a Muslim teenager as the main character. Unfortunately it wasn't for me.

I liked Janna. She was nice as was her family and friends. The portrayal of Islam was well done and accurate.

There was a point where I was engaged but then it went downhill. It started to get really boring and it was becoming tedious. I tried to read a physical copy and an audiobook but it still wasn't working for me.

I truly believe that this book is important and should be read by everybody. Highly recommend.
Profile Image for Mariah Roze.
1,015 reviews919 followers
March 19, 2018
"Janna Yusuf knows a lot of people can’t figure out what to make of her…an Arab Indian-American hijabi teenager who is a Flannery O’Connor obsessed book nerd, aspiring photographer, and sometime graphic novelist is not exactly easy to put into a box. And Janna suddenly finds herself caring what people think. Or at least what a certain boy named Jeremy thinks. Not that she would ever date him—Muslim girls don’t date. Or they shouldn’t date. Or won’t? Janna is still working all this out.
While her heart might be leading her in one direction, her mind is spinning in others. She is trying to decide what kind of person she wants to be, and what it means to be a saint, a misfit, or a monster. Except she knows a monster…one who happens to be parading around as a saint…Will she be the one to call him out on it? What will people in her tightknit Muslim community think of her then?"
Profile Image for Brooke.
274 reviews137 followers
July 8, 2017
3.5 stars

I will start by saying I won't be fleshing out a full review for this book. SAINTS AND MISFITS is about Janna's story, an Egyptian Indian Muslim teen. What I have to say about this aspect doesn't really matter; I am not Muslim so I cannot attest to whether or not this is an accurate portrayal or the specifics of Janna's actions. (Though I have read that this is a more realistic look at the religion, which makes me happy because everyone deserves to see themselves represented in a book.) If you're interested in this book, make sure to check out the #ownvoices reviews. They're well worth your time.

For a debut, this is truly impressive. Ali does a wonderful job of penning complex characters, each of whom have lives separate of one another. No interchangeable people here. Janna is the type of MC female I'd like to see in more YA contemporaries. She's strong in her faith, but naturally is starting to feel the pressure of her peers. She is trying to become her own person; holding onto who she is while trying to make an identity that suits her. And for the romance part- she questions this, but not once does she change or throw away her values for someone else. She grapples with these emotions as well as making sure her harbored dark secret never surfaces.

Farooq, the cousin of Jana's friend Fizz, attempted to rape Jana. Feelings of shame force her to keep quiet; Farooq is well-known in the community, & who would ever believe he did that? Although Jana does end up (somewhat) confronting her attacker, the interaction felt lackluster. I would have liked to see this take up a larger portion of the book, considering this is one of the main aspects of Jana's story. Because of this, I didn't feel the ending was as powerful as it could have been. I understand why Ali left an open ending, but I wish there would have been more added/a better sense of closure.

Regardless, there are still many things SAINTS AND MISFITS include that are worth reading for. Janna's friendships, including her one with Mr. Ram, are healthy relationships that are multi-layered & not the common "empty space" friendship tropes I see so much in YA. In a word: substance. And as I stated, I won't pretend that I know Muslim culture. I think it's an absolutely beautiful thing, but I don't know all the logistics or terminology or background, so having Ali seamlessly interweave this into the novel? THANK YOU.

The reason why I'm only rating this 3.5 stars (besides the ending), is because I was never invested in any of the characters. I loved Janna's attitude & the positivity of relationships with her support system. I could FEEL for her, but no one was a character I was clinging to, desperate to see their outcomes. I also wish Ali had spent more time explaining Sarah's religious transformation, as well as Jana's friendship with Nuah.

Overall, SAINTS AND MISFITS is definitely one you won't want to miss if YA contemps are your thing. Ali has penned a fantastic tale & I can't wait for her next work.
Profile Image for Maria.
561 reviews356 followers
June 22, 2017


An ARC of Saints And Misfits by S.K. Ali was provided to me by Simon & Schuster Canada in exchange for an honest review. This does not effect my opinion in any way.

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Actual Rating: 3.5 Stars

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Saints and Misfits by S.K. Ali has been one of the most talked about books of the summer. The hype was definitely real! I even had the opportunity to meet S.K. Ali prior to the book’s release at an Indigo Teen Preview event! Did you know that she is based in Toronto!? Meeting her and hearing her talk about Saints and Misfits definitely helped move it up on my list of most anticipated reads of the year.

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What I Liked

The characters. The characters were definitely the strongest aspect of this novel. They were diverse and stood out from one another as they had their own individual personalities. I loved Janna, but I think the stand-outs for me were Nuah and Mohammad. Nuah because of his friendship with Janna and Mohammad because of the pretty accurate depiction of a bond between siblings. I don’t have an older brother, but I do have a younger sister and I know that even when you’re having an argument, you will always be there to whoop anyone’s ass that bothers your sibling.

I learned new things. Saints and Misfits features the story of a young Muslim teen. As I myself am not Muslim, I learned a lot about Muslim culture! I was luck enough to grow up in a very multi-cultural setting, so there were a few things that I already knew, but through Saints and Misfits I was able to learn so much more. I know a few readers found it hard to follow when Muslim terms were used casually without explanation, but I personally liked that. There are probably so many moments in novels that randomly drop Catholic terms and just expect people to know what it means. It was refreshing to read and come across a word that I was unsure about. It forced me to research and learn new things, which I am always grateful for.

The average every day life. I loved that Saints and Misfits took readers through a day in the life of your normal teen Muslim girl. The story wasn’t over the top or super dramatic, but instead focused on a young girl dealing with her life. It was a fresh new take on a different teenaged perspective and one that I haven’t read before. Saints and Misfits also touched on the very important topic of attempted sexual assault. Not only did we as readers witness how Janna had to deal with the situation, but it also took a look at how difficult dealing with the situation is when the culprit is a very prestigious and highly respected member of the mosque she attends. Saints and Misfits deals with some heavy topics, but perfectly intertwines them with normal, average moments in every teenagers life.

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What I Didn’t Like

The pacing. Unfortunately, the pacing of this novel felt a little off for me. There were moments that felt like they were dragging on and I felt myself wanting to skim through them. I’m not sure what it was, but it wasn’t as smooth of a read as I was hoping it would be.

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Overall, I really loved reading from a different perspective that I had never read before. I learned more about Muslim which was amazing. While there were moments that dragged a little, there was a very strong story underneath that I definitely learned from.

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Initial post reading thoughts:

I'm definitely going to need a little more time to properly digest my thoughts on this one, but overall I liked it. I didn't necessarily love it, but I definitely didn't hate it either. It kind of fell somewhere in the middle for me. I loved Janna and her story, but there were moments that felt a little dry for me personally. As mentioned, I'm going to think about this one a little more before I write a full review!
Profile Image for hasfia.
161 reviews47 followers
January 15, 2023
4.25 stars ✨ I have multiple serious thoughts on this but I’m not sure when I’ll be able to write them out, for now, just know that this book should be read w caution
Profile Image for Sahar.
301 reviews246 followers
February 26, 2021
⚠️TW: attempted sexual assault.

Janna Yusuf is a Indian-Arab hijabi living in America with her brother and her mum after her parents divorce. After almost being molested by a twisted family friend who outwardly boasts piety and is the poster boy for a Good Muslim™️, Janna attempts to recover from both the trauma of the divorce and the assault by pushing the dreadful events to the back of her mind. Being part of the same community, however, means Janna is exposed to the latter source of misery on a regular basis, dubbing her assaulter “the Monster”. Along with Monsters, she establishes two other categories of people: Saints (do-gooders, like her brothers angelic fiancé) and Misfits (muddled individuals like herself).

There was a LOT to unpack in this book considering it is YA. I appreciate Ali wanted to address a plethora of taboo topics, but I don’t think the main crux of the story (i.e the attempted assault) was addressed or reconciled in a manner that brought justice or peace to the protagonist (or indeed the reader) in earnest. It makes sense that it was sporadically vaguely referenced so as to demonstrate Janna’s suppression of the event and reflect her trauma, but the eventual “reconciliation” felt quite lacklustre and unsatisfactory.

On the other hand, the reality and implications of divorce were portrayed well. Religious differences can certainly be a cause for separation, particularly when one party disavows religion almost in its entirety and decides to live a godless life. Janna’s liberal father is not only sceptical of her adherence to faith but also discourages her from dressing modestly. Her mum isn’t really any better to be honest, nor is her desperate-to-get-married brother. Janna has no one meaningful to confide in.

I shan’t dwell on the fact that Janna lusts after white boy Jeremy for most of the book (her own father married Linda after all, so who’s to stop Janna from following in his footsteps). What I found unbelievable was the nonchalant manner by which Janna acted when Jeremy “accidentally” saw her sans-hijab. Why Janna would remain friends with someone who outright disrespected her faith and exposed her to a random male is beyond me. Talk about tone deaf and ignorant.

Reading this same narrative for the umpteenth time was quite disheartening to be honest, but I will give Ali credit because at least the protagonist was struggling with distressing affairs and not just chasing her desires willy nilly like the hijab-removing heroines before her. I would have probably really enjoyed this when I was a teen a decade ago (this is YA, after all. I’m not exactly the target audience, my ailing joints attest to that, don’t you worry) and I definitely would have praised this book for highlighting such vital female-centred issues - ones that are often readily dismissed by (male) community leaders who either don’t believe you in the first instance or impart the cop-out order of “have patience”. Teaching girls that the very fibre of their being is fitna and that their bodies are what provoke poor men is beyond harmful and is what perpetuates abuse against women. I thus appreciated that this was addressed (albeit subpar) and that Janna eventually overcame her shame and exposed her assailant.
Profile Image for Kamalia.
Author 2 books194 followers
July 16, 2017
Saints and Misfits is everything i've been waiting for in the Young Adult genre. It is so exciting to finally see proper Muslim representation in one of my favourite genres to read, and a huge bonus is that the book is actually pretty incredible. I am very impressed by S. K. Ali's debut novel, and I am definitely excited to read more books published by Salaam Reads. I am rating this beautiful book 4.75 stars, it's definitely going to make it into one of my favourites of the year!

Oh God, where do I start with this review? The not-that-cliche plot? The amazing blend of imperfect characters? The friendship goals? The important issues being discussed and tackled? How empowering it is for Muslim women who are being mistreated? How it shows the beauty of Islam without sounding like it's trying to preach it to your face? How relatable the main character's struggles are as a hijabi? The possibilities are endless, so let's just do this the usual way;

The Plot

I have to be honest, i was expecting this to have a simple, typical YA contemporary plot. I thought it would be about a Muslim girl falling for a non-Muslim guy and things go horribly wrong before going perfectly right. Okay yes, it does have a little bit of that particular plot line, but the story developed so much deeper than that because of the issues that it addresses. It became about Janna trying to deal with a horrible thing that happened to her all by herself, about her relationship with her family, her friends who share the same religion and those who don't, Janna's image in the Muslim community, her life in high school, Janna struggling with her faith, and even about her relationship with her neighbour. I was hooked into the story right away, and it kept me gripped up until the end.

Many important issues were mentioned in this book. The most important issue in my opinion was about sexual harassment, particularly from the last people we would expect to do such things. It sheds light to the reality that there are people out there who appear pious and holy but uses the image to hide behind who they truly are. I truly appreciated that this issue wasn't only just discussed, but the author even addressed what a person who has experienced it can do about the situation.

The Writing

I was very impressed with S. K. Ali's writing. I love how easy it was to get into, and the way she tries to portray the wonderful things about Islam without shoving it to the reader's face. I thought it was very clever of her to explain the more factual things about Islam in a sort of forum style that was very informative and was 'written' in a very kind and considerate way by one of her characters. There was also an Islamic Quiz Bowl kind of thing happening in the story, and it was a really smart way of trying to tell us more about the religion. I thought it was really interesting to read how similar and how different the Muslim community in America (or in non-Muslim countries in general) is compared to the ones in Muslim-majority countries like Malaysia.


The Characters

I absolutely LOVE the characters! The main character, Janna, is just so relatable I love her a lot. She isn't perfect, she does make some very questionable decisions, but that's the exact reason why it was so easy to like her and relate to her. She's still just a teenager, and I thought it was terrific that her character showed the reader that hijabis have their own struggles and are honestly just human just like everyone else. My favourite thing about Janna's character in the book was reading about her dilemmas regarding wearing her headscarf. It's something that I know many Muslim girls and even grown women have experienced or considered, and i appreciated this being addressed so much.

There were also other characters who were just fantastic. Lets start with Janna's brother, Muhammad, who makes me wish I had a brother of my own. Then there's the girl Muhammad was courting (Islamically lol), Sarah, whose role in this book is just so important at the end. I love Janna's non-Muslim friends too, especially Tatyana. Sausun was also a kickass character, she reminded me so much of Sana from SKAM. And oh my God, Mr Ram! Janna's relationship with Mr Ram is so, so important to highlight one of the beautiful teachings of Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him), which is to treat your neighbours well, even if they are not Muslim. Even as a Muslim who already knew this, I'm very inspired. I love that I can also reflect about Islam while reading this book. Sometimes the things we learnt have sort of become a chore or a memorized textbook answer, and we forget to really reflect its significance.

However, I wish we could have seen more of Janna's relationship with her parents, especially her mother. I feel like the author introduced us to so many interesting characters, i would LOVE to see her write a book about each of their stories. OH I forgot to mention one of my favourite characters: Nuah!! CAN I HAVE A NUAH IN MY LIFE? THANKS.

Overall

I love this book. It probably isn't perfect, and different people may take different things from it, but personally I loved the messages it sends, and how empowering it is for a Muslim hijabi like me. I think everyone, girls AND boys, Muslims AND non-Muslims, should read it. Non-Muslims can find out so much about Islam that has nothing to do with terrorism or oppression or the other stereotypical images seen on social media or portrayed in movies. Muslims can reflect a lot from the issues being addressed. Boys can learn more about the struggles faced by hijabis, and girls can hopefully relate to many of the situations Janna faced. If you get into the book as deeply as I did, you'd read the last page feeling more inspired to love yourself a little bit more than you already do.
Profile Image for Fadwa (Word Wonders).
543 reviews3,548 followers
July 4, 2018
Full review originally posted on my blog: Word Wonders

CW: Sexual assault, proximity with assaulter, death of a loved one, aromisic comment.

I HAVE BEEN WANTING TO READ THIS BOOK SINCE WAY BEFORE IT CAME OUT. And then I got it. And then it sat on my shelf for three months before I picked it up. Why am I like this? Why do I do this? What is wrong with me. Let me tell you, I have regrets because I SHOULD’VE READ IT SOONER! I loved Saints and Misfits so much, besides the fact that it’s just personal story and dear and near to my heart. ALSO!! My copy is signed *cries*. Anyway, I will stop talking non-sense and will get into the review.

The first word that comes to mind when thinking about the writing is powerful. It’s not over complicated, pretty easy to follow but gave me chills and squeezed my heart out of my chest more times than I could count. The author does a wonderful job at giving the writing the appropriate tone to convey the importance of the story, while still giving it some light moments to balance everything out. I had one problem with it though, which was really my only problem with the whole book and the only reason I couldn’t give it 5 stars which is an aromisic comment at one point which implied that having a crush is the normal thing and that really did not sit well with me.

This is far from being a plot driven story, it’s very character centered. It’s all about the aftermath of Janna’s assault, her life, her decisions, her doubts how she copes, etc… So if character driven stories aren’t really your thing, I wouldn’t really recommend it. But I love character driven stories, in fact, I adore them, so this was right up my alley. Especially with how close to home it hits. The fact that it tackles sexual assault within the muslim community so candidly and addresses it with such care and sensitivity means the world to me. S. K. Ali isn’t afraid to speak up, she doesn’t gloss over anything and I think that is so needed especially since this topic is talked about so little in our community and in general.

Another kind of major theme in the book is how people are perceived versus how they really are and how that plays into how people are treated. Two characters in particular this happens with are Farooq and Sarah. Farooq is the asshole, the guy who assaulted her but in the community he is perceived as this clean dude who can do no wrong because he has learnt the Qu’ran in full (which by the way he ironically doesn’t even understand). And through him, the author showed that people who are in appearance pious and uphold the word of God (which emphasizes on respecting women) can in reality be shitheads that are just putting on a show.

Then we have Sarah, Janna’s brother’s fiancée, who was misjudged by Janna. She got annoyed with her and called her Saint Sarah because of how “saintly” she seemed, all perfect, doing everything everyone wanted her to do and from Janna’s eyes she honestly seemed like a suck up but then as Janna got to know her, she realized that she was wrong about her and that there was more to her than what met the eyes. Although the girl is really incredibly kind and sweet and I really loved her character.

Now onto Janna, our main character. She’s one of the most easily likeable characters I’ve ever read. Her voice is so honest and genuine and she doesn’t try and fit a mold that other people see her in, which is such a comforting thing to a lot of muslim girls and was relatable to me as well. She did some good things, she made some mistakes, but never once was I made to feel that she was a bad muslim for it and I cherish that, because at the end of the day, none of us are perfect and I liked that no one expected perfection from her. The way she deals and copes felt just so real and raw and it made me choke on tears at some points.

Also, can we talk about how she never needed to sneak out to go wherever she wants? Like, I’VE BEEN WAITING FOR A BOOK LIKE THIS, OKAY? A book where parents trust their kids enough to give them complete freedom to make décisions for themselves and know what’s right and wha’s wrong!

What I loved most is that all characters were given enough attention and none of them were made to be stereotypical or fit a certain image that people have of muslims. All different, all equally amazing.
Profile Image for Xueting.
262 reviews121 followers
May 7, 2018
Trigger warning for minor sexual assault.

As a Singaporean Chinese, I’m quite familiar with some of the basic practices and values of the Singaporean Muslim community. But unfortunately, I don’t know much beyond the surface about the experiences and struggles of the people because they are Muslim, not as much as I should, living among many Muslims in multi-racial Singapore. This book talks about Muslim characters in America, but I could make some general connections and comparisons that helped me learn more about the Muslim community in my own country. I love how the author really makes diversity a normalised part of the “human” experience - the teenage characters go through struggles that many teens face (not just Muslim, and not just American): divorce in the family, bullies and mean girls, crushes... but the complexity of being Muslim in America add to how the characters deal with their struggles. There’s a lot of explanatory information about Islam history and principles, but it’s not representation for representation’s sake.

The characters really make the story here. There are so many side/minor characters, part of our main character Janna’s family, school friends and community at her mosque. They’re very complex and diverse in personality, and all very strong in their own way. And I love all of them. I rooted for Janna, especially as she grows to love herself and the people around her more and more. I also really hated “the monster” with Janna. He’s the seemingly pious and adored Muslim guy who almost rapes Janna a few weeks before the action of the story (this isn’t really a spoiler, because we find out about it in the second chapter). He’s really awful and gave me the shivers. The book is a very timely read as the #MeToo movement is building, to add Muslim women’s voices to the larger story of sexual assault and the fear and courage of speaking out about it. And I love love LOVE the humour of this book. Yes, even with the dark topics, it was dealt with humour and hope!! Yay for books that make you laugh, cry and want to hug your family and friends! :)

However, there are also some flaws that made me struggle to get through the book at times. The first quarter or so was pretty slow, the descriptions and dialogue were often awkward, and I couldn’t tell where the story was going. But after the author got through establishing some basic introduction to Islamic practices, there was more showing than telling, and the story picked up and really became a page-turner. My heart was even racing and raging at some parts! I found the ending a bit anti-climactic though; it left some things unresolved for me.

Still, this book is not only an important read, but a very well-written and thoughtful one. I have read too few books featuring a Muslim main character, and even fewer featuring a hijabi girl. I’m going to look out for more, and I hope there will be more books written featuring Muslim characters in the future :)
Profile Image for Faith Simon.
191 reviews164 followers
Read
May 28, 2019
DNF @ 26%

This was the book that I chose to read for the Asian Readathon, but unfortunately, I just couldn't finish it. I was coming close to 100 pages and within the 90 pages that I did read, literally nothing happened. I was so bored.
The whole "Saint Sarah" nickname and referring to the person who abused her as "the monster" struck me as rather immature as far as writing goes, I mean honestly, this girl is a teenager and these are nicknames middle school kids give to people they don't like, I just couldn't get past how it made me not take the story seriously whenever those nicknames were mentioned. It did give a bit of a preview for that in the synopsis and I cringed then too, but I figured that I would give it a go anyways. Lads, just trust your readers' intuition.
I know obviously that this is a very important book as far as representation for Muslim teens and abuse/r*pe victims, and I'm glad that the book exists for this reason, and I'm very sad that I couldn't experience the greatness of those things, but I just did not find it easy in the slightest to get through this book. Basically every single person in this book I could not give a single care about, nothing was happening, I just couldn't do it.
Profile Image for Julia Sapphire.
546 reviews1,059 followers
August 19, 2020
TW: Rape and Sexual Assault

2.5 ish stars

This book was interesting, we follow a Muslim teenager and her dealing with her family, friends and something horrible that happened to her.

At first I was quite liking this one. I still am glad I read this because it had such a unique perspective.

I just felt this huge disconnect with the story. I listen to it via audiobook and liked the narrator and everything. At times I just didn't really like the main character or the love interest. The writing style was not anything too special. I also felt this book was just very repetitive, constantly doing the same things with almost the same people. Same thought process for the majority of the book as well.
Profile Image for The Candid Cover (Olivia & Lori).
1,151 reviews1,289 followers
March 10, 2020
Full Review on The Candid Cover

Saints and Misfits is a feminist book about a Muslim teen struggling with identity. While I enjoyed the concept and the main character, I found the book’s pacing to be a bit slow. This is an important read, however, and one of very few Muslim YA books that I have seen.

This book is all about the life of a Muslim teen. Janna figures out her own identity while dealing with feelings that slightly go against her religion. She also deals with the recovery process of attempted rape and tries to get the other members of her community to believe that the man is not the saint that they all believe him to be. This is a powerful feminist story that does a great job of explaining Islam in a simple way.

I enjoyed Janna’s character. She is a photographer and a book nerd and is easy to relate to. She is also so sweet and takes care of an old man in her spare time. What I also enjoyed about Janna’s character is the fact that she is so dedicated to her faith. She is sure to follow all the rules to protect both her image and the reputation of her community. Janna’s voice is just so clever and sarcastic, which I love to see in a book.

My main issue with the book is the pacing. The book just seemed to drag on, and I was having trouble focusing on it. I also had no idea that sexual assault would appear in the story, so this is just a heads up to anyone who could be triggered by that. As well, Janna’s family is oblivious to all the hints that Janna was assaulted and the way she acts around her attacker. I didn’t find this very realistic, and I feel like at least one of her friends would have noticed the change in behaviour.

Saints and Misfits is the story of a Muslim teen finding her way through life. I enjoyed the main character and her generous personality, but found the book’s pacing to be too slow for my liking. I would still recommend this book, however, because it tackles some important topics and has some powerful messages.
Profile Image for CW ✨.
625 reviews1,686 followers
September 6, 2017
Don't look at my rating and decide you don't want to read it! Please read other people's reviews too especially those who loved the book and felt represented by Saints and Misfits.

- There were many things that I loved about this book: the multifaceted exploration of faith; how Janna was such a wonderfully written teenager who is confused, doing her best, and trying to navigate her life; the fresh narrative voice; the nuanced examination of sexual assault, its consequences, and the difficulties of coming forward.
- I enjoyed how relationships were explored - familial, friendships, acquaintances, and crushes.
- However, despite the many brilliant and wonderful 'parts' of the book, I felt like it lacked cohesion to make a story that flowed well together. The ending was great and I liked how it ended, but it was also very abrupt. Unfortunately, this really impacted on my enjoyment of the book.

This book has content warnings for sexual assault and discussions about it.
Profile Image for S.A. Chakraborty.
Author 12 books8,966 followers
June 27, 2017
What a fantastic, compelling, important read. This book is a gem; one I couldn't put down. There is so much heart and voice in this story (seriously, aspiring writers, this is a lesson in voice.) S.K. Ali captures Janna and that entire kid/adult tipping point perfectly, and I felt like this spoke to me at multiple levels: as a Muslim who knows only too well the fear of bringing up problems in the community when it seems the rest of the world is against you, as the mother of a daughter, and as my former teen self. I loved how well it captured her community; the secondary characters were amazingly nuanced and you could easily see their own stories spinning as well - I don't think I've ever been able to so easily visualize a character as Saint Sarah!
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