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Review of Saints and Misfits

Saints and Misfits
by S. K. Ali
Middle School, High School    Salaam/Simon    328 pp.
6/17    978-1-4814-9924-8    $18.99
e-book ed.  978-1-4814-9926-2    $10.99

Sophomore Janna Yusuf, a hijab-wearing Flannery O’Connor devotee, knows that the world is full of “saints,” “monsters,” and “misfits.” She considers herself the last, not quite sure where she belongs within her post-divorce family or amongst her friends, Muslim and non-Muslim alike. Her uncertainty is exacerbated in the face of near-perfect saints, like her brother Muhammad and his soon-to-be fiancée Sarah, and especially in the presence of a monster — an O’Connor-esque monster who presents himself as a pillar of the Muslim community even as he assaults Janna at a family gathering. Resigning herself to silence, Janna tries to move forward with life as usual. But when the monster exposes Janna’s crush on a non-Muslim boy and comments on photos of her in gym class without her hijab, friends and family join her attacker in expressing criticism, and Janna reaches her breaking point. 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.

From the July/August 2017 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.

About Anastasia M. Collins

Anastasia M. Collins is a children’s literature scholar and academic librarian. She holds an MS in library science and an MA in children’s literature from Simmons College and the Center for the Study of Children’s Literature.

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