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Saints and misfits
2017
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Summary
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.

Except me.
Trade Reviews
School Library Journal Review
Gr 9 Up-Life has settled since Janna's parents' divorce, but several new obstacles are making things difficult. Her brother, Muhammad, is moving back home as he changes majors and pursues marriage, while Janna silently battles against a respected boy at her mosque who attempted to rape her. To cope, Janna has separated people into categories. Farooq is a monster, but there are also saints, like Muhammad's fiancée. And then there are misfits, like Janna. This categorization isn't expressed overtly other than through chapter headings and occasional references, but it allows readers to see the world as Janna views it. Yet where there is darkness, there is also light: Janna has a lovely relationship with an elderly gentleman she cares for weekly, loves Flannery O'Connor, is a focused student, and has a crush on a boy, though he's non-Muslim. Ali's writing is balanced between Janna's inner dialogue and what transpires around her. The structured delivery magnifies the teen's rich voice in a character-driven novel about identity, highlighting her faith and typical teenage stress. Readers can empathize with Janna's problems, and the pages will turn quickly. Each secondary character adds depth to the narrative and simultaneously strengthens the diverse portrait that the Toronto-based author shares. VERDICT This timely and authentic portrayal is an indisputable purchase in the realistic fiction category.-Alicia Abdul, Albany High School Library, NY © Copyright 2017. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Booklist Review
*Starred Review* Janna, an Arab American hijabi teen living with her mom and brother, is in the midst of several dilemmas. First, her brother's courting the impossibly perky, perfectly pious Saint Sarah, a study circle leader at their mosque. Next, Janna's crushing on non-Muslim Jeremy, which is definitely haram. Her biggest problem, though, is the Monster, who's revered by everyone at their mosque for his exemplary faith. But they don't know he sexually assaulted Janna, and now he's spreading cruel rumors about her. Janna's not sure who or whether she can tell, but as she starts relying on unlikely friends, she finds the strength to stand up for herself. 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. Thanks to her sharp, wry first-person narrative, readers will gain deep insight into her anxieties, choices, and aspirations. 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.--Hunter, Sarah Copyright 2010 Booklist
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