Saints and Misfits by S.K. Ali | Book Review


BLURB: 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 him under the mask. Except me (Goodreads).

Some people have nice-looking husks with nothing inside. Some people have dried husks but there's fruit and even a nice kernel in there.

Title: Saints and Misfits
Author: S.K. Ali
Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary, Realistic Fiction, Romance
Goodreads rating: 3.80
Pages: 328
Publication: 2017 by Simon & Schuster
Source: Popular Bookstore
Book links: Book Depository | AmazonGoogle Books | Kinokuniya | Scribd
Reading format: Paperback 
Review type: Non-spoilery

This is one of those books that I already read a few times in the past few years, is one of my favourite books of all time, and yet haven't posted a single thing about it besides a mention in a reading update post. I remember reading this in 2017 literally a day before my English SPM paper and I never regretted doing so because the impact this book had on a teenage me was very huge. It affected my reading preferences and my view on a lot of things and that is why I'm posting the review of this book on my blog, although I can never do justice to this book.

There were so many important issues that were tackled in this book; sexual assault, the dismantling of the idea that "all Muslims must be perfect" and that someone who looks religious outwardly are all good inwardly and one's relationship with their faith and religion. I did not expect all of these. I was only expecting a simple cute romance with a Muslim representation, which this book was and also was not (that doesn't make sense but you'll get me if you read this).

In 2017, as a teenage Muslim girl myself, I relate a lot to Janna, the main character. She experienced the typical teen girl struggles such as body image and boys problems as well as other religion-related struggles such as her faith, relationship with the hijab and the Muslim community around her. Although we were not in the same surrounding, with a quite different upbringing, my struggles as a teenage girl were similar to her and that was why I had such a good experience reading this book the first time. However, having read this book another two times afterwards, I can say with absolute certainty that even an almost-adult me can also relate to her, especially when it comes to the religious stuff. Janna is one of those book characters I wish every teenager to know, especially Muslim girls like myself because I felt so seen when I read her story. She made bad decisions and was able to learn from them and be better. She grew from someone who was scared to tell people around her about what happened to her to this brave person that was able to face her assaulter and stand up for herself. 

I also really loved the way it was discussed that someone who appears good and pious in front of the public is not necessarily good, hiding their misdoings behind the name religion, that not everyone is as perfect as they seem. It's very true to my experience. The way the sexual assault was handled in this book was also done very well, we could see how Janna slowly dealt with it and I also loved the way it was handled by the adults after the truth was discovered, showing Janna's massive support system.  

There were also familial and friendship themes in the book, which was executed perfectly. This book featured an adorable brother-sister relationship between Janna and her brother, their relationship with their untypical Muslim father, and Janna's friendship with Tatyana and Mr Ram, which was non-Muslim as well as her blooming friendship with the other Muslims; Perfect Sarah, Sausun and Nuah. Each friendship brought out different lessons, which were all equally important and all of these characters had very important roles in Janna's character development as well as the flow of the storyline, which is hard to do in just 328 pages.

And I think by this very imperfect review, you can see that this is not the typical Muslim-girl-falls-in-love-with-a-cute-non-Muslim-boy story, but so much more than that.

Recommended for people who want: accurate representation of Muslim community, a relatable and fun-to-know main character, important and cute friendships, a coming-of-age Muslim realistic fiction AND MORE. I recommend it to everyone, basically.

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