Saints and Misfits by S.K. Ali (review)
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Reviewed by
Ali, S.K. Saints and Misfits. Salaam Reads/Simon, 2017[336p]
Trade ed. ISBN 978-1-4814-9924-8 $18.99
E-book ed. ISBN 978-1-4814-9926-2 $10.99
Reviewed from galleys Ad Gr. 8–12

Janna’s a sophomore when Farooq, the cousin of her best friend, sexually assaults her. Since Janna’s close-knit Muslim community sees Farooq, who has memorized the entire Quran, as the exemplar of piety, Janna keeps quiet in the assumption that no one will believe her. She focuses on her illicit crush on non-Muslim Jeremy, but Farooq even manages to ruin that by lying to Jeremy about his relationship with Janna. When she fails miserably at her part in a regional quiz competition due to Farooq’s lurking presence, she realizes she needs to find a way to bring the truth to light. Janna is a highly sympathetic narrator and authentic teen, and the book is believable in making her reaction to Farooq’s assault part of her life but not the totality of it, as she chafes at her brother’s privilege and saintly girlfriend, worries about her relationship with her best non-Muslim school friend, and caretakes a lovely elderly man in another apartment. Janna’s faith is unquestionable even as she wrestles with its practice and practitioners, and her uncle the imam, who appears mostly through responses to the online q&a she curates for him, is a warm and solid figure; Janna’s exploration of niqab (a friend has a vlog featuring the “Niqabi Ninjas”) adds an interesting layer to her contemplations. Unfortunately, the pacing is slow and the plotting overelaborate, so the emotional weight of some subthreads gets buried while others are rushed. Patient readers, however, will appreciate Janna’s finding of a way to embrace her anger, receive support, and keep her faith. [End Page 442]

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