Saints and Misfits by S. K. AliSaints and Misfits by S. K. Ali

Saints and Misfits

byS. K. Ali

Hardcover | February 28, 2019

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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.
Title:Saints and MisfitsFormat:HardcoverProduct dimensions:336 pages, 8.25 × 5.5 × 1.1 inShipping dimensions:8.25 × 5.5 × 1.1 inPublished:February 28, 2019Publisher:Salaam Reads / Simon & Schuster Books for Young ReadersLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:1481499246

ISBN - 13:9781481499248

Appropriate for ages: 14


Rated 5 out of 5 by from Compelling! I'm so glad I read this book--it's smart, Janna has a great voice, and I love the family dynamics and secondary characters. Everyone felt so real and jumped off the page. (Trigger warning for attempted sexual assault.)
Date published: 2018-10-11
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Saints and Misfits Janna and her story had plenty of depth to them, a little more romance would have been nice, but otherwise a great read with quality secondary characters, about a girl trying to figure out how to deal with an assault. #plumreview
Date published: 2018-04-23
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Interesting Read While not my typical type of story, I enjoyed reading this. I feel like Janna's fear was well delivered, but that there could've been a little more development in the story. Good read for something different.
Date published: 2018-03-27
Rated 3 out of 5 by from Diverse characters - not so diverse story I really enjoyed the new perspective (for me) of a Muslim teenager. I would love to see more young adult novels from this point of view. The story had a lot of strong points and was interesting throughout. However, I felt that it was clumsily executed and the characters' relationships to one another felt disingenuous. As much as I enjoyed the story and perspective, I feel like this needed another draft before being ready. This is a good book for understanding more about the Muslim experience but the story itself is not worth the read.
Date published: 2018-03-19
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Compelling Read i read this book in a day because i could not put it down.
Date published: 2018-03-19
Rated 5 out of 5 by from smart & exceedingly well-crafted read So this was incredible. It's the experience of a Muslim-American girl navigating high school, dating, identity, appearance and modesty, bullying, sexism and assault . . . part of what I appreciated about it was the breadth and complexity of the (real-world) world-building the author did to tell this story. We often talk about excellent world-building in fantasy or science fiction, but it takes incredible skill to represent real people and experiences in a way that's recognizable and meaningful. Ali does a great job with a wide cast, as well as the main character. Everyone has dimension, complexity, a role within the narrative, but aren't limited to a one-note portrayal for the purposes of getting a point across. The MC has a lot to work through, from the pressure of exams and achieving a much-desired academic future, to coping with the expectations of her family and religious community, expectations that she places on herself, assault by someone seen as unassailably righteous within her community, and adolescent explorations of identity such as unsuitable crushes, image-crafting, social media and self-presentation. In 2017, it's worth noting that this portrayal of a Muslim teen participating in an active Muslim faith community, observing religious practices and exploring her personal attitudes, comfort level, and beliefs around hijab specifically is an unusual and diverse perspective in English-language mass-market fiction. As an outsider to the Muslim community, I found the story, the characters and the scenarios easily comprehensible, and appreciated the opportunity to see through Jana's eyes and get a different perspective on her community. While it's useful to understand historical and cultural influences on today's climate, I felt like the narrative was a helpful reminder that choices around fashion, self-presentation and religious practice are also made on an individual basis, and that teens (and adults) need space to explore those choices and may bring new meaning to them. Ali wove many influences including, notably, the work of Flannery O'Connor into the narrative to craft a story that introduces questions and themes without hitting you over the head with them, which I appreciated. Questions like how to have integrity, how to be a person you can respect, within the framework of wider expectations and personal choice. While there was a lot going on in the book, I found it to be a surprisingly fast, engaging and even, particularly at the end, emotional read. Also: Nua & Jana flirting is one of the most adorable teen romances I've read. Bonus points: Canadian author! I don't read a lot of YA contemporary, but I'll be keeping an eye out for more from this author; smart & exceedingly well-crafted read. #plumreview
Date published: 2017-11-24
Rated 5 out of 5 by from SO GOOD! I just loved it! It was so amazing, amused by everything.
Date published: 2017-07-08
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Loved it!! My heart needed this book. Ali wrote Janna in such a marvellously authentic way. Bringing in humour, sadness, pain, hope, and faith, Saints and Misfits had it all. Tough topics of all sorts are examined with grace. This is a novel I'll be recommending to everybody.
Date published: 2017-06-11
Rated 5 out of 5 by from You will fall in love with S.K.Ali novel, promise. Saints & Misfits was breath-taking, astounding and tear-jerking. If you have a heart and brain and need oxygen to breathe, this is the book for you. Once I was reading, I did not put it down until I finished the last page. This is the first book I've read in which the protangist is a young Muslim woman. I have the most respect for Janna and readers who relate to Janna. I felt this book knew me better than myself which is freaky. I even cried. Big fat ugly tears. I thought this would be a light, fluffy YA contemporary novel. No. It was different and I loved every second of it. Each chapter title is " Saints", "Misfits", and "Monsters".  I love Janna's best friends, Nuah, and cousins that come into her life, the emails from her father are clever and amusing. Janna carries a burden that she cannot speak about because if she does she feels no one will believe her. She feels ashamed. She feels a barrier that she has to carried on her shoulders as the monster watches from afar and making sure she is following the rules to be respectable and content.  Janna a voice in the YA community that people need to hear - whether you are Muslim or not. This book has heavy topics such as sexual assault, divorce, bullying, victim-blaming, social media, intercultural relationships, death, and more. I know for sure this book is going to be memorable. This book is not for one group of readers, it’s for everyone.  ​​   Personal Thoughts  1. Janna Janna is a tenth grader that is part Egyptian and Indian and wears a hijab. She is a young woman who admires Flannery O'Connor - " Flannery would take me away from here and deposit me into her fictitious world crawling with self-righteous saints and larger-than-life misfits”, an aspiring photographer, and artist, loves her friends and family. She is driven into her academics and works part-time on wheeling a wise gentleman to a centre named Seniors Game Club and works on her uncle's " Amu" website who is the prayer leader at the Mosque, editing questions from the community. She a teenager who deals with being a teen; playing the part of society that people want to see, the pressure of her faith and friends, the yearn of having a crush on a non Muslim. When she is attemptedly raped by the good man Fraroop - the monster- and must hide behind his shadow. She begins to isolate herself. She begins to battle whether to keep it to herself as he continues to stalks her to keep her in line or at the risk of telling the truth. This internal conflict that teens must deal in their lifetime when they shouldn’t have to. There something about Janna that she had this pure essence about her, how while she is young and naive, yet she is intelligent and has an inner flame, an inner strength that’s needs to be ignite. The author created Janna to be relatable and likeable.   2. Faith  I was absorbed when I read the perspectives of Islam faith. Saints and Misfits is not beating you over the head or preaching you to do anything. I know faith is a very sensitive subject and everyone has their own values and views. Just hear me out. I never grew up with the population of Muslims in my community. I think there were at least six people who I have met in my entire life told me they were Muslim. that was it. In school, there was no education on the cultures and beliefs, traditions and etiquettes. I felt stupid to be honest reading Saints and Misfits and was bewilder of the core of their cultural practices. I was quite baffled with myself on struggling with their beliefs and attitudes. I knew nothing from my education background. I never was taught what the wearing a hjab really meant, or what Quar mean't or their everyday customs. I thought this book has open me up to something more. Hearing Janna voice and reading the details about the normal activities going on through her daily life and how faith plays into it felt like eye opening for me.  As someone who is non-Muslim I felt content and really value the information about reading Jana customs and values; how raw and vulnerable at times when she had to identify herself.  I just really value the faith portion of Saints and Misfits, it was enlightening, and informative as a reader. My favourite quote: " Where the mind is without fear and the head is held high;  Where knowledge is free; Where the world has not been broken up into fragments by narrow domestic walls;  Where words come out from the depth of truth;  where tireless striving stretches its arms toward perfection;  where the clear stream of reason has not lost its way into the dreary desert sand of death habit; Where the mind is led forward by thee into ever-widening  thought and action - Into that heaven of freedom, my father, let my country awake. "  3. Brother (Muhammad) How do I talk about Muhammad without spoiling all the details about him? He just a humble, sentiment, a fresh breath of air. A real saint. He not typical brooding brother ready to set the house on fire vibes. He quite the opposite. I adore him. There are too many good moments where I just want to squeeze him and laugh boastfully. Instead of going of school for economics, he decides to pursue philosophy. I admire the relationship between Janna and Muhammad.  I want to cherish Muhammad in my pocket. I love how authentic and realistic it was. I am always seeing the same brother -hate-sister relationship or that the other think the other is a lair. They were just comfortable with each other and had the brother-sister bond. The bicker between the two is just amusing and brings back all the moments when I fight with my brothers. My favourite scenes were always when Janna went on the dates with Perfect Sarah with him. He was just adorable and kind. Gahh, I want to gush to the world about him and Perfect Sarah. 4. The Monster  " He's standing in my only path of escape. He comes straight toward me. No words, nothing. I make a sound like a mix of please and no and help."  The Monster. How to begin to describe him. He respectable, charming, studious, and pious. He respects toward friends, family and the community. I feel that he had a sense that whatever he does, he can get away with it. He's holy. He is always monitoring Janna. He trying to get in her head, being cruel and insensitive to her. He always causing more problems for her. He such a creep from following her to watching videos of her and taking videos of her! I think he is a sick, brute and hope that justice is served for what he is doing to Janna.  No one should hold any power over someone. He pretends to put on this goody show in front of everyone while he is pushing young girls into the corner to feel worthless, powerless and weak. His presence even if he not in front of Janna, is everywhere and overwhelming. 5.  Mr. Ram  Mr.Ram nodded. " Yes, Miss Janna. Because when we just do things without a why, we become husks.Easily crumpled, no fruit inside."  Mr. Ram is older gentleman that Janna, every Thursday after school would wheel him to the community centre for Seniors Game Club. Mr. Ram is my second favourite character in the book. He very wise, sweet and kind to Janna and has a great fashion taste. I love his corn husk metaphors. He is someone who justify's the world, or explains why the world is grey and dim. He is just a lovely man and I cannot wait for readers to indulge in wise words.  His voice is very important to the book. I hope you like my five reasons why you should read Saints and Misfits! I honestly adore and love this book. I think this is one of my most YA voices. I just want to sit down in a chic cafe drinking lattes and delicious cupcakes and talk to Janna. 
Date published: 2017-06-04

Read from the Book

Saints and Misfits MISFIT I’m in the water. Only my eyes are visible, and I blow bubbles to ensure the rest of me stays submerged until the opportune time. Besides the lifeguard watching from his perch, there’s a gaggle of girls my age patrolling the beach with younger siblings in tow. They pace in their flip-flops and bikinis, and I wait. The ideal time is when no one’s around and no one’s looking. But right now there’s a little girl cross-legged on wooden bleachers peering at me from beneath a hand held aloft at her forehead, a smile on her face. I can’t tell if the smile is a result of how long she’s been watching me bob here in the water. To check whether she’s staring, I test her with a long gaze to the left of the bleachers, where Dad and his wife Linda are barbecuing. Their oldest son, Logan, round and berry-brown from a day in the sun, is digging a hole nearby, while the newest addition, Luke, lies on a quilt wearing a swim diaper. Dad said I’d love it here because the beachfront cottage they’d rented was one of the only two Cherie and Ed had let out this weekend. Secluded. Serene. Safe. Ha. Cherie and Ed forgot to mention that the beach portion doesn’t actually belong to them and is public property at all hours of the day. Party central. I look back, and, hallelujah, the girl on the bleachers is gone. There’s also a lull on the shore now. The lifeguard’s turned to talk to someone behind him, and the beach girls are on the far right, peering at a sand castle. I stand and cringe at the sucking sound as my swimsuit sticks to me, all four yards of the spandex-Lycra blend of it. Waterfalls gush out of the many hems on the outfit, and, as I hobble out of the lake, more secret pockets release their water. I’m a drippy, squelchy mess, stumbling toward Dad and Linda, picking up tons of sand as I move. I refuse to look around in case I see someone, everyone, watching me. Maybe my face reveals something, because Dad starts right away. “Janna, why do you have to wear that thing? You could have said, No, I’m not wearing your burkini, Mom.” He waves around long tongs as he speaks. “Mom didn’t get it for me. I ordered it online.” “I saw her hand it to you as we were packing the car.” “Because I’d left it on the hall table, Dad.” “It’s her kind of thing. What’s wrong with the way Linda’s dressed?” He snaps the tongs at Linda. She’s wearing a one-piece, just-had-a-baby, flouncy-at-the-hips number, and, really, I’d rather be in my burkini. It’s black and sleek. Sure, when it gets wet, you kind of resemble a droopy sea lion, but at least it isn’t pink and lime green like Linda’s swimsuit is. “Linda, you look great.” I smile at her, and she smooths out her flounces. “Too bad you’re not her size—she could have lent you one of her suits, right, Linda?” “Dad, I won’t wear it. I’m a hijabi, remember?” I take a plate and add a piece of chicken from the platter. “At the beach? Even at the beach?” Dad’s gesticulating again and looking around—for what, I don’t know. When he spies a woman unfolding a lounge chair nearby and starts talking louder, I realize it’s for an audience. He wants an audience while he rants at me. Maybe I should’ve listened to Mom and not come. My first vacation with Dad’s family since my parents split when I was eleven and it’s like I’m a visitor among the earthlings frolicking on a beach in Florida. Before this, I’d only spent the odd weekend here and there with Dad at his house in Chicago. I was “Daddy’s princess” back then. The woman in the chair listens intently as Dad lectures. Linda’s got a hand on his arm, and it’s traveling up to his shoulder with a firmer grip, but he’s still talking. “How come you have to hide your God-given body?” He turns a few burgers over. He’s wearing a white T-shirt and red shorts over his God-given body. “It’s not me who forces her to dress like that, that’s for sure.” The woman looks at me, then at Dad and opens a book. Linda places a hand on my glistening black back and hands me a can of pop. “I’ll get you a burger when they’re done,” she whispers. I move to sit on the bleachers before I realize the beach girls are sauntering this way again. I’m a swirl of sand art against a black canvas. I duck under the wooden slats of the seats. Cradling my plate on crossed legs, I flip back the swim cap that’s attached to my suit and undo my hair. Sand trickles down with the beads of water. Some of it falls onto my chicken. Flannery O’Connor, my favorite author: That’s who I need right now. Flannery would take me away from here and deposit me into her fictitious world crawling with self-righteous saints and larger-than-life misfits. And I’d feel okay there because Flannery took care of things. Justice got served. I forgot to pack her gigantic book of short stories because everything was last minute. I’d wanted to escape so badly that when Dad mentioned this trip with his family, I’d asked, “Can I come?” without thinking. Mom had tried to put her foot down about taking a vacation right before exams, but, luckily for me, my brother Muhammad is home for the summer from college. He talked her into letting me come. She listens to practically everything he says. If it had been only me telling her I needed to get away, far away from Eastspring, she would’ve talked over me. She didn’t know I had to get away from a monster. And the truth is no one can know.

Editorial Reviews

Saints and Misfits is an engaging portrayal of a young woman and the abundance of differing, loving people who make up her extended family.”