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Saints and Misfits

by S.K. Ali

Published by Salaam Reads / Atheneum, 2017
328 pages
ISBN: 978-1-4814-9924-8

Age 13 and older

Teenager Janna Yusuf loves photography, the stories of Flannery O’Connor, and hanging out with friends. She willingly helps her Uncle Ali, the Imam at her mosque, with his thoughtful, engaging advice column. She’s less enthused about giving up her room when her older brother, Muhammad, moves back into the small apartment she shares with their mother. He’s courting “Saint Sarah,” who seems to embody the perfect Muslim woman Janna does not aspire to be. Janna’s only dared to tell her best friend about her own crush, classmate Jeremy, who isn’t Muslim. Meanwhile, she’s told no one about Farooq, a boy who recently tried to assault her. Farooq is good at fooling adults, and when his harassment of Janna intensifies, Janna finds a surprising ally in Sausun, a girl she’s never particularly cared for. Sausun is a niquabi, choosing to cover her face in public. She uses the anonymity to defy stereotypes and battle misogyny, and together Sausun and Janna work out a plan to expose Farooq’s predatory behavior. Janna moves from fear to determination to speak out in a novel that is funny and fierce by turns. It’s immensely satisfying to be immersed in the singular yet relatable complexities of her life, which include recently divorced parents, changing friendships, and new relationships that inspire her. ©2018 Cooperative Children’s Book Center

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