Saints and Misfits

High school sophomore Janna Yusuf began experimenting with wearing hijab when she was nine. Her Indian father disapproved but her Egyptian mother (who wears bright gem-toned hijabs herself) and her imam uncle saw it as a way to express herself. Now wearing hijab is both a part of her style and a part of her identity: "Four layers of diverse fabrics: denim, Lycra, cotton, sweatshirt, and a slick (and thick) pashmina to knit the whole ensemble together. All in black, my feel-good color." Unlike many of her friends from the mosque, Janna goes to the local public school--where she has recently discovered that her non-Muslim crush, Jeremy, actually likes her back.

Amidst the crushing, she's studying for the Islamic Quiz Bowl, taking honors classes, bringing an elderly neighbor to the community center, fighting with her mom about giving up her bedroom and trying to avoid her Muslim best friend's cousin who attempted to attack her sexually at a party. To make matters worse, the attacker is adored by the other members of the mosque--her uncle, the imam, even asked him to lead Taraweeh prayers for Ramadan (he "finished memorizing the Qur'an two years ago, you know.").

S.K. Ali skillfully depicts Janna's struggles, portraying her emotional response to the attack with sensitivity and gravity while also showing that life doesn't necessarily stop to give you a break when bad things happen. Saints and Misfits is an engaging portrayal of a young woman and the abundance of differing, loving people who make up her extended family. --Siân Gaetano, children's and YA editor, Shelf Awareness

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