Saints and Misfits is an unforgettable debut novel that feels like a modern day My So-Called Life…starring a Muslim teen.
How much can you tell about a person just by looking at them?
Janna Yusuf knows a lot of people can’t figure out what to make of her…an Arab Indian-American hijabi teenager who is a Flannery O’Connor obsessed book nerd, aspiring photographer, and sometime graphic novelist is not exactly easy to put into a box.
And Janna suddenly finds herself caring what people think. Or at least what a certain boy named Jeremy thinks. Not that she would ever date him—Muslim girls don’t date. Or they shouldn’t date. Or won’t? Janna is still working all this out.
While her heart might be leading her in one direction, her mind is spinning in others. She is trying to decide what kind of person she wants to be, and what it means to be a saint, a misfit, or a monster. Except she knows a monster…one who happens to be parading around as a saint…Will she be the one to call him out on it? What will people in her tightknit Muslim community think of her then?
325 pages 978-1481499248 Ages 15 and up
Her parents divorced when she was twelve. She has a crush on a boy named Jeremy. She loves Flannery O'Connor stories because they're smart. Yes, she's a teenager but she's a Muslim girl and she's struggling to figure out who she is and how she wants to belong to the world. Right now she feels like a misfit.
"How come you have to hide your God-given body?" her father asks her. Janna is a hijabi. She chooses to wear the headscarf and to cover her body. Growing up is complicated when your own family is split and when you are living in a culture that doesn't always understand and respect your religious practices.
Janna is lucky enough to have Mr. Ram, a senior citizen in a wheelchair who she can give all her confusion to. The elderly man is a great listener with a big heart who fills up an empty space in Janna's life. But even he doesn't know that she has been sexually assaulted by Farooq who is considered a saint by the community. Janna knows he is a monster. He touched her where she does not want to be touched. She just doesn't have any proof.
This story works on powerful layers no matter where you find yourself. The rage that comes of jealous mean girls at school is enough of an enemy for most teenagers especially when the internet comes into play. It leaves you defenseless. Defenseless is how Janna feels when the monster tries his moves, too.
The world of teenagers gets incredibly complicated these days with the power of social media. It can take good friends and girls who have walked the path before you to help you see yourself clearly. This is Janna's climb, crag by crag, into a space where she finds her own strength and her own voice.
Powerful. Gritty. Authentic voice. The stumbling and confusion could belong to any of us but this time they belong to a Muslim girl. A much-needed story that normalizes the journey of teens from every culture, empowers all young women to stand up against sexual assault, and shimmers with the invisible threads that connect us all.
325 pages 978-1481499248 Ages 15 and up (Sexual assault)
Recommended by: Barb Langridge, abookandahug.com