After a well-respected member of Janna’s mosque assaults her, she is left to deal with the memories and knowledge of the horrifying encounter alone. While everyone goes about their regular day, she spots the monster around every corner wherever she goes. Janna already feels like she doesn’t belong, standing out in her school in hijab and crushing on a non-Muslim boy. The secret she carries with her of what the monster did is yet another thing that makes Janna feel like a misfit.
Despite the seriousness of the assault, Saints and Misfits is not a dark story. Rather, it’s an uplifting, coming-of-age tale that can resonate with many people, Muslim or not. While the dynamics may translate among different cultures, it is also quintessentially a Muslim girl’s story. As Ali had said during an author event I had the pleasure of attending earlier this year, this is “a Muslim girl story, not the Muslim girl story”.
Similar to When Dimple Met Rishi, I loved that this was set in a regular North American city. Like I had mentioned in that review, I feel that this kind of story is so important to showcase the diversity that lives right in our own neighbourhoods. Different cultures doesn’t have to mean different lands. When speaking to writing diverse stories, Ali has equated it to writing sci-fi in the sense that the author needs to do some world-building so all readers can visualize the imagery and story.
Pitched as a “modern day My So-Called Life“, this book really does fit that description. I adored this book so much. Not only is the cover awesome, the story and the characters felt so real and relatable. The dynamics between Janna and her friends will bring up feelings of your own friendships, and the interactions with the monster definitely got my blood boiling. The themes of family, culture and belonging run deep throughout the narrative and I appreciated the way Ali wrote about some (I’m assuming) common questions that Muslim teen girls may have… everything from hijab or niqab, or Muslim boy or non-Muslim boy.
If you’re in the Toronto area on June 29th, stop by the Saints and Misfits book launch!