Children’s Book Reviews
Children's Book Reviews: Saints and Misfits
Publish September 7, 2017
Janna Yulsuf has a secret no one can know. Her best friend’s cousin Farooq tried to rape her at a party, but his devout, ‘sainted status’ in her Muslim community makes Janna question whether anyone would believe her. Struggling with feelings of shame from the attack, and dealing with an illicit crush on Jeremy, a fellow student, Janna turns to her faith for answers and guidance on how to handle things in her ‘misfit life’. Farooq’s harassment takes its toll on Janna, until she finds inspiration to strike back in an unexpected way.
New author S.K. Ali wows readers with a story about a Muslim teen navigating her faith through a painful situation, sexual assault committed by a member of her community.
Saints and Misfits provides a much needed, positive perspective on hijabs, niqabs, and Islam, and Ali skillfully captures an issue universal to adolescents – the beginning of the complex transition from child to adult. Janna’s personal growth is aided by her care for an elderly gentleman named Mr. Ram, who subtly helps her build a greater sense of herself and helps her to consider the choices she makes.
Through her mistakes and triumphs, Janna’s voice is authentic and age-appropriate. Coming to terms with what ownership of her own body means to her, especially under the influence of Western attitudes, reveals a continuing struggle and a faith more devout than Farooq’s flimsy imitation.
Ali incorporates everyday technology and social media seamlessly into Janna’s story, giving Saints and Misfits a current setting and modern bullying issues for Janna to deal with. The result is a thoughtful read that will linger with readers long after the book is finished.
An avid promoter of Canadian teen fiction, Amy Mathers completed the Marathon of Books in 2014. The money she raised allowed the Canadian Children’s Book Centre to fund the Amy Mathers Teen Book Award. She also reviews for the Canadian Children’s Book News and writes a monthly article for the CCBC e-newsletter.
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