ARC Review: Saints and Misfits by S.K. Ali

Saints and Misfits by S.K. Ali

Publisher: Salaam Reads/Simon & Schuster

Publication Date: June 13th, 2017

Genre: YA Contemp/Diverse

Pages: 352 pages

Format: eGalley

Rating: ★★★★★ (5 Stars)

*Trigger warning: attempted rape

*HUGE thanks to Salaam Reads/Simon & Schuster, Netgalley & S.K. Ali for the eGalley copy of Saints and Misfits

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 tight knit Muslim community think of her then?

Before I get into my review of this wonderful gemstone of a book, I’d like to include two #Ownvoices reviews I found on Goodreads. Both Leenahreads (Muslim & Arab) & Hadeer (Muslim & Egyptian) give a perspective that is much needed in the community & appreciated by this bookworm. Also, today is the release day for Saints and Misfits & on behalf of LairOfBooks, I’d like to wish S.K. Ali a very happy book birthday!!!

In Saints and Misfits we follow our main protagonist Janna Yusuf who is a Arab Indian-American hijabi teen navigating life within her Muslim community & High School. Janna finds herself having a major crush on Jeremy, a Irish student in her school that is non-Muslim. With these feelings come a slew of questions we get to see Janna find answers to along the way. We are introduced to Janna’s family & friends as well as the community she is very involved with. The daughter of divorced/co-parenting parents, living with her mom & slightly older brother…Janna & her family are already viewed as different within their own community. Having a crush on a non-Muslim boy complicates things for her & to add to her plate, she’s harboring a hurtful secret. Janna doesn’t know whether she will be believed if she speaks up since the secret is about a respected individual in the community. This is a story about self reflection, family, community, identity, friendship, strength, faith & courage to face your fears.

Ever come across a fictional character who has qualities you yourself wish you possessed? such is the case with my admiration of Janna Yusuf. She is by no means perfect but strong willed and firm in her beliefs. Like any teenager she deals with High School crushes and social pressures both on & offline. Seeing her navigate through certain situations gives you a feeling that you’re reading one confident character. For the most part Janna is confident which was refreshing, I loved seeing her take pride in wearing Hijab. Janna’s sarcasm proved to be one of my fave qualities since witty characters always win me over. Perhaps my most favorite trait of Jannas is her interactions with those around her & how empathetic she is even when she doesn’t want to be lol. I also loved the relationship between Janna and her slightly older brother Muhammad. Throughout the book Janna’s older brother is courting another Muslim girl his age & he has asked Janna to supervise their dates. Janna does so even though she’s not a fan of his romantic interest & in doing so we get to see them spend more time around one another. It was nice seeing Muhammad be so attentive to Janna that he was able to pick up on there being something wrong. His genuine concern for his little sister made me wish he was my big brother *sobs*

Janna also has a non-Muslim bestie  who I’m just going to go ahead and say it….Tats = Ride or Die Bestie for life! Tats is such an amazing friend to Janna & respectful of her beliefs even when social pressure got in the mix. Of course they had moments where Tats didn’t understand fully but it wasn’t for lack of trying. Ultimately Tats respected Janna & had her back, love seeing positive f/f relationships. Lastly, one of my fave characters was Mr. Ram who lived in Janna’s complex and who Janna would take to/from a community center for the elderly. Mr. Ram has a passion for poetry & for encouraging Janna to pursue what makes her happy whether it’s sketching or photography. He imparted so much wisdom to Janna & just loved life so much his good spirits were contagious right through the page. There were many other characters in this book but I fear that going into them all would take away from the fun it was getting to know them. Overall, an amazing cast of characters!

I have so much love for this book I don’t even know where to start honestly! as a diverse blogger, I know the importance of seeing these books on our shelves. Most recently I read a Latinx YA book that left me smiling from ear to ear because I saw myself on the pages. In reading reviews such as the ones I linked in the intro to my review, I get a sense that this will be the case for many Muslim, Hijab, Arab, Indian-American readers. I can honestly say this book gave me so much more than a few hours of enjoyment, the lessons I took away are of much higher value. S.K. Ali organically wove bits & pieces of culture, religion, and faith throughout Saints and Misfits making for a rich reading experience. Our main protagonist is holding onto a hurtful secret & Ali gives us a realistic view of the situation. What it really would be like to expose a religious leader & the ugly truth of it all. A strong message is delivered ,many will stand against you but also, many will stand WITH you. The strong theme of community at the core plays an integral role in Janna’s life & I believe Ali captured that well with Saints and Misfits. I 100% reccomend this book to any & all, I just can’t wait to read more from S.K. Ali! 🙂

Will you be picking up Saints and Misfits today? If you’ve already read & reviewed, please drop a link & I’ll most def swing by your corner of the interwebz 😉

Author: LairOfBooks

"I didn't choose the Book Life, the Book Life chose me"

24 thoughts on “ARC Review: Saints and Misfits by S.K. Ali”

  1. This sounds like a great novel. I’ve never read a book with a Muslim protagonist and I’m trying to be more diverse with my reading. Great review😊

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Such a lovely review! I have this one on my TBR and I’m so excited to finally read it soon. It’s so good to finally have a Muslim protagonist in YA, at the heart of the story. And YAY for positive f/f friendships, we miss these too in books ahah 🙂 Thank you for sharing your thoughts about this 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  3. This sounds like a great book Lilly, and the fact that you enjoyed it so much and rated it so highly is all I need to see to convince me to add Saints and Misfits to my TBR list as well. It’s great to see amazing diverse books like this one hit the shelves, and I’ve rarely seen books that feature muslin protagonists on the YA shelves either so I’m doubly excited for this one. Also the character development sounds incredible, which is always great to see in complementary stories.
    Great review Lilly, I’m so glad you enjoyed this book! 😀 ❤

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you Beth! I agree, it’s a wonderful thing to see so many diverse books finally stream out on to our bookshelves. It was long overdue & now I can’t get enough of all these great books <3! This is the 1st YA book I've read with a muslim protagonist & will def look for more in the near future 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  4. i didn’t even finish this review when i went to barnes and amazon to see from which site i would order it from lol!! twin, amazing review! i love that you spoke briefly about other Muslim reviewers who enjoyed this one. for some reason i thought about the lovely girls we met at bookcon and smiled, i hope they have this one in their hands. i cannot wait to read this! i love that their is a positive sibling relationship and f/f too!!!!!!!!!!!!!! my gosh, we need more of both things! i cannot wait to meet Janna and read her journey!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. and obviously i finished the review when commenting the rest of that lol. sorry i just read how that sounds. i should proofread next time before clicking “post comment” lmfao


    2. Yes twin! I also thought of the girls we met on line for Jane, Unlimited! I also hope they have copies of this book. This was the 1st YA book I’ve read with Muslim representation & it will certainly not be the last. f/f & sibling relationships are two things I’d also love to see more of, I agree! I also hope you enjoy reading this book as much as I did but i’m editing it to include a trigger warning that I thought I had originally included.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. I feel very out of the loop because I have not heard of this one before reading this review ((hides in shame)).

    “I can honestly say this book gave me so much more than a few hours of enjoyment, the lessons I took away are of much higher value. S.K. Ali organically wove bits & pieces of culture, religion, and faith throughout Saints and Misfits making for a rich reading experience.”

    Sounds like a real learning experience, so you know I’m game! I really need to read more books with Muslim MCs, and this one sounds like a real winner. I LOVE that you included links to #OwnVoice reviews. I will make sure to head over and check them out to see their take away 🙂


  6. Well I think it goes without saying that in my attempts to branch out more, you are my go to recommender! I just slapped this right on the Amazon list. I absolutely love the idea Janna from her personal conviction the value it sounds like she places on relationships. I also want to thank you for including the two reviews from #Ownvoices. I think the insight and added perspective are not only beneficial but of great importance ❤


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