Saints and Misfits

Book review by
Lucinda Dyer, Common Sense Media
Saints and Misfits Book Poster Image
Empowering tale of Muslim girl standing up to assaulter.

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age 13+
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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Educational Value

Janna chooses to wear a hijab and dress modestly, and readers can see how that choice influences her everyday life: Do you wear a hijab in PE class? How do you dress for a party? Arabic words appear casually in conversations and are always explained. Janna's a member of an Islamic Quiz Bowl team, and the storyline includes several questions the teams are asked: Q: Where's the oldest surviving mosque in the U.S.? A: Cedar Rapids, Iowa. Q: What are the primary objectives of Islamic law? A: Mercy, justice, education, and God-conciousness. 

Positive Messages

Telling the truth --even when it's a hard truth for people to believe -- is the right thing to do.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Janna has made a commitment to a particular religious faith but she doesn't want her world to be a narrow one and has friends rom widely diverse backgrounds. She summons the courage to move from being a silent victim to courageously speaking up.

Violence

An attempted sexual assault is not described in overly graphic detail. 

Sex

One quick kiss.

Language

"Hell," "a--hole," "bitch," and "bulls--t."

Consumerism

Lots of casual references to everything from Lord of the Rings and Downton Abbey to Project Runway, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, and Cheetos.  Facebook postings are a key element in the storyline. Janna's always reading and quoting her favorite author, Flannery O'Connor.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

A few teens drink at a party.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that in S.K. Ali's Saints and Misfits, 15-year-old Janna Yusuf is trying her best to navigate a whole series of relatable teen problems -- fitting into the new families created by her parents' divorce, a tough math class, mean girls, and a crush on a boy who might not be right for her. There's one thing that will set Janna apart for many readers: She's Muslim and has decided to wear a hijab. But for the ethnically diverse friends and neighbors that inhabit Janna's life, her religion is simply one part of what makes up the kind, smart, and feisty girl they know. When Janna's secure world is shattered by an attempted sexual assault, she first struggles and then becomes determined to fight back and hold her attacker accountable. There's some strong language ("hell," "bulls--t," "a--hole," and "bitch") and the assault is not graphically described. An exceptional read for teens wanting to understand how a Muslim teen lives her faith in multicultural America.

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Teen, 15 years old Written byHRM1104 June 26, 2018

What's the story?

Janna Yusuf is balancing a lot in SAINTS AND MISFITS. Her non-religious Indian father and religious Egyptian mother are divorced ,and her father has remarried. Her brother's dating the "the most perfect Muslim girl on the planet," while Janna has crush on a non-Muslim boy named Jeremy. She has one life with a group of culturally diverse friends at her high school and another with her friends at the local mosque. And Janna has a secret she's been keeping from all of them. Farouq, a young man everyone at her mosque considers a saint, tried to sexually assault her and now seems to be turning up everywhere she goes. When she refuses to have anything to do with him, he retaliates by videotaping her talking with Jeremy and sending it to her friends and brother. She knows she needs to fight back and expose Farouq for who he really is, but will anyone believe her? 

Is it any good?

This empowering multicultural coming-of-age story uses engaging and relatable teen characters to take on big issues of faith, identity, and sexual assault. Saints & Misfits will introduce readers who don't live in an ethnically or religiously diverse community to Muslim characters with whom they'll have much in common. 

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about how Muslim teens are portrayed in Saints and Misfits. Did it surprise you that Janna's high school life was pretty much like that of any other teenager? Do you think a girl wearing a hijab would be as readily accepted in your school as Janna is in hers? 

  • Several girls post photos on Facebook they know will be hurtful to Janna. Do you think people who post false or hurtful things on social media should be held accountable?

  • If you knew someone considered a "saint" was actually a "monster," would you speak out? Who would you tell? What if no one believed you?

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