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?
I decided to finally pick up this book after seeing that it made the longlist for Canada Reads. I’d been planning on reading it for a while now but it always seemed to get pushed back for a new release. I can definitely see why it made the list and now I’m wishing I had read it sooner. It was full of interesting characters, culture, growth, and ended up being a very good read.
Janna was a great character and I enjoyed her POV. She had an interesting dynamic with her family members that I really appreciated, especially having siblings of my own. She loved her family but they could drive her crazy, make her feel selfish, or not good enough. She had a crush on someone outside of the Muslim faith and we saw how that affected her. We also saw her struggling with being forced to be around someone she called a monster, someone everyone else thought was a good person. I especially loved her relationship with her elderly neighbor that she cared for.
The pacing was a little slow but with the plot so focused on Janna’s growth journey, I found the pacing didn’t matter to me. I was enjoying the every day life of Janna, all the little things that made her such an interesting character. Her faith was important to her, it wasn’t just something that was mentioned in passing or pushed to the background. There were times when she struggled with what she wanted versus what she knew was expected of her to be a good daughter.
This was a great #ownvoices novel and I really hope it ends up making the short list.