Saints and Misfits

High school is the worst.

Time dulls the worst of the memories, until you read something like Saints and Misfits, by S.K. Ali. Then you sit in your teenage angst, wallow in it and are outraged because you realize that if you’d been who you are today while in high school you would have handled things totally differently. (Insert shrug emoji). This is why when I read YA, I usually stick to fantasy, dystopian and vampires. No PTSD required.

Admittedly, things are a bit tougher for main character Janna, who is a Muslim and wears a hijab at her public high school. My high school was tough because it was poor and unheated, not because of racial or religious tensions.

Janna, who is sassy, smart and kind to seniors, is infatuated with a white, Irish, Christian boy. The boy in question is also pals with someone Janna knows, even if no one else does, is a super dangerous person. A predator. She can’t tell anyone: the predator is well respected in her community and church. But Janna sees him. She knows what he is. She just needs to decide what she’s going to do about him. And the wholly inappropriate boy she has a crush on.

Janna doesn’t feel she has any franchise in her own life, really. She thinks her mom favours her brother and her dad favours his new family, and that everyone is a little bit better or smarter than her. Mean girls are mean to her and she doesn’t understand a lot of the other girls she socializes with. She’s such a painfully normal teenage girl that it’s impossible not to reminisce. It’s impossible not to remember things better forgotten or shined up with time. It’s impossible not to empathize.

S.K. Ali was at Events 20 (The Jungles of Adolescence) and 46 (Yes, You Can!) of the 2017 Vancouver Writers Festival.


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