Saints and Misfits
Author: S. K. Ali
Publisher: Simon and Schuster
Publication date: June 13th 2017
Source: Simon & Schuster Canada (thank you!), Purchased from Audible.com
Format: ARC, Audiobook
Buy It: Indigo.ca | Amazon.com | The Book Depository | iBooks | Google Books | Audible
Saints and Misfits is an unforgettable debut novel that feels like a modern day My So-Called Life…starring a Muslim teen.
There are three kinds of people in my world:
1. Saints, those special people moving the world forward. Sometimes you glaze over them. Or, at least, I do. They’re in your face so much, you can’t see them, like how you can’t see your nose.
2. Misfits, people who don’t belong. Like me—the way I don’t fit into Dad’s brand-new family or in the leftover one composed of Mom and my older brother, Mama’s-Boy-Muhammad.
Also, there’s Jeremy and me. Misfits. Because although, alliteratively speaking, Janna and Jeremy sound good together, we don’t go together. Same planet, different worlds.
But sometimes worlds collide and beautiful things happen, right?
3. Monsters. Well, monsters wearing saint masks, like in Flannery O’Connor’s stories.
Like the monster at my mosque.
People think he’s holy, untouchable, but nobody has seen under the mask.
Review: Saints and Misfits by S.K. Ali
Janna Yusuf is a teen who is living with a secret. She’s been sexually assaulted by her friend’s cousin, a guy who her community sees as a pillar of Muslim teenagerhood. Meanwhile, her parents are divorced, her brother is taking a year off from school and dating the local perfect Muslim girl, and she’s got a crush on a guy who isn’t Muslim at all. All of this, plus dealing with her job caring for an elderly man, the delicate girl friendships, and trying to get great grades is taking its toll. Janna’s just trying to hold it all together.
This book was a hard one for me, because on paper, Saints and Misfits is totally my jam. Written by a local author about a POC in a diverse community, and blurbed as similar to My So-Called Life? YES. Exploring a faith unfamiliar to me, but in a contemporary setting? YES. Family and friendship stuff? YES.
But somehow, this story just didn’t quite capture my interest. The voice of the main character, Janna, fell flat for me. I felt myself losing interest at the end of each paragraph.
I started out reading this on paper and stopped after about 70 pages. Then I came back to it on audio to see if that would work better. And while I liked the narrator, I still felt like the words themselves were not moving me along. I was just kinda going along on the journey with Janna, her family, and friends, without any real connection.
One of the biggest issues for me was that Janna and her brother’s relationship felt very, very young. The way they fought as a 16-17 year old, and as a 19-20 year old really felt like they were six. I didn’t believe it because as someone who has an older brother, I just couldn’t see us arguing like that.
The story itself meanders a lot. It’s very much a slice-of-life piece, where scenes would take place, but didn’t necessarily feel like they were building to anything. Normally, I’m okay with that kind of narrative, but this one felt disjointed to me. Added to the prickly voice of the main character, and my frustration was exacerbated.
I did like each of the characters individually. I appreciated author S.K. Ali’s ability to draw a vibrant community around Janna. From Tatyana, Janna’s best friend, to Mr. Ram, her elderly neighbour who loved literature as much as his Hindu faith, everyone in the story is well-drawn.
I also appreciated how honest this story felt when it dealt with the sexual harassment and assault. I don’t want to get into spoilers, but it’s the part of the story I felt most connected with – the shame and confusion that Janna felt.
I really wish that I’d liked this book better, but unfortunately, this was a case of it not being the right book for me. I can understand the people who love it, and I definitely hope there are a lot out there because we need more #ownvoices novels. If you’re interested in this book, I would encourage you to read it and give it a good chance. Maybe you’ll make out better than I did!I See London, I See France
Author: Sarah Mlynowski
Publication date: July 11th 2017
Source: Harper Collins Canada (thank you!)
Buy It: Indigo.ca | Amazon.com | The Book Depository | iBooks | Google Books | Audible
"This endlessly fun and hugely entertaining romp through Europe had me laughing out loud and reaching for my passport.” —Jennifer E. Smith, author of Windfall
A POPSUGAR Best Young Adult Novel of 2017
Nineteen-year-old Sydney has the perfect summer mapped out. She’s spending the next four and a half weeks travelling through Europe with her childhood best friend Leela. Their plans include Eiffel Tower selfies, eating cocco gelato, and making out with très hot strangers.
Her plans do not include Leela’s cheating ex-boyfriend showing up on the flight to London, falling for the cheating ex-boyfriend’s très hot friend, monitoring her mother’s spiraling mental health via texts, or feeling like the rope in a friendship tug of war.
In this hilarious and unforgettable adventure, New York Times bestselling author Sarah Mlynowski tells the story of a girl learning to navigate secret romances, thorny relationships, and the London Tube. As Sydney zigzags through Amsterdam, Switzerland, Italy, and France, she must learn when to hold on, when to keep moving, and when to jump into the Riviera...wearing only her polka dot underpants.
Review: I See London, I See France by Sarah Mlynowski
Yikes. I would have DNFd this book at 30% had it not been for a mutual silent agreement with my pal Michele of Just a Lil Lost that we were going to power through together. I really, really hoped that it would get better, that the mental health representation would go deeper and be a little stronger, or that I would like the characters and the premise more. But nope.
Sydney has just finished her first year of university in Maryland. Her best friend, Leela, has spent the year in Montreal at McGill University. The best friends have always dreamed of going to Europe together, but Syd’s mom suffers from anxiety and agoraphobia. Sydney herself lives at home and spends most of her time taking care of her mom. But when Leela’s boyfriend Matt cheats on her, Leela’s plans to go to Europe are dashed unless Sydney steps in. Of course, they don’t count on Matt showing up on the same flight, along with his hot friend Jackson.
So, there’s a lot going on in this book – maybe too much because honestly, I got to the end of it and felt like not a single thing was delved into deeply enough.
First, the characters. Sydney and Leela are supposed to be 19, but I felt like they read incredibly young in both action and voice. There were a lot of moments where I wondered if I was reading a middle grade novel. And then they would talk about hooking up and sex – but not in those terms – and I’d just be confused again.
Neither one of the main characters is particularly funny, smart or interesting. I felt like I barely knew them other than what they did in the book. Moreover, Leela spends most of the book moping, bitching and complaining about everything and Sydney is a doormat who tries to please her. Their friendship is so crappy and obviously toxic. Add to that that they were the opposite of introspective, spending most of their time complaining about boys and the weather, and seeming to be frustrated whenever anything wasn’t at all like it was in America.
The latter thing is hard to talk about, because I know my perspective is one of someone who is older and has travelled a lot, but HOLY HELL. For girls who supposedly have been dreaming of Europe their whole lives, they seem to know nothing about the places they want to see. They’re in London and it’s raining. “Why does it rain so much?!” They decide to go get fish and chips. “These taste nothing like the frozen fish sticks from home – oh and chips are fries! Omg!” First of all, I’m pretty sure you can get fish and chips in any ocean/seaside town in America. Second of all, does anyone not know that the “chips” in fish and chips are fries?
If that was the only instance of that kind of “helpful tip” in the book, I would have just ignored it. But the narrative of the book is sprinkled with “snippets” from a fake guidebook that includes tips like these. Obvious ones. Ones that literally made me wonder whether this book was some kind of satire for the stereotypical American tourist. I kid you not, I legit wondered that because the characters are so unlikeable and so shocked that things aren’t the way they are at home that I felt like I might be imposing some kind of Canadian snobbery or something.
Those issues last through the entire book and just made my reading experience really painful. And they were exacerbated by Sydney’s enabling of her mom, who is being cared for by her 16-year old sister. Sydney has been taking care of her mom for 7 years, and she’s essentially allowed her mom to dictate her own treatment to the point where it’s gotten impossible to go outside and Sydney has no life. I wont go into spoilers on how this all gets dealt with, but let’s just say that it feels way too easy. As someone who suffers from anxiety, I just really felt like it was too light a take on this issue.
Finally, the romance. Because I wasn’t invested in the characters, I wasn’t at all invested in their relationships or love interests. I will say that towards the middle of the book, we meet a couple characters I liked better. But for the most part, the romance was light and fluffy and frankly not that interesting.
Overall, I’m hugely disappointed in this book. It needed a really good edit. At 380 pages, it really should have had some substance or at least some decent travel writing. But I never felt like I was in any of the places with the characters because their experiences were so limited to just touristy spots and dealing with their own drama. I don’t think I’ve sighed in frustration more over a book than this one. I actually can’t believe there’s a sequel. You can bet I won’t be reading it.
Ok, so obviously SAINTS AND MISFITS and I SEE LONDON, I SEE FRANCE weren’t my reads. I feel really crappy about that since they’re both Canadian authors! Did you guys read these? Are you into slice-of-life books, or books with really young feeling characters? If you liked these books, what did you like about these books? Hit the comments and let me know!