Author: S. K. Ali
Publisher: Salaam Reads
Publishing Date: 2017
Janna Yusuf is a very conservative hijab wearing Muslim-American girl. She’s smart, and kind, but broken inside. She’s strong inside and in her mind but it takes a while for us to see the physical appearance of her strength. Having divorced parents, Janna has a secular father, and religious mother and brother. Her father has remarried, and has two children with his new wife. Janna continues to love him endlessly, but we see mixed emotions between Muhammad and his father.In the beginning of the book we find that Janna is sexually assaulted by Farooq, the monster, as he’s well known for the rest of the book. The rest of the plot is spent running away from, and avoiding Farooq, her family, and her friends, as Janna shelters the truth inside. During this traumatic time Janna is still faced with the normal struggles of everyday life.
She’s attends Fenway High School where she’s fallen for a young man named Jeremy, a Christian boy. Clearly, this is against her beliefs, and what she’s been taught her whole life, but she cannot simply shut off her feelings for him. Through Advanced Classes, Mixed Emotions, Traumatic Experiences, and Shotty Friends, Janna also cares for an elderly man in her area, a Mr. Ram, whom she cares for once a week. A wise and caring man, Mr. Ram has been watched by Janna since well before she was a teen. He reads poems, and gives advice to Janna during her times with him, and I never left moments with Mr. Ram unaffected.
During moments of frustration we see some favoritism towards Muhammad which seems to be culturally correlated with his gender. For obvious reasons Janna is irritated by this, and she now begins to play with the idea that her mother loves Muhammad more than her, and that she “finds it easy to exclude” her.
While the monster who hurt her continues to attend her school and mosque, Janna has no place to hide.
The novel was well written, especially if you focus on the accurate look into a Muslim-American’s everyday life. The characters and character relationships are genuine and allowed me to read the novel with the utmost ease. That being said, however, I found myself frustrated with the plot, easily bored, and having to stop myself from skipping along to get to the interesting things faster. I believe S.K. Ali could use improvement in the area of discerning how far of a gap should exist between plot and filler. That being said, I was also extremely frustrated with the sexual assault in the beginning because I felt it could have been detailed better creating in me a replica of the violation Janna felt.
If I had to give this book a star rating I would say 3.5/5 stars considering is was a great diverse read, but the amount of time it took me to digest my book. I look forward to hearing your opinions on the book as well!