Review: Misfit in Love

Title: Misfit in Love
Author: S.K. Ali
Publisher: Salaam Reads / Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers
Pages: 320
Review copy: Digital ARC via Netgalley
Availability: May 25, 2021

Summary via publisher: Janna Yusuf is so excited for the weekend: her brother Muhammad’s getting married, and she’s reuniting with her mom, whom she’s missed the whole summer.

And Nuah’s arriving for the weekend too.

Sweet, constant Nuah.

The last time she saw him, Janna wasn’t ready to reciprocate his feelings for her. But things are different now. She’s finished high school, ready for college…and ready for Nuah.

It’s time for Janna’s (carefully planned) summer of love to begin—starting right at the wedding.

But it wouldn’t be a wedding if everything went according to plan. Muhammad’s party choices aren’t in line with his fiancée’s taste at all, Janna’s dad is acting strange, and her mom is spending more time with an old friend (and maybe love interest?) than Janna.

And Nuah’s treating her differently.

Just when things couldn’t get more complicated, two newcomers—the dreamy Haytham and brooding Layth—have Janna more confused than ever about what her misfit heart really wants.

Janna’s summer of love is turning out to be super crowded and painfully unpredictable.

Review: Janna had me smiling, cringing, laughing, and crying as she explored love in ways she did not anticipate. Romantic love is what Janna is pretty focused on as she prepares for her brother’s wedding, but this book is filled with quite a few types of love. The romantic path is twisty and sometimes uncomfortable and even painful for Janna. When I saw the cover, the bright and cheerful flowers caught my attention, but it’s also interesting that the guys are shadowy. Janna is having a hard time with discernment so that totally tracks. Fortunately, even with a bit of romantic drama happening, there are loving folks she can rely on and there are also opportunities for Janna to reach out and demonstrate love to others.

As with prior books, there are all kinds of feelings and emotions here. S.K. Ali knows how to tug the heartstrings for sure. Janna is compelling and is dithering which made me want to read quickly and find out what decisions she would ultimately make. For a good portion of the book it seems she decides not to decide or at least not to rock the boat in a variety of situations including some racism.

The interactions between friends, family, and love interests are compelling and Janna discovers a lot about herself as she sees the imperfections of those around her. She definitely does a lot of growing over the wedding weekend. I would love for the story to continue.

I am not reading from a Muslim perspective, but appreciated seeing the characters practice Islam in a variety of ways. It was great to see how the teachings of Islam are central to the ways Janna and others are moving through the world and how they relate to others. Religion is not the main conflict or point of the story, but it is an integral part of Janna’s life and many of the people who are close to her. It’s refreshing to see the spiritual lives of young people being represented in YA.

Though there are some difficult moments for Janna, there is also a good helping of humor, love, and joy.

Recommendation: Misfit in Love is a heart-warming book and fans of Saints and Misfits will want to pick this one up as soon as possible. This is a sequel and while I suppose someone would likely follow what is happening, it would be enjoyed much more after having read Saints and Misfits to have the context of some of the relationships. I did a quick re-read prior to picking up Misfit in Love and was thankful to have read them close together. I hope that many, many folks get their hands on this one.