Janna Yusuf has a lot to deal with.
Janna Yusuf has a lot to deal with.
The Arab Indian-American teen at the center of S.K. Ali’s Saints and Misfits has to cope with not only her parent’s divorce (and her father’s brand-new family) but also Muhammad, her mama’s boy older brother. Added to that is the fact that she’s suddenly developing feelings for a boy, Jeremy, while also figuring out what dating might look like for a Muslim girl.
But that’s not the biggest thing eating away at Janna. Turns out the Flanner O’Connor-loving teen knows that someone at her mosque, who everyone else considers quite holy, is not the person he says he is. And she might be the only one who knows.
With readers set to meet Janna early this summer, EW presents an exclusive excerpt from the first chapter of Ali’s My So-Called Life-channelling YA debut, which you can read below.
Saints and Misfits hits bookshelves June 13. Preorder it here.
Excerpt from ‘Saints and Misfits‘ by S.K. Ali
I’m in the water. Only my eyes are visible, and I blow bubbles to ensure the rest of me stays submerged until the opportune time. Besides the lifeguard watching from his perch, there’s a gaggle of girls my age patrolling the beach with younger siblings in tow. ey pace in their flip-flops and bikinis, and I wait.
The ideal time is when no one’s around and no one’s looking. But right now there’s a little girl cross-legged on wooden bleachers peering at me from beneath a hand held aloft at her forehead, a smile on her face. I can’t tell if the smile is a result of how long she’s been watching me bob here in the water.
To check whether she’s staring, I test her with a long gaze to the left of the bleachers, where Dad and his wife Linda are barbecuing. Their oldest son, Logan, round and berry-brown from a day in the sun, is digging a hole nearby, while the newest addition, Luke, lies on a quilt wearing a swim diaper.
Dad said I’d love it here because the beachfront cottage they’d rented was one of the only two Cherie and Ed had let out this weekend. Secluded. Serene. Safe.
Ha. Cherie and Ed forgot to mention that the beach portion doesn’t actually belong to them and is public property at all hours of the day. Party central.
I look back, and, hallelujah, the girl on the bleachers is gone. There’s also a lull on the shore now. The lifeguard’s turned to talk to someone behind him, and the beach girls are on the far right, peering at a sand castle.
I stand and cringe at the sucking sound as my swimsuit sticks to me, all four yards of the spandex-Lycra blend of it. Waterfalls gush out of the many hems on the out t, and, as I hobble out of the lake, more secret pockets release their water. I’m a drippy, squelchy mess, stumbling toward Dad and Linda, picking up tons of sand as I move. I refuse to look around in case I see someone, everyone, watching me.
Maybe my face reveals something, because Dad starts right away.
“Janna, why do you have to wear that thing? You could have said, No, I’m not wearing your burkini, Mom.” He waves around long tongs as he speaks.
“Mom didn’t get it for me. I ordered it online.”
“I saw her hand it to you as we were packing the car.”
“Because I’d left it on the hall table, Dad.”
“It’s her kind of thing. What’s wrong with the way Linda’s dressed?” He snaps the tongs at Linda. She’s wearing a one-piece, just-had-a-baby, flouncy-at-the-hips number, and, really, I’d rather be in my burkini. It’s black and sleek. Sure, when it gets wet, you kind of resemble a droopy sea lion, but at least it isn’t pink and lime green like Linda’s swimsuit is.