S.K. Ali
Credit: Andrea Stenson

S.K. Ali has written a novel to cure a few of your quarantine woes — namely, the woes that have to do with completely missing wedding season 2020. Misfit in Love, which comes after her critically acclaimed 2017 debut, Saints & Misfits, follows Janna Yusuf, an Arab-Indian (and American) teen on summer break who is tasked with helping her brother's nikah ceremony — only to be met with a few roadblocks when the bride and groom are unable to agree on wedding decisions and Janna develops her share of summer crushes. (Remember in-person crushes and in-person weddings?)

The YA novel will hit shelves on May 25, 2021. You can preorder it here, but Ali has graciously shared a few sneak peeks at the tome with EW. Below, check out Misfit In Love's never-before-seen cover and read about the author's favorite parts of the book and what helped her become the writer she is today (and stay tuned for the very first excerpt).

Misfit in Love
Credit: Simon and Schuster

What is the first thing — ever — that you remember writing?

In sixth grade, my teacher wheeled in a cart with books about flowers. She told us we were doing projects so, everyone, choose a flower. I narrowed my eyes to target-mark a book on lilacs. But then, before I could stake a claim on it, I fell ill and missed a week of school. When I returned, a lone book remained on the cart: goldenrod, a.k.a. a weed barely hanging on to its membership in the flowers club.

That's the first thing I remember writing super-passionately about: goldenrods. I wrote about those goldenrods like they were going to save my life — mainly because I felt a need to convince the other students that I was doing a flower project just! like! them! and not my very own special project about weeds. I think a couple of kids believed me.

What is the last book that made you cry?

Black Girl Unlimited, by Echo Brown. It's a coming-of-age story that unfolds poetically, stirring all your emotions along the way.

Which book is at the top of your current to-read list?

Pachinko, by Min Jin Lee. It's for me but also for my daughter. She's always searching for long saga stories and I'm always searching for the right book for her. (It's such a satisfying thing to do — to enjoy a read and then prescribe it to someone like a doctor.) I've heard that Pachinko fits the description of what my daughter's aching for: an epic tale filled with an ensemble of unforgettable characters.

Where do you write?

In my home office, on a desktop computer that I use only for writing, researching, and other authoring work. Wait, I also use it for online shopping.

Which book made you a forever reader?

Anne of Green Gables, by Lucy Maud Montgomery

What is a snack you couldn't write without?

Tea or coffee.

If you could change one thing about any of your books, what would it be?

There are so many things I'd like to change because I'm never satisfied with a book of mine, even after it's been through the entire publishing process.

I find myself continuously scanning the things I write to see what else needs fixing, so I try to avoid reading my stories after they become actual books. Or else I may pull them off the shelves in bookstores.

What is your favorite part of Misfit in Love?

The parts where Sausun — a character who's shown up in each of my novels and who now assumes she'll show up in all my novels henceforth — appears and takes over the main character Janna's scenes. As I'm writing Sausun, I'm so, so sure she's going to outshine everyone else. The weird thing is, even though I know it's not the optimal authorly thing to do, I just let Sausun do whatever she wants. I'm powerless against her.

In this book, she destroys someone, and then falls in love with them, just like that.

What was the hardest plot point or character to write in this book?

Layth, one of the three boys Janna navigates, was difficult to write. He's a bad boy, but a bad boy who really, really cares about helpless animals. Doing writerly justice to each part of his personality was challenging.

Also, the plot point involving Janna's dad took a lot of work because it's such an important topic. A lot of excellent people helped me with that part of the book.

Write a movie poster tag line for your Misfit in Love:

"It's the Muslim wedding of the summer and you're invited!" (Sounds like something that'll end up in a spam folder but it was better than "One girl, three boys, and many, many wedding guests.")

Related content: