Books by Muslim Authors, YA Books

Love From Mecca to Medina by S.K. Alli – ARC Review

This book was everything I ever wanted and more. 

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Synopsis from Goodreads:

Adam and Zayneb. Perfectly matched. Painfully apart. Adam is in Doha, Qatar, making a map of the hijrah, a historic migration from Mecca to Medina and worried about where his next paycheck will come from. Zayneb is in Chicago, where school and extracurricular stresses are piling on top of a terrible frenemy situation and making her miserable.

Then a marvel occurs: Adam and Zayneb get the chance to spend Thanksgiving week on the Umrah, a pilgrimage to Mecca and Medina in Saudi Arabia, tracing the hijrah in real life, together. Adam’s thrilled, and Zayneb hopes for a spiritual reset—and they can’t wait to see each other.

But the trip is nothing like what they expect, from the appearance of Adam’s ex in their travelling group to the anxiety gripping Zayneb everywhere they go. And as one wedge after another drives them apart as they make their way from one holy city to another, Adam and Zayneb start to wonder: was their meeting just an oddity after all? Or can their love transcend everything else like the greatest marvels of the world? 

This book has my heart and soul! I absolutely adored Adam and Zayneb from Love From A to Z and seeing them older and married was so beautiful to read. The love and care they have for each other and the way they want to support each other in their passions and goals, made me love them even more.

In this book they are now in their early 20s and having recently got married we got to see them express their love for each other. The beginning was so funny to see them try to have some private time and someone would interrupt them. It was so relatable and Hanna reminded me of my little brother barging into our room because he wanted to cuddle or sleep in the bed with us so yes, I felt their pain! 

I loved that this isn’t just their love story but also their individual stories of discovering who they are and what they truly want in life both together and apart and I loved that so much. 

Through Adam and Zayneb we all get to experience Umrah and the beauty of Makkah and Medina and all I wanted to do was to be able to have the privilege of performing Umrah after reading this book. It made me long to be there, to visit the places where the Prophet (pbuh) had lived and to just be able to go to the most holy of places and strengthen my connection and love for Allah. I loved how Sajidah included the importance of each part of the Umrah without it sounding like a lecture and just so seamlessly woven into the story. I often turn to the stories of the Prophets especially when I am struggling and seeing Adam and Zayneb also do that was so wonderful to see. 

In this story we see how they are struggling with managing all the aspects of their lives and the long distance relationship and how it is having a toll on their physical and mental health. I loved seeing that they had their own struggles and trying to find that balance as it’s something a lot of us have to deal with and it also showed us that they have full lives and not just all about each other. 

The disability rep that we see in Adam and how he struggles to manage his symptoms was so well written. I related so much to him and how he tries to handle his daily life and his guilt. The guilt he felt made me cry because I have felt that guilt, that you feel you are holding your spouse back, that they deserve better, that you give your loved ones extra stress because you need their support more regularly. Adam being so wrapped up in trying to deal with this while also putting on a strong face for Zayneb was heartbreaking and I just wanted to give him a hug. I loved how he turned to Allah for help and put his trust in Him to find a way through his situations.

Zayneb also had some incredibly difficult circumstances to deal with and I felt so stressed out for her and was so worried about her! I loved seeing her grow from the Zayneb we meet in LFATZ because she would sometimes act before she thought through. But now she is more mature and thinks about the best way to deal with the situation and I loved seeing that aspect of her. She also struggles in her relationship with Allah and we see her grow and rebuild her relationship with Allah by going to Umrah and realising she needs to recharge herself as she can’t help anyone if she is broken. 

This book was everything to me and I loved every single second. Also shoutout to Bertha Fatima the real mvp. I love that cat so much. Everyone please read this book and all of Sajidah’s books. 

Book Recommendations

Reasons to Read Love From A to Z by S.K. Ali

This book means so much to me in so many ways and it will forever hold a special place in my heart and I just want you all to experience this beautiful story too. So here are some reasons why you should read this book.

A Cute Halal Love Story

We get to see how you can truly fall in love and find the person you want to spend your life with while maintaining the boundaries set in place by our religion. Their faith was so important to them and so it influenced how they interacted with each other and it was so beautiful to see these small moments like Adam putting his hand on the table saying he wants to hold her hand but can’t so this will be the replacement. It’s so amazing to see that they put their faith first.

Adorable Meet Cute

Everyone loves a meet cute and this is one of my favourites! They meet at an airport and end up on the same flight where they interact for the first time after spotting each other and sharing a special connection by saying salaam to each other.

Disability Rep

Adam is diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis which is what makes him decide to quit university and go home. The rep was so great, we see him battle his many feelings about how this will affect his life but also his families. We see him struggle to manage it initially but eventually find his new normal. He never thinks he needs fixing or that there is something wrong with him and I really loved seeing how relatable it was.

Female Friendships

While this is a love story we also see love in many forms including the friendships that Zayneb has with her friends and how they care deeply for each other and if they mess up they apologise and try to make amends. It was so great to see women supporting women.

Smart Assertive Muslim Women

This is a story with multiple women who are so different from each other and yet are united in the battle against injustices.They may approach it in different ways but they are all incredible and resilient and they have each others backs.

Cinnamon Roll Love Interest

Adam is so sweet and an introvert to Zayneb’s bold and outgoing nature and it was so lovely to see a sweet soft boy. He shows strength in so many ways but I loved how his nature was to be kind and sweet and thoughtful. I loved his relationship with his little sister and his dad and how much he cared for them. We see how he is with Zayneb too and how he isn’t afraid to express how he feels and I just love him so much.

#EatThemAlive

This book also deals with Islamophobia both in the west and in Muslim countries. It discusses how it’s a thousand small cuts that slowly diminish us and that we face so many injustices because we chose to wear a scarf on our head or cover up in a swimming pool. We are judged and looked down on just because we are Muslim and how that affects us and our everyday lives and how it can make us feel hurt and angry and want to fight these injustices but that it also drains us. 

I just need you all to read this incredible book especially as the sequel, Love From Mecca to Medina, will be out on October 18th.

Top 5 Wednesdays

Top 5 Wednesday – Bookish Happiness

Today I will be sharing books that brought me utter joy and had me reading with a huge grin. I highly recommend reading these books for that serotonin boost!

Love From A to Z by S.K. Ali – This book is the cutest sweetest story ever

That Can Be Arranged by Huda Fahmy – The most adorable and hilarious story of how Huda met her husband!

Misfit in Love by S.K. Ali – Features a big fat Muslim wedding that had me laughing with such utter joy

The Princess and the Fangirl by Ashley Poston – Set at a con with all the nerds embracing their passions

My Mechanical Romance by Alexene Farol Follmuth – All the nerdiness and female friendships on top of a cute romance, what’s not to love?!

What books have you read that brought you pure joy?

Books by Muslim Authors, Diverse Books, YA Books

Misfit in Love by S.K. Ali – Book Review

This is the companion book to Saints and Misfits and I highly recommend you read this before this book. You can read my review of Saints and Misfits here. This book was everything I ever wanted and more!

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Synopsis from Goodreads:

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.

This book was pure serotonin injected straight into my veins. I loved every second of this book, it was a celebration of being Muslim and love and marriage and family and friends. I don’t know if I will ever be able to write down coherently just how much this book means to me.

This book is set about 2 years after the events of Saints and Misfits and it’s the summer when Janna’s older brother, Muhammad and Sarah, are getting married. Their nikkah is taking place at their dad’s home in the garden overlooking the lake. Even the setting in the book is so beautiful and honestly I wish we could see the wedding happening because it must have looked amazing.

Janna is older and she has grown a lot over the two years. She had a lot of trauma to deal with and it was nice to see that she no longer blames herself for what happened to her and that monster was held accountable. In this book Janna goes through a great character growth from thinking her happiness will be with being with another person to realising she can be happy with just herself. It was so wonderful to see that message in the book because often girls are taught their happiness lies with being with someone else. But our happiness and self worth should be with being happy within ourselves. 

I also loved all the female friendships in this book and that Janna and Tats even discuss the Bechdel test. I especially loved the friendship and love between Sarah and Janna and how they became family and look out for each other. It was a big difference from a couple years ago where Janna called her saint Sarah! It was amazing to see so many female characters, each with their own distinct personalities and dreams and hopes. From Sausan who is a badass niqabi with her own youtube channel to Sarah getting her PhD to the new characters we meet in this book who come for the wedding.

Muhammad, is Janna’s older brother and is such a cinnamon roll, I loved him so much. The way he understood Janna at such a deep level to understanding her through a look on her face. But also being the annoying older brother and their banter was so great! However he had questionable choices in wedding décor and I cannot explain the absolute horror I felt at some of his choices. But it was also hilarious watching Sarah bring out her clipboards and rope Janna into sorting everything out in one weekend.

This book may seem like it’s a fluffy romance but it also deals with some really serious issues like the racism that exists in our community that Black people face. The microaggressions that they have to deal with but find it difficult to call them out for it. Nuah has to deal with this throughout the wedding and Janna has to have some very difficult discussions with her dad about this. There is also the racism between arabs and non arabs and how some arabs view those who aren’t, inferior and show that in the comments they make about how their traditions are more important and make Muhammad not feel welcome in the family at times. These are difficult but important discussions we need to have with the people in our lives if we see them do this, we can’t just ignore it.

I really loved Haytham and Layth too even though I was still rooting for Nuah. Haytham was just swoon worthy and Layth had so much depth to him. I really enjoyed seeing their stories play out and how they interacted with Janna.

This book was so wonderful in so many ways and I just loved reading every second of it. The ending was so wonderful and so perfect for Janna and the wedding was so beautiful and there’s so much more I want to say but I can’t because spoilers but this book made me laugh and me so emotional and please you all need to go read it!

Books by Muslim Authors, YA Books

Saints and Misfits by S.K. Ali – Book Review

This is Sajidah’s debut book and a book I reread for the first time since I read it when it released.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Synopsis from Goodreads:

How much can you tell about a person just by looking at them?

Janna Yusuf knows a lot of people can’t figure out what to make of her…an Arab Indian-American hijabi teenager who is a Flannery O’Connor obsessed book nerd, aspiring photographer, and sometime graphic novelist is not exactly easy to put into a box.

And Janna suddenly finds herself caring what people think. Or at least what a certain boy named Jeremy thinks. Not that she would ever date him—Muslim girls don’t date. Or they shouldn’t date. Or won’t? Janna is still working all this out.

While her heart might be leading her in one direction, her mind is spinning in others. She is trying to decide what kind of person she wants to be, and what it means to be a saint, a misfit, or a monster. Except she knows a monster…one who happens to be parading around as a saint…Will she be the one to call him out on it? What will people in her tightknit Muslim community think of her then?

Honestly I appreciated this book a lot more during my reread than I did the first time I read it. It’s a story that deals with several important topics within the Muslim community that don’t get enough attention and ways to deal with these issues openly and without stigma.

Janna is 15 and going through what a lot of Muslim teens go through living in the west, how to balance your faith and trying to fit in. A lot of youth don’t have someone they can trust to turn to for help in navigating this so they do so on their own and no one is perfect so they can make mistakes, they can bow to peer pressure which does happen to Janna.

Janna is assaulted and harassed by a boy who is known to have a wonderful reputation within the Muslim community and so she finds it difficult to speak up about what has happened to her. It was heart breaking to read about how much Janna struggles to work through her trauma completely alone and she also has to listen to everyone talk about how amazing her assaulter is. She even has to be around him because no one knows what he did to her and she can’t find a way to avoid him. He begins to stalk her and start a smear campaign against her because that will make it harder for her to speak up and be believed. It felt so real to read this. She is trying to move on but keeps getting pulled back and navigating all these complicated feelings. She feels isolated and it affects her relationships with family and friends. It was heart breaking to read about it.

One of the things I did love was that Janna may not have been able to speak up about the assault but she knew that it wasn’t her fault, that even though that monster tried to manipulate her she knew it wasn’t. This is something so important to read and see, that it is never the fault of the victim. I think the only thing I wish we got to see more of was what happened after she finally spoke up. Maybe we will get to see this in the sequel!

I also loved the range of Muslim women that are in this book from niqbi Sausan to “Saint” Sarah and even Fizz. Suasan is amazing and a badass, her sass and and how she carries herself wearing the niqab was so wonderful to see. Sarah may seem like a saint to Janna but once she spends some time with Sarah, she realises that actually she isn’t perfect but just trying her best like Janna. Fizz is another person in Janna’s life but one who is also related to the monster, she can be a little judgemental and see Islam in Black and white and it causes a rift between her and Janna. It was great to see all these different women in the book because we are all different and everyone is on their own journey in their faith.

And then we have Nuah, who clearly has a crush on Janna even though she is oblivious. She has a crush on Jeremy and it was interesting to see her journey through navigating her feelings towards him and trying to figure out how to manage these feelings because she didn’t want to date but also did want to spend time with him. It felt real and relatable. She is 15 and many of us have to navigate and balance our faith and our feelings especially at that age it can be difficult and you can feel pressured to do things you may not want to. But by the end she has resolved her feelings and realises that dating isn’t something she wants to do.

Nuah meanwhile is actually a great friend to her and never pressures her to feel or be more than a friend. He also is one of the few people who figures out that the monster has hurt Janna in some way and immediately believes her and says he is there for her if she needs some support and honestly I just fell in love with how sweet he is. I cannot wait to see him in Misfit in Love!

This is a story that deals with many difficult topics that young people deal with in the Muslim community and I am so glad I reread it as I think I appreciated the story a lot more in my reread. I am so excited for the sequel releasing in a few months!