TL;DR 8/10. Misfit in Love was a beautiful and heart-warming read that touched on unexpectedly deep topics without ever subtracting from the fun of, as Janna puts it, the “big fat Muslim wedding” at the heart of the story.
Okay, I have to admit that I wasn’t super excited by the premise of the love square/triangle thing. As I’m already not a huge romance fan, a book centered around one girl’s search for love with three possible love interests sounds like the last possible thing I’d read. BUT!! S.K. Ali is a Canadian-Muslim author and being as desperate for good Muslim rep as I am, I simply had to give this a chance. Without getting too serious (this is a summer wedding story after all!!) I have to say that I am always personally disappointed with how Muslims are usually portrayed in fiction, whether it be in books or TV. To see a hijab-wearing MC who loves her religion, who isn’t afraid to quote the Qur’an or practice what she believes in, be the main character of her own story is so refreshing and beautiful to me. Too often Muslims are either vilified or victimized in the media, and that can translate into acts of hatred in real life. Still, Misfit in Love is NOT about Islamophobia–the only time Muslims get to have a voice should not be when they have been attacked. Instead, this book is simply about Muslim characters living their lives as they ought to, eating ice cream, preparing for a wedding, and feeling safe (although a little lovelorn). Simply put (as if I haven’t gone on long enough) the representation in this book is so heart-warming and beautifully integrated that it didn’t feel preachy or informational at all, and instead felt as if S.K. Ali had personally written this book to me.
So while the Muslim rep in this book is something I could talk about for hours, I also have good things to say about the plot! The start of this book’s plot was wholly and completely about Janna’s love life, but started to improve with other sideplots being added as the story progressed. For example, there is the clash of cultures (and opinions!) between Muhammad’s (groom to be) Indian father and Sarah’s (bride to be) Syrian family. Then there is the plot in which Janna’s divorced mother finds a potential love interest, and Janna has to contend with the possibility of a step-family with whom to share her mother with. One of the most relevant side plots I feel was well-written is the racism Nuah encountered… will not spoil by saying who perpetrated it. That racism also led to Janna realizing how her naïvety translated into complicity in the anti-blackness Nuah faced, which is a deep topic I did not expect such a fun book to explore.
The only criticism I have for this book really, are in its characters because I only truly liked Layth and Sausun (both of whom are side characters). Layth, Sausun, (and Janna to some extent) were complex characters, while all others were simply stereotypical and labelled by one or two words. Maybe this was to show Janna’s incorrect black and white view of the world, but as a person who really appreciates nuanced and flawed characters with properly written arcs, it just did not do. An extension of this criticism is that the most characters really had no flaws at all. Janna, did get a character arc at the end however, which I liked.
*Spoiler*** The ending was also a little too ‘happily ever after’ for even me, who only likes happy endings. Some things were solved too quickly with an idealistic view on how people change… or maybe I’m too pessimistic, I don’t know*** Spoiler***
The last thing I’m going to say is that I actually liked the love-match at the very end of the story. I will not spoil by providing details but I would recommend that even if you’re a reader who doesn’t enjoy romance driven plots (like me), give this book a chance. You might get a laugh or a few tears in (I did, anyway.)