Top 5 Muslim YA Novels to Add to Your Reading List
As an American Sri Lankan Muslim, the following books are what resonated with me the most and made me feel seen. I adore these books because for the first time, I was reading about things that I actually heard about or seen in my community. These are the kind of books I wish I had growing up. I am so ecstatic that there are writers out there writing about Muslim protagonists who are proud of who they are.
Unfortunately, I often see characters who are written as Muslim but it is clear from reading the story that there was no research done on Islam or their culture. So with that being said, here are some books that I believe you should read if you want to know about what Muslims are actually like:
Love from A to Z by S.K. Ali
First off, I have to say that I've had the pleasure of interviewing S.K. Ali before and she's one of the nicest authors I've "virtually" met. This book talks about having mixed cultures, disability awareness, being a practicing Muslim, and chronic illness in a way that I have never seen anyone do before! I love that readers get a glimpse of how the main characters spend Eid together in the future as an Eid gift to the readers from S.K. Ali (but alright, alright, back to the review).
Islamophobia is the first thing that's introduced in the story, but I like that it wasn't done in a cliche form. The story starts off with Zeynab being expelled from school for a comment she made after a teacher made Islamophobic comments. I was initially worried about how this story was going to go but I loved how it was resolved and the different events that took place because of it.
Another thing I adored about this book was that the protagonists came from different backgrounds and that absolutely nothing felt out of place! I hope that one day I can write characters as loveable as the ones in this book. Secondly, the representation of such a diverse community was incredible! I also loved that we got to know each of the character's quirks, what they thought about each other, and how even the side characters like the Emmas had a role.
Additionally, the disabilities were represented in a way that made the story feel real and I loved everything about that. My only con is that I would've loved to see what went down at the school board. You'll know what I mean when you read the book.
In case you didn't know, Love from A to Z recently got a new paperback issue. And if you'd like to know more about why it's one of the best love stories I've ever read, you should definitely check it out! Available at Barnes & Nobles and other locations.
2. That Can be Arranged by Huda Fahmy
This is a comic that depicts the story of how Huda met her husband, Gihad. Huda talks about the shenanigans that ensued when she was on a mission to find a husband and how she dealt with having chaperones. Huda also talks about the suitors she met before Gihad came into her life and it’s a book you don’t want to miss. If you are a fan of Jane Austen and comedies, then you’ll adore this book! It’s also extremely heart-warming and is a book anyone can enjoy!
3. Saints and Misfits by S.K. Ali
Trigger Warning: This book discusses sexual assault in the Islamic community.
The premise of the book is that Jenna is assaulted by a boy who is a hafidh in the community. A hafidh is someone who memorized the entire Qur’an. They are often given the highest levels of respect. Jenna is only 16 when it happens and it shows her story of processing it, telling her family, and the aftermath. It’s a story that is prominent and is not discussed enough within the Islamic community. The way S.K. Ali wrote it is gut-wrenching and Jenna is an incredibly brave young girl. If this is not a trigger for you, I urge you to read it! Furthermore, there is a sequel coming out next year called Misfit in Love which includes a big, fat Muslim wedding by the lake!
4. Ayesha at Last by Uzma Jalaluddin
Although this book has been pitched as a Muslim Pride & Prejudice, I think it is more like a Crazy, Rich Asians Muslim edition! Ayesha Shamsi dreams of being a poet but is in debt to her rich uncle. She lives with a rambunctious Muslim family and is constantly reminded that her cousin Hafsa is very close to rejecting her 100th marriage proposal. Ayesha knows she doesn’t want an arranged marriage. But, then she meets Khalid and he’s not what she expected him to be. He is conservative and snarky. He’s quick to judge and knows how to get under her skin. It isn’t until later that an engagement announcement is made involving her cousin Hafsa and Khalid. When rumors fly about Khalid and his family, she has to deal with what she uncovers about him and what that he says about how she feels. Honestly, I wasn’t sure if I would like this book because of the arranged marriage premise, but once I gave it a chance and started reading it I ended up loving it! HIGHLY recommend this book!
5. Crowning Soul by Sahira Javaid
This is the very first fantasy series I’ve read where the protagonist was a Muslim! Often times, Muslim writers will draw from cultural experiences or backgrounds (which is great) but I loved that it was almost as if I could see myself in Nezha’s story. What’s unique about this book is that it is self-published and the author announced on Twitter that she is working on the sequel and the novella to Crowning Soul! Nezha Zaman can control fire but believes it is a perilous gift to have or the way she views it: a curse! Weeks after her encounter with a demonic being, she is transported into another dimension, away from the familiarity of her backyard. If Nezha doesn’t stop the unjust prince, then a nefarious jinn will destroy her soul. The stakes are high and I can’t wait to see how it all unfolds!
Overall, each of these books has its own unique charm and wit! They accurately showcase what it is like to be a practicing Muslim and what exactly that entails. Be sure to add these books to your TBR list! InshaAllah you won’t regret it!