In All My Rage (2022), Sabaa Tahir has created a compulsively readable book that draws you in to Salahudin’s and Noor’s lives, and you can’t help but watch the slowly unfolding disastrous train wreck. She tells the stories of Sal, Noor, and Sal’s mother, Misbah, going back and forth in time. It’s contemporary YA, unlike Tahir’s well-known and bestselling YA fantasy series Ember in the Ashes (the first of which I enjoyed several years ago).
Noor is Pakistani-American, lives with her uncle, a liquor store owner who would turn his back on his Pakistani heritage and Islam. But Noor must be ever-grateful to him because he saved her from an earthquake when she was 6, which destroyed the rest of their family. Nevertheless, she dreams of escaping somehow, going to college, and becoming a doctor.
Misbah had an arranged marriage, and eventually moves to the United States from Pakistan, where she and her husband run the Cloud’s Rest Inn Motel, a small hotel in the Mohave desert. She and her husband have Salahudin, their beloved only child, but they can’t protect him from everything no matter how much they try. And Misbah’s husband is an alcoholic, becoming progressively worse and worse.
Misbah befriends Noor, teaching her how to cook Pakistani food and about Islam. Noor and Salahudin become best friends, until a recent fight when Noor confessed her feelings and Sal pushed her away. Shortly after, Misbah dies from inadequately treated kidney failure, leaving Salahudin to try to save the motel since his father continues to drink. And that’s the slowly moving train wreck for both Salahudin and Noor.
There are some tough topics–but it is real, things that teens have to deal with all of the time, unfortunately. I loved the characters, and the support their Imam and his wife, the lawyer Khadijah, gave to everyone.
It was completely weight-neutral, not a bit of anti-fat bias anywhere. Tahir skillfully handled many other very difficult topics, including Islamophobia, alcoholism, drug abuse, and physical abuse, with sensitivity, beautiful writing, and healthy doses of humor and geekdom. I highly recommend it.