All My Rage by Sabaa Tahir
Published by Razorbill
Publication date: March 1, 2022
Genres: Book Clubs, Fiction, Coming-of-age, Cultural
Salahudin and Noor have been best friends since the first grade when Sal was the only person who could communicate with Noor, newly arrived from Pakistan. This friendship, set in a small California town, is the cornerstone of All My Rage, a powerful novel about coming-of-age in a place where you’re always the outsider.
When the novel begins the two 16-year-old friends aren’t speaking anymore. After years of friendship, they’ve separated over an event that left both with feelings of anger, embarrassment, and confusion. But while they seem to have shrugged it off and moved on, both are enmeshed in difficulties. Sal’s mother Misbah is hospitalized, leaving him and his father to run the family’s motel. Not something that should be difficult but his father has always turned to alcohol in times of diversity and his wife’s condition has left him unable to handle his own care much less run a business. When Sal finds bills indicating the motel is going to be foreclosed on he shoulders the responsibility of saving what he sees as his mother’s dream.
While Sal is stuck firmly in the present, Noor is looking to the future. She’s tied with another girl to be valedictorian of their school, but is applying to colleges in secret. She was brought to America by her uncle after a catastrophic earthquake in Karachi killed the rest of her family. He’s been raising her out of familial duty and never lets her forget that. When not in school she works at his convenience store and he’s made it clear that she’ll work there fulltime after high school. Like Sal, she’s living a life with adult responsibilities despite being surrounded by adults. Only when events worsen do the two friends find each other again.
Sabaa Tahir, the author of All My Rage, perfectly captures the heightened emotions of the teen years, without making the novel read as distinctly young adult. Instead, while older readers will find moments in both Sal’s and Noor’s lives when they think ‘Don’t do it.’, for these two teens, grappling with the ever-tightening bonds of no way out, their choices felt real. As did the bullying and narrow-minded attitudes of their classmates, one in particular who believes anyone with brown skin and an accent is an illegal immigrant.
Tahir rounds out the novel using the past, as recounted through the memories of Misbah. She balances the outsize emotions of the teens while filling in the blanks in the family’s history that brought them from Pakistan to America. Her words and experiences temper the pages of rage felt by Sal and Noor with an adult’s perspective, the long view. Through her, All My Rage becomes a poignant novel validating anger in the face of injustice in the larger world, but with a message of forgiveness within the sphere of our own lives.
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