THE PLOT: ‘All My Rage’ by Sabaa Tahir is a contemporary young-adult novel about two star-crossed teenagers in California. Salahudin and Noor are best friends but they’ve recently had a huge fight. Sal’s mother has been diagnosed with a serious illness and he’s trying to take on her responsibilities by saving the family business, despite the lack of help from his alcoholic father. Noor’s lives with her uncle, working at his liquor store and keeping her university applications secret as she fears his disapproval. When Sal’s attempt to save the business spiral, Noor gets swept up and they must both ask themselves what friendship is worth.
RATING: This is a bold YA novel and a beautiful example of what can be done in the genre. In addition to Sal and Noor’s points of view in present-day California, there is also an injection of Sal’s mother’s voice in a past-timeline in Pakistan. The use of dual timeline is masterful and it felt really original to get the voice of a parent in a YA novel. However, the book still has that quintessential YA feel through the first-person present narration and authentic teenage voice. While a very emotional novel – do read the trigger warnings in the front cover – it has a good balance of plot and character. Once the story got going, I absolutely could not stop reading because the stakes kept escalating and drawing me in.
GOOD BITS: This book is incredibly well-written as it deftly moves between characters and timelines while keeping the reader engaged. I simply could not put this book down and stayed up until 2am to finish reading because the plot became so juicy. So many elements came together at the midpoint and there was continual escalating tension for the last parts. The interiority of each of the characters was also a great lesson in craft as there were continual injections of the characters’ emotions.
NOT SO GOOD BITS: Towards the end I felt like there was so much trauma piling on top of trauma, it was a bit much! Most of it worked because it was all tied together and part of the plot. However, there were a couple things that felt like – dare I say it – overkill.
OVERALL: I’d recommend this book to lovers of ‘They Both Die At the End’ by Adam Silvera and ‘All The Things We Never Said’ by Yasmin Rahman. I’ll be championing this book forevermore and want everyone to read it. It’s also going to be a new comparison title for my own dual-POV issue-led contemporary YA novel about grief, mental health and identity.
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