Review of All My Rage, by Sabaa Tahir

All My Rage

by Sabaa Tahir

Razorbill (Penguin Random House), 2022. 376 pages.
Review written February 13, 2023, from a library book.
Starred Review
2023 Printz Award Winner
2023 Walter Award Winner, Teens
2022 National Book Award for Young People’s Literature Winner
2022 Boston Globe/Horn Book Award Winner, Fiction and Poetry
2022 Cybils Finalist, Young Adult Fiction

What a beautiful book. I closed the book completely understanding all the awards and acclaim this book has received.

All My Rage tells the story of two Muslim seniors in high school who have been best friends for most of their lives — until recently when they had a fight after Noor told Salahudin she had feelings for him and wanted something more. He said she’d ruined their friendship.

But they come back into each other’s lives when Salahudin’s mother Misbah dies with failing kidneys — a problem she couldn’t afford to treat because they don’t have health insurance, running their own motel.

Both of them have more problems than they can cope with after Misbah’s death. Salahudin’s father numbs his mind with alcohol, so it’s up to Salahudin to figure out how to pay the bills and keep the motel, the place his mother had loved.

Misbah was like a foster mother to Noor. She came to America after all her family but her were killed in an earthquake in Pakistan when she was a second-grader. Her uncle who was studying in America found her, digging her out of the wreckage of their family home. But he couldn’t find any other living relative to take care of her, and now he runs a liquor store near the army base where he’d first found work in America. He doesn’t want Noor to go to college, but work in the liquor store so he finally can go to college. She secretly submitted seven applications, but without Salahudin to help her with the essays — she’s getting rejections. Will she never be able to leave the small desert town?

Their problems and misunderstandings get much much worse as the novel goes on. I will only say that although hard things happened, and some of the characters made bad decisions along the way, the ending was tremendously satisfying. Don’t give up on it as a depressing and discouraging book! The difficulties they face makes the story all the more of a triumph.

And the writing is lyrical and beautiful. Along with the stories of Noor and Salahudin, we get his mother’s story, beginning with when her parents told her she was getting married. Captions at the beginning of the parts come from Elizabeth Bishop’s poem “One Art,” which is about “the art of losing.” As our characters cope with one loss after another, the reader gets pulled into the story, rooting for them and suffering with them. These are characters I will never forget.

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Disclaimer: I am a professional librarian, but the views expressed are solely my own, and in no way represent the official views of my employer or of any committee or group of which I am part.

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