Sabaa Tahir is the internationally bestselling author of the Ember in the Ashes fantasy series. All My Rage is her first contemporary YA novel. Growing up as outcasts in their small desert town of Juniper, California, Noor and Salahudin are more than best friends; they are family. They understand each other in a way that no one else can. That is until a fight destroys their bond in a heartbeat. Now, Salahudin scrambles to save the family motel after the death of his mother, Misbah and his father’s spiral into alcoholism. Noor, meanwhile, walks a tightrope: working at her abusive uncle’s liquor shop while hiding the fact that she is applying to university to escape him and Juniper forever. When Salahudin’s attempt to save the motel fails, he and Noor must ask themselves what their friendship is truly worth.
All My Rage is a heart-wrenching novel that offers a gorgeous meditation on grief and love. Tahir’s prose is lyrical and evocative - her writing will tear out your heart. With All My Rage, Tahir has truly proved her talents and versatility, demonstrating that she is not only an expert fantasy writer but a conqueror of the contemporary genre too. On a similar note, Tahir’s character development is fantastic. Her characters’ personalities are so profoundly distinct that you will root for them the whole way. Noor and Salahudin’s characters, in particular, were incredible. We learn that Noor uses music as a mode of escapism from her abusive uncle and that she dreams of attending university to become a doctor. Meanwhile, Salahudin is caught between grief for his mother and trying to survive on a dwindling income and an alcoholic father. By the end of the book, you cannot help but feel that you know both characters intimately. It was also wonderful to see how Tahir found a way to include Misbah in the novel, even past her death. Misbah’s wisdom and loving, nurturing personality continued to permeate the pages and help both Noor and Salahudin in their journeys of healing.
Tahir’s exploration of faith was also excellent as she explores each character’s relationship with Islam. All of the characters have differing yet complex relationships with their religion, showing how each person’s journey of faith is unique. Noor’s uncle, for example, is dismissive of religion and forbids her from practising her faith, yet Noor finds religion to be comforting in her times of struggle. For Noor, religion provides a much-needed sense of community, rescuing her from her isolation and abuse from her uncle. Meanwhile, faith is even more complicated for Salahudin due to his father’s alcoholism. Tahir uses this opportunity to explore Islamophobia, portraying how it has added to the difficulties each character has already had to contend with. The representation of all of these different facets of religion was great to see.
All My Rage is a beautiful novel and perhaps one of the most emotionally charged YA contemporaries of all time.