All My Rage is a powerful, hard-hitting and ultimately hopeful YA novel which follows two Pakistani-American teenagers, who both feel like outsiders in their small Californian desert town, as they navigate many different forms of trauma. Sal is trying to keep the family motel afloat as his mother Misbah’s health fails and his father Toufiq struggles with alcohol addiction. Noor has applied to college but has to keep this secret from her uncle who wants her to take over his liquor store so he can resume the studies he put on hold when he took her in after a family tragedy in Pakistan.
Sabaa Tahir alternates between Sal and Noor’s perspectives, as well as including chapters narrated by Misbah set in the past and telling the story of her arranged marriage in Lahore. At the start of the novel, Sal and Noor aren’t speaking following an argument, but they soon end up supporting each other once again as Misbah’s health deteriorates further and they are both forced into increasingly desperate circumstances.
It is impossible not to care deeply about these young people who are having to deal with far more than any teenager should be expected to handle. As the trigger warning at the start of the novel notes, in addition to the issues already mentioned, the novel also explores bereavement, Islamophobia, physical and sexual abuse, drug addiction and police brutality. This is frequently a devastating read, but it is by no means unremittingly bleak. Tahir’s prose is beautiful, and she offers a hugely positive representation of Islam, and of faith in general, especially through the characterisation of Misbah, as well as the local Imam, Shafiq, and his wife Khadija, a lawyer.
This book is already proving popular with KS4 and KS5 students at my school because of its emotional intensity and the range of themes it explores. It is one of the best books I have read for this age group in recent years – and as an English teacher, I particularly appreciated the way that Tahir weaves Elizabeth Bishop’s incredible poem ‘One Art’ throughout the novel, a poem in which the speaker repeatedly tries to convince herself that ‘The art of losing isn’t hard to master’. Noor, Sal and Misbah must similarly wrestle with loss in many forms also discover consolation, forgiveness and love along the way.
Copyright: Just Imagine Story Centre Ltd 2012-2023. All rights reserved.