94 pages 3 hours read

Sabaa Tahir

All My Rage

Fiction | Novel | YA | Published in 2022

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Summary and Study Guide


All My Rage by Sabaa Tahir is a 2022 young adult novel. It follows Salahudin and Noor, two Pakistani American high school students who have been best friends since childhood. Each deals with family difficulties: Salahudin with a dying mother and a father who turns to alcohol in grief, and Noor with a spiteful uncle. Through their struggles, Tahir highlights themes such as the Cost of the American Dream and the need for Generational Healing and Family Ties. The novel is a National Book Award Winner, a New York Times bestseller, and a winner of the 2022 Boston Globe-Horn Book Award for Fiction and Poetry, among other awards and recognitions. This guide refers to the 2022 print edition.

Content Warning: This novel features depictions of assault and abuse, alcohol addiction, drug dealing and use, overdosing, illness, and death.

Plot Summary

High school seniors Salahudin Malik and Noor Riaz have been best friends since they were six years old when Noor came to the US from Pakistan. However, several months ago, Noor professed romantic feelings for Salahudin. Sal didn’t reciprocate, and they haven’t spoken to each other since. Today, Noor agrees to text Sal’s mother, Misbah, who he calls Ama, as a favor for him since his phone is dead. When she doesn’t hear back, Noor stops by the motel Salahudin’s family owns to check on Misbah, who collapses and needs to be rushed to the hospital.

Misbah has chronic kidney disease but hasn’t been getting treatments or attending doctor’s appointments. Noor goes to the hospital with Misbah, as does Salahudin’s father, Toufiq, whom Salahudin calls Abu. Noor can’t reach Sal, who is in detention, and Toufiq is too drunk to help. When Sal finally arrives at the hospital, he must take Abu home, and by the time he returns, Misbah has passed away. Noor was with her when she died, and Misbah told Noor to trust that God finds a way when people cannot and encouraged Noor to get out of Juniper, California, their town. Finally, Misbah’s last word was “forgive” (43), which Noor takes to mean that she should forgive Salahudin and restore their friendship.

Meanwhile, flashbacks from Misbah’s point of view reveal that at age 18, her parents arranged her marriage to Toufiq. Misbah learned from a fortune teller that she and her future husband would travel across the sea and have three children: one boy, one girl, and one child without gender. Misbah met Toufiq for the first time at a tea shop, where they shared their dreams for the future. Misbah hoped to own an inn or restaurant, and Toufiq wanted to travel to Yosemite. Toufiq also expressed worry that he would be like his mother, who has an alcohol addiction.

In the present, Misbah is buried, and Salahudin learns about the family’s debts; they could lose the motel if the bills aren’t paid soon. He breaks up with his girlfriend, Ashlee, but starts to restore his friendship with Noor. Noor receives a rejection letter from the University of Virginia and bombs her phone interview with UPenn. She has to hang up on the interviewer when Salahudin reports that Chachu (also called Riaz), Noor’s vindictive uncle, is coming. Chachu has forbidden Noor to apply to college; he expects her to take over the liquor store when she graduates so that he can go back to school for engineering. Chachu saved Noor from the rubble of an earthquake that killed her family and destroyed her village when she was young. His plans of becoming an engineer were derailed because of her, and he blames her for his failed dreams.

Salahudin struggles to maintain the motel by himself while Abu is constantly drunk. Salahudin especially struggles to do laundry at the motel; the sight of the laundry room and the smell of the soap inexplicably make him panicky and nauseous, hinting at a past trauma. Noor helps Salahudin with motel responsibilities and faces her own struggles: She receives more college rejections, and only two schools remain that she hasn’t heard from yet. As the motel’s financial situation worsens, Salahudin secretly meets with Art Britman, Juniper High School’s drug dealer, and agrees to start dealing drugs, telling himself he will only do it long enough to pay off bills.

When Sal’s ex-girlfriend Ashlee asks for painkillers to help with her back pain, Sal hesitantly sells her drugs. He has almost paid all the bills at this point. Meanwhile, Imam Shafiq brings a meal to Salahudin and Abu and asks if Riaz has ever hit Noor. Misbah had alerted Shafiq to this possibility before her death. Clues from Noor’s recent behavior fall into place for Salahudin, and he realizes that Noor’s uncle is abusing her.

More flashbacks from Misbah reveal the details of her early married life. She and Toufiq temporarily lived with Toufiq’s parents, where Misbah saw Nargis’s drinking problem firsthand. Once they moved out, Toufiq’s father, Junaid, visited every day. However, when he didn’t come one day, Misbah learned he and Nargis were killed in an electrical accident. Shortly after, Misbah saw Toufiq get drunk for the first time. Following this loss, Misbah and Toufiq came to the US and bought the Clouds’ Rest Inn Motel, a name that Misbah chose.

When Salahudin was born, Toufiq became a loving and sweet father. However, when toddler-aged Salahudin was assaulted in the motel laundry room by a guest, Toufiq started drinking heavily.

In the present day, Noor and Salahudin’s lives start to spiral out of control. Jamie, a classmate, accuses Noor of being undocumented, and Noor punches her and is suspended. The same day, Ashlee overdoses on drugs, and Salahudin blames himself since he sold her painkillers. He decides to stop dealing and puts his drug stash in his pockets to return to Art. Abu’s addiction to drinking continues, and he and Salahudin fight when Sal learns Abu wants to sell the motel.

As Salahudin leaves his apartment, he finds a beat-up Noor in his driveway. Chachu found out from Jamie that Noor applied to college behind his back, and he beat Noor. She escapes and drives with Salahudin to Veil Meadows, where they enjoy a beautiful day together that ends with a passionate kiss. On the drive home, Salahudin is pulled over for speeding, and the officers find drugs under Noor’s seat and backpack and in Salahudin’s pockets. Both are arrested and questioned, and the police officers assume that Noor is dealing drugs.

Misbah reflects on the first time Noor came over to play with Salahudin. She remembers Riaz’s controlling rules that Noor not be exposed to Pakistani culture. When Salahudin was 16, Misbah learned she had chronic kidney disease. As her health worsened, Misbah suspected that Riaz was abusing Noor but didn’t know what to do to help Noor. On her deathbed, she started to ask for Noor’s forgiveness but died before completing her request.

Noor feels betrayed by Salahudin, and once they are released on bail, she doesn’t talk to him. Noor stays with Khadija, now her defense attorney, and Imam Shafiq while she awaits trial. Feeling overwhelmed with guilt for how his actions are affecting Noor, Salahudin longs to find a way to show Noor that her future is worth fighting for. On a hunch, he and Art break into Riaz’s study and find an acceptance letter for Noor from UCLA. When Salahudin brings the letter to Noor, she still refuses to forgive him. At Noor and Salahudin’s trial, Salahudin testifies and reads a statement that explains the entire situation—why he started selling drugs and that Noor is not complicit. He takes all responsibility on himself against his lawyer’s advice. All charges against Noor are dropped, and Salahudin is sentenced to three years in prison, which translates to 18 months with good behavior.

Noor attends UCLA in the fall and starts to heal. She imagines Salahudin beside her and starts to anonymously send him books in prison, realizing she still has feelings for him. Meanwhile, Salahudin finds healing while in prison. He decides that he does not need to know the details about the trauma in his past and works towards forgiving himself and Misbah. He also writes Misbah’s life story from her point of view based on what he knows about her past. When Salahudin is released from prison, he visits Misbah’s grave, and Noor arrives there too. They forgive one another, and from the grave, Misbah feels Noor’s forgiveness toward her and is at peace.