Title: A Very Large Expanse of Sea
Author: Tahereh Mafi
Synopsis: It’s 2002, a year after 9/11. It’s an extremely turbulent time politically, but especially so for someone like Shirin, a sixteen-year-old Muslim girl who’s tired of being stereotyped.
Shirin is never surprised by how horrible people can be. She’s tired of the rude stares, the degrading comments—even the physical violence—she endures as a result of her race, her religion, and the hijab she wears every day. So she’s built up protective walls and refuses to let anyone close enough to hurt her. Instead, she drowns her frustrations in music and spends her afternoons break-dancing with her brother.
But then she meets Ocean James. He’s the first person in forever who really seems to want to get to know Shirin. It terrifies her—they seem to come from two irreconcilable worlds—and Shirin has had her guard up for so long that she’s not sure she’ll ever be able to let it down.
This was one of my most anticipated reads from last year and I’m happy to have finally read it. I really enjoyed this book, ended up finishing it in a whole day. I think this book addresses a much needed topic. And although this isn’t based off a real person, it is sort of based off of Tahereh Mafi’s life. Some of the things that happen in this book just broke my heart that people could be this cruel. It also frustrated me because I understood in a way what Shirin(the main character) went through. Now I am not Muslim, but I am Jewish so I have had to deal with hatred because of my religion. And it really just frustrates me how people can be cruel. But I don’t want to go off on a tangent now so I’ll just get on with the review
Shirin. Shirin looks at the world and people with hatred, and rightfully so. She’s moved around a ton and each place she visits she’s met with discrimination and hatred. People making remarks because of how she looks and because she wears a hijab. It really takes a while for her to break down this armor and each time I feel like its coming down, something happens that pulls it right back up. Shirin has a really great relationship with her brother and I really liked this relationship between the two of them. Navid is the big protective brother but he is also there for Shirin and helps her out with stuff and he brings breakdancing back into her life. I really liked the relationship the two of them have. When Shirin starts to realize how she feels about a certain someone, she has this sort of battle between her feelings and the bigotry of people and how they will react if people saw them together in public. And its like this push and pull she has on if she should take a chance with this person. But through this book I really enjoyed seeing Shirin grow as a character.
Ocean. I liked Ocean. He was the first one to really try and get to know Shirin even though at times she made it very difficult for him at times. But he didn’t give up and he kept persisting and trying to get to know her. He wanted to get to know her, learn about being Persian and her life. And he didn’t want to learn because he thought she was strange or odd. He wanted to learn because he wanted to know more about her because he was truly interested in her and her lifestyle and being Persian.
I liked Mafi’s writing in this book. It felt different than her writing in Shatter Me and I liked reading this sort of new style of her writing. I think she did a good job shifting her writing style from that of a dystopian novel to that of a YA novel.
This book and what it dives into is much needed. It takes place one year after 9/11 and people still don’t trust those who are Muslim. Seeing/reading about the things Shirin has to go through, went through really broke me heart. Ocean and Shirin’s whole relationship is full of ups and mostly downs. Shirin wants to keep him at arms length because she knows how people will react to seeing them together. The star basketball player and the girl who wears a hijab. She knows the remarks they will get and how people will act and she wants to protect Ocean from it. And as I said up above, she sort of has this tug-of-war with her feelings and her wanting to keep Ocean from knowing the reaction they will get if they are together.
Breakdancing plays a big part in Shirin’s life. Music and breakdancing help her get through the days. But I wish we could of seen more of her breakdancing. It seems like breakdancing plays a big part in her life but we don’t really get to see it. I feel like this is a more tell than see moment because we really just get told of her breakdancing besides a few scenes. We get to see how music gets her through the day but we don’t get to see that with breakdancing but I wish we did.
Overall this book was a really good book and I think its a book everyone should read. It may take place in 2002, but it still applies to today. I really liked Mafi’s writing and I hope she ventures out into more YA books. I just wish there was more breakdancing embedded in this book and honestly thats the only reason I’m not giving it a solid 5 stars. Again, I really enjoyed this book and I’m happy to have finally read it.