A Very Large Expanse of Sea by Tahereh Mafi

IMG_0138Genre: Contemporary Young Adult Romance Fiction
Pages: Print 310
Digital: eAdudiobook 6 hrs 44mins
Release Date: October 15, 2018
Author: Tahereh Mafi 
Rating: ★★★★.5

Disclaimer: This review is solely my opinion. I purchased a copy of this book from Half Priced Books in Sugarland, TX. The copy used for this review was a printed copy for the first half and the second half was an audiobook from Scribd. This review is no way tied to any of the purchasing entities or the publisher. 

Goodreads 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.

Favorite Quote

“don’t give up on me. he wrote

And I never did.”

Final Thoughts

This contemporary young adult romance had me laughing and crying all within the same sentence. The author did a fantastic job with the character development, the discussion of social issues, and bringing in real emotion into this novel. The main character, Shirin, is written as a strong female protagonist who uses sarcasm and quick wit to seem tough. The author developed this main character with realistic emotions, strong core values, and a voice. The social issue of racism and discrimination is strongly exhibited in this novel but the author does it in a way to challenge and force the issue to the front. This entire novel is from the perspective of a muslim- American female teen who wears a hijab post-9/11. It takes a fictional approach to address the issues of racism and discrimination during a time when the entire country judge the actions of anyone they assumed a threat, which simultaneously correlated with attire. Mafi did a wonderful job addressing this issue in this novel and showcasing some of the challenges women faced as opposed to men. It also showcases the family dynamic and the challenges of staying true to your culture in a new country during a time where your way of life is being scrutinized. Shirin is also faced with a huge challenge outside of the normal gawking and rude comments, Ocean. Ocean is a teen boy who completely catches Shirin off guard with his calm and timid approach to interacting with her. No matter how hard she tries to deflect his feelings, he continues to pursue to interact with her. The further you read in the novel the more their “relationship” develops and they are faced with more adversity. Not only does the author discuss major social issues, she even touches (and I mean grazed) the topic of dating outside your race.

I  want to start by saying I have a BA in History and took a class in college that was solely about the events of September 11, 2001. This book address a large amount of the challenges faced by muslim-American women during the aftermath of 9/11. I saw this book and knew that it was something I had to read. I laughed as the main character interacted with her peers at her new school and cried when she had to choose between love or loss. I laughed when  mother criticized her for her attire and cried when her mom failed to even notice her daughter. There were numerous moments in this book that felt real and relatable. I personally gave this book a four point five rating because I wanted more detail. Pieces of the story was told after the event occurred instead of during each event. For example, something would happen and the main character would go through the telling of these events as if they were past events.  Albeit the story is told from the female protagonist perspective but I wanted more detail and a bit more action. I also hoped that the topic of interracial dating would have been addressed more in this novel. I felt like there was a giant elephant in the room and everyone kept ignoring it this entire novel. However, this did not take away from the overall storyline but would have added to it. Inevitably, I felt that portions of the book fell short for me. I wanted more depth when it came to the social issues displayed in this book and the interaction between main and supporting characters.  I also felt the supporting characters were glossed over and they only popped up here and there for small interaction with the main characters family. Overall, I did love this book and would recommend it to anyone interested in reading a compelling young adult contemporary novel. This is an appropriate read for teens and tweens with little romance and it does fall under the category of diverse reads.

Word of advice, PICK UP THIS BOOK!

To purchase your copy of this novel, visit Tahereh Mafi’s website at http://www.taherehbooks.com/the-books/  for access to purchasing links. 

Happy Reading and I hope you enjoyed my honest opinion of this novel!

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