A Very Large Expanse of Sea by Tahereh Mafi
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
I had a very hard time putting this book down. The story is compelling, and Mafi’s writing is as beautiful as ever.
A Very Large Expanse of Sea is a YA romance novel, but not a typical one. It focuses on real social issues and has a main character unlike one you’d typically hear from. Shirin is a 16-year-old Muslim girl starting at a new school in 2002. Islamophobia is at an all-time high post 9/11 America, but it’s nothing new for a hijabi like Shirin.
Shirin is used to keeping her head down and telling ignorant people to go to hell, especially because she’s gone to so many different schools. She’s given up on making connections beyond shallow friendships. Despite this, a boy named Ocean wants something more with Shirin. Does Shirin feel the same way?
When a boy named “Ocean” appears in a YA novel with the word “sea” in the title, he’s obviously going to be the love interest. That being said, the rest of the book isn’t predictable. And this book isn’t just a love story; it’s the story of a young girl who loves fashion and breakdancing and faces persecution.
Reading this book feels like being in the head of an actual teen girl. Shirin is very realistic as a character and her story is an important one. It’s fictional, but for so many Muslims, it isn’t. This book helps the reader understand what it’s like to be on the receiving end of racism and bigotry (of course reading about it isn’t the same as experiencing it) and more books like this need to be written.
While we’re here, I have to address the love story aspect of this book. Yes, A Very Large Expanse of Sea is a great story about facing adversity, but it’s also a great YA romance. If you enjoy fuzzy feelings along with a little heartache, you will enjoy this book.
I couldn’t help but feel so much empathy and heartbreak for Shirin for different reasons throughout the book, but there were moments that made me smile and laugh. This book will make you feel so many different emotions and is definitely worth picking up.
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