A Very Large Expanse of Sea
Author Tahereh Mafi
Publisher Harper Teen | 2018
contemporary | romance
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.(from Goodreads)
This review is spoiler-freeeee! 🙂
I actually have yet to write a full (not mini) review of a book that fell a little bit short for me, so I thought I’d try it out with this book. Before I get to the parts that I didn’t like so much, I’ll start with the positives.
“I’m sick and tired of trying to explain to the world why racism is bad, okay? Why is that my job?”
The overall message of this book is great. The setup of being about a Muslim girl navigating high school right after 9/11 is intriguing and gives a perspective that I definitely haven’t read much about in YA novels. Shirin is an interesting main character and it was new and refreshing to read about these experiences from her POV. Her relationship with her family- especially her brother, Navid- was my favorite part of the book. They have a great sibling bond and it was so nice to see how he would stick out his neck for her at school and at home.
“People took one look at my face and they expected my name to be strange, but one look at this dude’s very Ken-Barbie face and I had not expected his name to be Ocean.”
OK, on to the less good. This book has soo many great 5-star ratings on Goodreads raving about how fantastic it is, but I wasn’t as agreeable. I took a chance on this book despite the fact that I read most of the Shatter Me series and realized that it was not the series for me. Mafi’s writing style wasn’t my favorite, and though she does get away from her extremely stylized writing in this book, I still don’t think she’s an author I would ever love. I’m usually a sucker for a contemporary romance, but again, I think the way Mafi writes romance is what I find unlikable. Everything’s just so… dramatic? I don’t know if that’s the right word. There’s a lot of cliché and insta-love and little things that don’t sit well with me. I felt it in Shatter Me and I felt it in this book. I liked Ocean, don’t get me wrong, but the way their relationship evolved was awkward to me. I was super frustrated with how Shirin handled her feelings for a majority of their interactions and she lowkey treated him really badly at some points.
Overall, this book is a very quick read. When I saw the page number I knew that I was gonna try to stick it out no matter what because I’ve been DNF-ing a lot lately and needed to get through something. Criticism aside, this is an enjoyable book. There were some really great moments and I liked the underlying message, though I feel that the (at times cringey) romance definitely overwhelmed the plot. I’m glad I tried out another Mafi book, but I think it’ll be the last one I pick up.