Review: A Very Large Expanse of Sea by Tahereh Mafi

Posted by Jessi (Geo) on April 6, 2020 | 0 Comments

Review: A Very Large Expanse of Sea by Tahereh MafiA Very Large Expanse of Sea by Tahereh Mafi
Published by HarperTeen (10.16.2018)
Genres: Contemporary, Young Adult
Format: Hardcover, 310 pages
Source: I own it

4 Stars

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.

My thoughts

Wow. What a powerful story! This book absolutely broke my heart, and I felt so angry and indignant for the things that Shirin had to go through. This book is definitely important, and one that I think everyone should read!

I hated the pathetic, soul-sucking effort it took to finally make a single friend brave enough to sit next to me in public.

Coming from a place of privilege, it’s hard to ever imagine what going through these things would be like. This book really captured the feeling of being powerless in the face of such racism, and reading about it made me sick – as well as equal parts embarrassed by and disappointed in humanity. From my understanding, this was a bit of a biography for Tahereh. I have NO idea how much is from actual experience and how much wasn’t, but it smacks of truth either way so I have a sneaking suspicion that she lived most of it.

I saw some complaints that Shirin was angry and basically that she let the anger ruin her life when she could rise above it. I personally thought her anger was 100% founded, and I found myself angry for her. She has a chip on her shoulder and is angry at the world, but…she SHOULD be angry. The way she was treated was terrible, and rage inducing. And I love that she wore that anger like an armor. She was prickly, and I found that relatable! I really liked Shirin’s character and found myself rooting for her. Also she was sarcastic so naturally I loved her. She also stood up for the things she believed in and I thought she was a badass!

“It would make my life easier not to wear [a hijab], because if I didn’t wear it, maybe people would treat me like a human being.”
“But that seems like such a shitty reason to do something,” I said. “It gives the bullies all the power. It would mean they’d succeeded at making me feel like who I was and what I believed in was something to be ashamed of. So, I keep wearing it.”

Shirin’s relationship with Ocean and the problems they face as a biracial couple was heartwrenching. And absolutely ridiculous that it should be such an issue; LOVE IS LOVE, but people are assholes and sadly this still happens. I wanted to punch everyone who was against them and smush them together so they could be happy and not have to worry about repercussions simply from wanting happiness and love.

Overall Assessment

Writing style: 4/5
Characters: 4/5
Pace: 4/5
Feels: 5/5
Cover: 3/5
Overall rating: 4/5

Jessi (Geo)

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