Monday, October 15, 2018

A Very Large Expanse of Sea by Tahereh Mafi

Title: A Very Large Expanse of Sea
Author: Tahereh Mafi
Genre: Contemporary
Source: HarperCollins

From the New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of the Shatter Me series comes a gorgeous and heartrending contemporary novel inspired by her own experiences with first love, breakdancing, and the devastating impact of prejudice.

It’s 2002, a year after 9/11, and Shirin has just started at yet another school. It’s an extremely turbulent time for the world, but especially 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. But 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. She decided long ago not to trust anyone anymore, and she doesn’t expect, or even try, to fit in anywhere or let anyone close enough to hurt her. She drowns her frustrations out with music and spends her afternoons breakdancing 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.
Review by Nara

A Very Large Expanse of Sea is hands down my favourite contemporary novel of 2018 thus far. It tackles an issue that isn't addressed in many YA novels, and is one of the few books I've seen that include Muslim rep.

The racism portrayed in the novel was so relatable. I definitely don't see it to the same degree in my every day life in Australia (except when it's some old demented or delirious patient), but you might be surprised by just how many people (particularly of the older generation) are casually racist. Asking how your English is so good, or asking where you "come from". I loved hearing about Shirin and her faith, and how she is not defined by her choice to wear the hijab. I'm curious as to exactly how much of Shirin's story is actually Mafi's; she says in the author's note in the beginning that the book is influenced greatly by Mafi's own experiences as she was in high school back in 2001.

Ocean is such an adorable little cinnamon roll. I loved every single interaction between him and Shirin- they were all such open and honest discussions, and so different from many other contemporaries where the characters lie to each other "for their own good". Shirin at times avoids Ocean, but she is almost always honest with him about why, and I loved this so much.

Overall, an absolutely fantastic novel with great diverse rep, and an excellent romance. Would recommend this to everyone.

Panacea Candidate
Overall: 10/10
Plot: 5/5
Romance: 500/5
Writing: 5/5
Characters: 5/5
Cover: 3/5