A Very Large Expanse of Sea

A Very Large Expanse of Sea

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, an...

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Title:A Very Large Expanse of Sea
Author:Tahereh Mafi
Rating:
Edition Language:English

A Very Large Expanse of Sea Reviews

  • Sabaa Tahir

    One of the best contemporary books I've ever read, and hands-down the best YA on what it means to be a Muslim American post 9/11. Tahereh Mafi pulls no punches, spares no feelings and tells the absolute truth and it is beautiful, rare and heartbreaking. If there's one book you read this year, make it this one.

  • Christine Riccio

    This was fantastic.

  • Em (RunawayWithDreamthieves)

    y’all mind if I cry because if you’d told 16 year-old me that one day I’ll read a NYT best-selling book where a Muslim Hijabi teen gets her own coming of age story and her own big romance instead of being the token (stereotyped) minority character or some cultural prop used only to further the writer’s favorite white girl, it would have made a world of difference

  • Larry H

    I read for a number of different reasons. I read for relaxation, for entertainment, for escape. I read to be provoked into thought or action, I read to feel, and sometimes my funny bone or my tear ducts need a good workout. And sometimes, I read to learn.

    The ideal book is a combination of at least a few of these, which was one of the reasons I enjoyed Tahereh Mafi's newest novel,

    . I empathized with the characters and found the story emotional and appealing, but I al

    I read for a number of different reasons. I read for relaxation, for entertainment, for escape. I read to be provoked into thought or action, I read to feel, and sometimes my funny bone or my tear ducts need a good workout. And sometimes, I read to learn.

    The ideal book is a combination of at least a few of these, which was one of the reasons I enjoyed Tahereh Mafi's newest novel,

    . I empathized with the characters and found the story emotional and appealing, but I also learned a little more about what the world was like for a teenage Persian girl in the months after 9/11.

    Shirin is 16 years old. One thing she and her family have become tremendously skilled at is moving. It seems like any time they start to feel settled, her parents decide it's time to move again, ostensibly to find an even better life for Shirin and her older brother, Navid. What they don't understand is how the world—and especially high school—can be so horribly cruel to a teenage Persian girl who wears a headscarf. (Given all of the horrible torture and turmoil her parents faced to escape from Iran and give their children a chance at happiness and success, they're not tremendously moved by Shirin's tales of cruelty, ridicule, and occasional violence.)

    "These, the regular injections of poison I was gifted from strangers, were definitely the worst things about wearing a headscarf. But the best thing about it was that my teachers couldn't see me listening to music."

    In an effort to just get through the days, Shirin immerses herself in music, which helps her express her outrage and her loneliness, even if it's mostly self-imposed. But her favorite activity is breakdancing with her brother, and when he and his friends start a breakdancing club in school, she can't wait to be a part of it. She can have her protective walls and still learn the moves she's watched on old VHS tapes for years.

    Then she meets Ocean, a fellow student who becomes her lab partner in biology class. He isn't willing to be pushed away by Shirin's immediate need to keep everyone beyond arm's length. He actually wants to know about what it's like to be Persian, not because he thinks she's an oddity, but because he's actually interested. But more than that, he's interested in her. And Shirin just can't have that. Even as she finds herself thinking more and more about Ocean, and wanting to be with him, she already knows how everything will turn out, and she doesn't want to put herself or him through that.

    "It took a lot out of me to put up the walls that kept me safe from heartbreak, and at the end of every day I felt so withered by the emotional exertion that sometimes my whole body felt shaky."

    When she decides that she can't live her life angry all the time, without letting anyone in, she lets herself be vulnerable. But even world-weary Shirin isn't prepared for the way people will behave. The fickleness of human behavior, the fear, the ignorance, the obsessions, become almost too much for her to bear, but she really has nowhere to turn. How could the possibility of love be worth all of this?

    This was a tremendously affecting, beautifully written, thought-provoking (and anger-provoking) novel. I read the entire book in a day, and was simultaneously moved, outraged, saddened, horrified, embarrassed, and utterly hooked. All too often we make judgments about a person because of how they behave, or what they look like, or what their beliefs are, and it's amazing how often we lose the true person we're judging.

    I had never read any of Mafi's books before, although I've always wanted to. Even though I know her other books are very different from this one, clearly she is an incredible storyteller, because she had me staying up late to finish this, and I can't stop thinking about Shirin and Ocean. What a fascinating and beautiful story this was.

    See all of my reviews at

    , or check out my list of the best books I read in 2017 at

    .

  • Whitney Atkinson

    Updating with my full thoughts now that the book is out! I wrote all of this down when I first read it in May.

    I was nervous starting this book because the first 25% of this lays a lot of groundwork and there’s a lot of telling instead of showing. Despite this, I was highlighting paragraphs basically every other page because Shirin’s experiences and anger born from them was so powerful. This book cuts the crap from Shatter Me & Furthermore’s writing style and says it how it is. G

    Updating with my full thoughts now that the book is out! I wrote all of this down when I first read it in May.

    I was nervous starting this book because the first 25% of this lays a lot of groundwork and there’s a lot of telling instead of showing. Despite this, I was highlighting paragraphs basically every other page because Shirin’s experiences and anger born from them was so powerful. This book cuts the crap from Shatter Me & Furthermore’s writing style and says it how it is. Gone are the flowery paragraphs of images and metaphors, but they’re replaced by hard-hitting and steel edged descriptions of Shirin’s real life. It’s different and it’s jarring, but it fits the story. I’m not even exaggerating when I say that probably 50% of this ebook’s text is highlighted. From powerful moments to funny, relatable moments to important moments to cute moments, I was glued onto the pages.

    I LOVED Shirin’s relationship with her brother, Navid. Their bond was endearing and I liked how he was her mentor and cheered her up and stuck up for her and was the reason she got into break dancing. He was definitely my favorite side character!

    I can’t put my finger on it, but this book just.... works. It was fast to read. I haven’t lived a life anywhere near Shirin’s, but being in her head made sense. I understood her feelings. I understood her fears. I sympathized with her so much that my heart hurt. I was rooting for her the entire book, and her transformation and self-actualization was such an engrossing journey.

    The reason why I took a star off is because the relationship is melodramatic to the point of being cliche. Shirin deals with racism and xenophobia and bigotry, and Ocean deals with..... not wanting to be on the basketball team. It felt like a flat plot point that’s a totally overused trope. The stakes were so low because it felt too cliché and the conflict of this book reminded me of High School Musical. I don't want this to look like I'm minimizing the actual events because clearly Shirin prevailing and asserting her worth in that situation was still such a powerful read, but I wish Ocean's conflict that drives the emotional climax of this book could have been designed to be less.... generic.

    Nevertheless, this is a once in a lifetime book. Whatever small writing or plot issues I have with it makes up in the fact that I haven’t read anything as important and eye-opening as this before. Its unparalleled honesty had me throwing my fist in the hair during some scenes and wiping away tears in others. It’s a stand-out book of 2018, and definitely an exception you should make if you aren't a fan of YA contemporary. Please please please support this book and the author behind it because she and the book deserve the world <3

    I don't think I've read a book in one sitting since high school. But here I am at 8 AM, staring at the acknowledgments page of my eARC. Wow. I’m not even exaggerating when I say that probably 50% of this ebook’s text is highlighted. From powerful moments to funny, relatable moments to important moments to cute moments, I was glued onto the pages. I haven’t lived a life anywhere near Shirin’s, but being in her head made sense. I understood her fears and I sympathized for her so much. I was rooting for her the entire book, and her transformation and self-actualization was such an engrossing journey. This is a once in a lifetime book. Whatever small writing or plot issues I have with it makes up in the fact that I haven’t read anything as important and singularly eye-opening as this before. Its unparalleled honesty had me throwing my fist in the air during some scenes and wiping away tears in others. It’s a stand-out book of 2018.

    I'll update with detailed thoughts closer to the book's release but I can't wait for the cover reveal of this, and Muslim reviewers and teens deserve to get their hands on this. It's such a vital story for the YA community written so honestly and captivatingly.

    my craving for this book is so palpable that my chest aches. i'm so ready for it but at the same time, i'm so, so not. either way, if this book isn't a #1 nyt bestseller then i'm gonna personally scream its name from the rooftops, mark my words.

  • Hailey (HaileyinBookland)

    4.5*

  • Emma Giordano

    4.5 Stars! Review to come.

  • Hamad

    This review and other non-spoilery reviews can be found

    🌟 I should start this review by making one point very clear: I am an Arab Muslim Palestinian guy, so I do understand this book more than most readers will.

    🌟 I like that Tahereh is trying all different kid of things like MG and

    This review and other non-spoilery reviews can be found

    🌟 I should start this review by making one point very clear: I am an Arab Muslim Palestinian guy, so I do understand this book more than most readers will.

    🌟 I like that Tahereh is trying all different kid of things like MG and contemporary. I was disappointed by Restore me as many of you know but this book was totally different and it restored my faith in Tahereh’s writing.

    🌟 Speaking of which, the writing is different from the Shatter me series, while there it was whimsical and poetic, here it was normal with a tone that is fitting for a contemporary. I think this may be a good book for those who did not like the shatter me series and are willing to give Tahereh a second chance.

    🌟 Also the story is discussing very important subjects and I think it will be quite popular as THUG did. (But I expect a little bit less popularity). It talks about Islam and xenophobia mainly, which I will get back to later in this review.

    🌟 Also, Tahereh made this personal by including break-dancing and sports and high school stuff. Now the reviews have been mostly positive but I need to shed light on some things that bothered me.

    🌟 While the book started with the sensitive topics and I thought it was great, it quickly veered toward a romance which in my opinion was not needed. Or at least, should not have been the focus of the story, the romance should have been used to move the plot forward instead of becoming sort of the plot.

    🌟 The Break-dancing part: I really love destorying the stereotype about Muslim Girls and that they can’t do (and actually be good) at anything they want to as Music and sports and writing ..etc. I just wish there was more focus on this and more showing instead of telling. We have Shirin who was an amateur at break-dancing and then trained and became good and there was not much showing us that because Shirin was pre-occupied with the love interest as mentioned earlier. I need to mention Navid and the other guys who were so funny and protective of Shirin and made the story better.

    🌟 Now to the spicy part that annoyed me a bit and made the final saying in my rating. The Islam part!

    When you want to write a book like this then you have to be very objective and to put personal ideals and thoughts apart. There are some things that are open to discussion in Islam and are personal preferences and some things are simply not.

    To explain further: no one can discuss if praying in Islam is a must or not because it clearly is. But a man shaking a woman’s hand is debatable, Personally I do shake hands and don’t mind while some other guys prefer not to and to each his own.

    Why I am saying this? Because there were some inaccuracies and they may give a false ideas to those who are looking for answers. It does not matter where and when you were born (As some readers may say it is due to Tahereh being raised up in the west) some things are not acceptable and Shirin clearly did them and even defended her choices.

    🌟 Summary: This book which is like a semi-Autobiography discussed serious subjects. It had a modern and light voice to it and was easy to read. It could have been better with improved Islam Rep, more break-dancing and less romance. Still a good book that I can recommend to people.

    🌟 Prescription: To those who find the synopsis intriguing but will not take everything in this for granted.

    BR this with

  • Jesse (JesseTheReader)

    I got my hands of an ARC of this back at BEA and I regret not reading it till now. This book was INCREDIBLE. It's definitely one of my favorite books to come out this year. It was eye opening and heart breaking and beautiful.

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