I really enjoyed Shatter Me by Tahereh Mafi, so I was excited to read A Very Large Expanse Of Sea! I did not know what I was getting into at all because I just briefly skimmed the flap. I was hooked from the start because I just loved the main character’s personality. Mafi’s writing was so amazing – she has a way with words that draws you in and makes you feel what she wants you to feel. I have not experienced what Shirin has, but completely understood her frustrations and fear throughout the story.
One thing I have been struggling with as a writer is character relationships, but reading this book makes it look easy. Her talent for writing is immaculate, I wish I could have annotated all of the paragraphs that just were so powerfully written, but I had a library copy. I wish I could read this book again for the first time!
This book is set one year after 9/11, where an Iranian-American girl named Shirin, who is constantly moving because of her father’s job, is a sophomore at her new school, and believes it will be the same as her old ones – that she will make no friends, and be forgotten about when she leaves. She is one of the only students at her school who wears a hijab, which makes her a target for hateful comments and acts. Because of the hate she has constantly experienced, she has responded to it by closing off everyone but her family: classmates, teachers, and strangers.
So, when she meets a cute white boy named Ocean James, her first reaction is to ignore him and believe his intentions are bad. But, he won’t go away, and Shirin feels more drawn to him as the days pass. She is fearful of the Islamophobia that will follow them if they choose to become closer, but her and Ocean had a special bond that struggled to be broken.
“Ocean had given me hope. He’d made me believe in people again. His sincerity had rubbed me raw, had peeled back the stubborn layers of anger I’d lived in for so long. Ocean made me want to give the world a second chance.” I liked quotes like these that contrasted the poeticness of Shatter Me but still conveyed the same emotions. Also, I loved Ocean and Shirin’s relationship so much, the conversations they had ranged from funny and awkward, to cute and romantic, to serious and educational.
Also, I recommend this book to people who enjoy “Daylight” or “Midnight Rain” by Taylor Swift because this book reminded me of those songs somehow. Also, this book features an Arab Muslim, and it is so important to have representation of them. The author is also an Arab Muslim, and has said Shirin’s experiences are “quasi-autobiographical”.
Four out of four roses! I really wanted to savor this book but ended up finishing it fairly quickly. One minor thing is that I did not expect the main plot to be romance, but it ended up being my favorite thing about the book!