Review: A Very Large Expanse of Sea (Tahereh Mafi)

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Blurb from Goodreads: 

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.


RATING

3.5 STARS!

HERE’S MY THOUGHTS!

I have been waiting for so long to read this book and write the review for this highly anticipated read for 2018! I was honestly stoked when Tahereh finally decided to write a YA contemporary book because I knew that this book is going to be perfect. I have only read two of her books, which are the middle grade series; Furthermore and Whichwood. The books are nothing but perfect!

The unique part of this story is that this book gives us an insight on what it means to be a Muslim in a non-Muslim country after the tragedy of 9/11. We get to see Shirin’s journey on how she goes through her life as a 16-year-old student, from being a friend and facing the family dynamics in her household. This book is brutally honest and raw, different from her other masterpieces. There are no flowery writing inserted. All monologues from Shirin is just purely straight forward and truthful.

I highly appreciate Muslim hijabi girls representation in Young Adult books, because I think they are not well represented in the society. Muslims are often mistaken for bad things and they are always treated horribly by the society. Their devotion to God is always mistakenly understood to be extremism. It is not always easy for immigrants to live a peaceful life in a foreign land as people will always have bad things to say. It is even worse when there is a sickening tragedy that involves the lives of many people. One of them, who is Shirin would be badly affected by the aftermath. We see how the society, in a smaller context, the students in her school treat her. They won’t befriend her, assume her like she is invisible and also throw brutal racist remarks to her. Being a Muslim in a non-Muslim country is different from being a Muslim in Muslim country. While reading, I compare myself, between the situation in my country with the struggles of Shirin’s. I think that never in my lifetime that I would understand what she has gone through. I understand my privilege and I will never abuse it to downgrade other people. I feel angry while reading because Shirin is constantly challenged with the society’s expectation towards her. She is always violently punished for something that she has never done. Everyone deserves to live in the world without being harmed.

I learn so much from the book, what it feels like to be in a xenophobic and islamophobic world but I think I am just given a tiny glimpse about what it feels like to be a Muslim in a non-Muslim country. This book is very important for readers to devour into, because it makes us understand the prejudice towards muslims in America. Seeing all of these makes us wonder the status of our education. Has our education done a perfect job in educating our children? It is our job to ponder.

I adore the male lead, which is the love interest for Shirin. I like the relationship between Shirin and her love interest, however, I hate for the fact that the romance has taken over the whole purpose of the book. I would want the book to focus more on Shirin’s journey for self-discovery. The romance factor has defeated the sole purpose of the book. I at times don’t feel comfortable reading about their relationship because I think it is too forced, and it is used as a plot device. This is the only reason on why I don’t give this book a 5 star. I would have to say that I am mildly disappointed with the relationship part.

My most favourite part of the book is that Shirin is a close reflection of the writer herself. I have never read any book that is very private and written based on personal experience by the author and the fact that Tahereh has published a book that is very close to her is such an amazing thing. It makes the book much more authentic and honest. It shows that Tahereh is very brave to show the world that her story is important enough for readers to learn. 

I now know the meaning of the title of the book! Only those who have read it may understand the meaning of it! 😛

X

Sabrina

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2 thoughts on “Review: A Very Large Expanse of Sea (Tahereh Mafi)

  1. I really really want to read this! I don’t enjoy reading fantasy, so haven’t actually read anything from her before but I always see the amazing reviews and how incredible her writing is, so I’m glad I can finally read her work! x

    Like

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