Title: A Very Large Expanse of Sea
Author: Tahereh Mafi
Date of Publication: October 16th, 2018
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.
So Shatter Me is my favorite series ever, yet it took me a while to read this one. Why, you ask? Because contemporary is iffy for me. Most of the time I like my contemporary light and fluffy. But this was time! Oh, and breakdancing is awesome!
Here’s where things get tough for me. I was seventeen and in high school in 2002. I remember everything as clear as day, so I was confused by several things. First, the texting? I don’t really remember anyone texting back then. It was mainly AIM and landline phone calls! Also, I feel like most of us still had CDs vs MP3 players! Also, if Shirin’s family didn’t have a lot of money then how was she always using this cell phone that didn’t have unlimited minutes or texts? Why not just use the landline????
Next gripe, I felt this book was over dramatic. I don’t want people to think that all schools were racist like this. In fact, if teachers would have acted like this to any student at my school, they would have probably been fired! Right after 9/11 kids at my school were NOT like this about Muslims and I live in SE Texas. In fact the only separation we ever had was between the preppy kids and the metal kids, but it was more of a “let’s just hang out in our own social circles!” This book kind of reminded me of the movie A Walk to Remember, when popular dude dates nerdy girl and the kids in school get all hostile toward Mandy Moore’s character after they start a relationship. It just baffles my brain and doesn’t seem real.
It was super hard for me to connect to Shirin, and I was so sad about this, but the fact was that she was just as prejudice as these other kids. Yes, she had been through a lot, but she was just so very angry. I’m just a big fan of showing kindness over that anger! Ocean, for example, was nothing but sweet to her, and at first she was pretty mean to him! Also, she mentioned in her head that he should be with a blonde. Why a blonde???
As for side characters, I seriously loved Navid and his group of friends. They were so cool and awesome and I literally wanted to breakdance with them! I will say that Shirin does grow as a character by the end, and I really loved that! Ocean, dear Ocean was so sweet but he got a bit over dramatic, too! I just don’t even know what to say except I still feel confused here, but I seriously love Tahereh Mafi’s writing more than anything.
Can you clearly remember where you were during 9/11?