A Very Large Expanse of Sea by
I was lucky enough to receive this ARC in a giveaway on Instagram (ah-hem @stars.brite) and I am SO SO HAPPY! After reading Love, Hate and Other Filters, I was really REALLY hesitant about reading another book with a Muslim dealing with racism. But I love Tahereh Mafi (have you read Shatter Me? If not, you should totally read it! It’s super angsty and awesome and I have a review for that somewhere too!) so I totally planned to pick it up, especially when I heard she would be putting in her own experiences with breakdancing and stuff!
So this is a contemporary novel about a Muslim Hijabi shortly after 9/11. She has to deal with A LOT (Like insane amounts) of hatred but she’s learned to tune it all out (quite literally—she listens to music and hides the earphones under her hijab like a NINJA). Shirin is a witty, amazing young teenager that suffers way too much for just existing. As a hijabi myself, I related SO MUCH to her mini rants about everything she’s had to deal with. I found myself nodding along while reading and wanting to keep yelling “OH MY GOSH, TRUE” because Shirin was speaking to my SOUL.
Now, obviously, there’s a male lead (named Ocean—haha, do you see the title now?) and he’s adorable and amazing and I NEED MORE OKAY? Shirin and Ocean’s conversations were equally cringey (because teenagers, amiright?) and adorable and just so purely beautiful. I loved the character development and the story and literally everything about it!
I also want to talk about Navid, Shirin’s brother. It was so awesome seeing a close brother-sister relationship. I feel like I’ve read so many books that pit siblings against each other and it was refreshing seeing a supportive relationship (even if they were annoying each other at times)! The parents were also great! They weren’t super stereotypical and Shirin’s relationship with them wasn’t strained (at least beyond normal teenager stuff). There were a ton of things that Shirin brings up abou her parents’ pasts and I really resonated with the way it all was portrayed, particularly because I’m also a first generation kid in the US and my parents came here and started basically from scratch.
ANYWAY, I literally flew through this book! I didn’t want to put it down because this was such a powerful and gorgeous story! Tahereh Mafi wasn’t afraid to hit hard with everything about the struggle of wearing a hijab and dealing with ignorant people. I bookmarked so many places because all the quotes were just so amazing. I loved the emotion and passion mixed with the romance! This was just so absolutely stunning I can’t stop gushing about it!
I would recommend this to EVERYONE. If you like romance, learning about Persian culture, learning about the struggle of Muslims in the US (especially those that wear hijab), and relatable adorable conversations that will make you smile and cry all at the same time, this is a perfect fit! If you love snarky teenagers with a great sense of humor and splendid character development, again, this is a real winner!