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A Very Large Expanse of Sea

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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.

310 pages, Hardcover

First published October 16, 2018

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About the author

Tahereh Mafi

46 books44.9k followers
Tahereh Mafi is the New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of the Shatter Me series. She was born in a small city somewhere in Connecticut and currently resides in Santa Monica, California with her husband, fellow author Ransom Riggs. She can usually be found over-caffeinated and stuck in a book. Shatter Me is her first series, with television rights optioned by ABC Signature Studios; Furthermore, her first middle grade novel, is on shelves now, and Whichwood, its darker companion, will be on shelves November 14, 2017.

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5 stars
22,563 (39%)
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Displaying 1 - 30 of 10,104 reviews
Profile Image for chai ♡.
321 reviews153k followers
January 11, 2022
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.

Profile Image for Jesse (JesseTheReader).
468 reviews169k followers
October 15, 2018
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.
Profile Image for Sabaa Tahir.
Author 27 books31.8k followers
April 10, 2018
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.
Profile Image for Whitney Atkinson.
917 reviews13.9k followers
October 16, 2018
October 2018
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

May 2018
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.

May 2018
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.
Profile Image for Warda.
1,154 reviews18.5k followers
June 9, 2019
I’m finding it difficult forming words and putting it onto paper here. I felt a whole range of emotions reading this book and it became exhausting to read. In a good way.

This is a semi-autobiographical story, set in America, following the tragedy of 9/11, where we follow Shirin trying to navigate a world where Islamophobia is rampant, her existence questionable. The hate is apparent and because she stands out due to her hijab, she’s on the constant end of receiving racist remarks and at times, abuse.

Her anger was palpable and rightly so. The hurt and the constant ridicule she was facing left no room for her to breathe, no space for her to sort through her emotions. She locks herself up from the outside world and her own feelings in order to protect herself. There was no choice but to have a guard up. It was a lot to take in. The writing forced me to feel it all. It was suffocating.

Amidst all this, she finds comfort in books and break-dancing, whilst also trying to sort through her emotions as she begins falling for a boy.

I think reading this book made it quite clear the lack of Muslim literature we have access to. They are scattered and very few and far in between. Authentic Muslim voices in the West are rarely heard through any form of media and if they are, they aren’t positive. And the books that are being published now is a controlled narrative by a publishing world that is still very white.

It makes you wonder why. Is the lack thereof due to fear? That it won’t be marketable? Believing that it won’t resonate with other readers because a connection won’t be formed? But isn’t that the whole point of books? For us to be exposed to something slightly alien and for others to at least understand that these experiences are out there and are just as valid even if you might not agree? That the point isn’t the come to a agreement, but to acknowledge it exists. Our narratives, in its plethora and all its colours, matters.

These stories might not represent our faith but they represent our people, in all it’s glory and wonder and failures and that was Shirin’s story to me. I could relate to her anger. I know I have walked around with this look on my face and my guard up just so people would not approach me and/or have the nerve to comment on my attire and my beliefs. My guard had to be up just so I could be prepared for any kind of attack, even if the threat wasn’t there.
And don’t get me started on the days where the news would report on a terrorist attack. My ‘stank face’ would come out even more.

It’s not easy holding on to your faith in a world that refuses to understand your world. But we fight through it, because this faith of our means something to us.

I hope from now on the publishing world not only acknowledge their failure at providing us with authentic stories, but are trying their best to accommodating those voices that are demanding it. Shit needs to change.
Enough is enough.
Profile Image for Hamad.
1,012 reviews1,334 followers
October 17, 2018
This review and other non-spoilery reviews can be found @The Book Prescription

Actual Rating: 3.5 stars

“I was stuck in another small town, trapped in another universe populated by the kind of people who’d only ever seen faces like mine on their evening news, and I hated it.

🌟 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 Noura of ARCs
Profile Image for Kai Spellmeier.
Author 6 books13.6k followers
November 28, 2020
“I understood too well what it was like to feel like you were defined by one superficial thing - to feel like you would never escape the box people had put you in”

I'd never name a book "a very large" anything. Now that I've read the book I get the reference and although I realise it's meant to be poetic...I still think it's a bad title.

I was in the mood for a very typical, down to earth, contemporary YA and I'm glad this book satisfied that hunger. I wasn't sure what to expect though. Tahereh got huge with the Shatter Me series and back when I first read it, I loved the first book. But my excitement wore off slightly in book 2 and I was seriously disappointed in the (then) final book. I still can't make myself care to read the other sequels. Anyway, I'm happy to report that I thoroughly enjoyed her first contemporary.

Let's get the "Why only fours stars then?" out of the way before I start praising this book. Frankly, straight romances don't do it for me, and while Ocean was a nice enough dude, I didn't exactly find him fascinating. And 5 stars would mean that the book made me feel all the feels, which it didn't. I was mad at times and glad sometimes but never filled with joy or moved to tears.

Now the good stuff: I really liked Shirin, the main character. She has depth and shows growth, she was reflective and overall she seems like a cool person to be around.Yes there were some "not like other girls" vibes but she eventually overcomes that. She curses a lot, which always makes me happy, and she doesn't take anyone's crap or pretends to be someone she's not. Her hijab makes her a target, but despite all the hate she faces, she refuses to change who she is just so life gets a little easier, and I can relate to that.

I was impressed how the book dealt with the emotional labour of a relationship where the two parties come from entirely different backgrounds: one party has peak privilege and it's up to the other party to educate them about the daily struggle they face due to certain forms of discrimination. Of course, it's nobody's duty to educate anyone who is oblivious to their own privilege or ignorant of the injustice someone else is facing. But if you like someone and you want to have a relationship with them, be that platonic or romantic, communication is key. Anyway, all I want to say is that I admire how Tahereh discussed that struggle and explained that it's not a given when someone else takes the time to teach you something you should already know.

I'm also glad to see the OwnVoices Muslim rep and I'm even more excited to read Tahereh's new book An Emotion of Great Delight which delves deeper into the islamophobia and hate crimes that surged all over the US just after 9/11. I read See No Stranger: A Memoir and Manifesto of Revolutionary Love (my fave book of the year, read it!) a few weeks ago, which talks in great detail about all the violence directed at the Sikh community after the terror attack, so I have an idea of what's to come, and I'm a bit scared. A Very Large Expanse of Sea already touched on this, but the new book will centre that experience and trauma more than before.

Two more things: The romance gave me Twilight flashbacks. Luckily, it wasn't even close to the level of problematic that Bella and Edward's relationship is, but the today-I'm-ignoring-you-in-biology-class-but-tomorrow-I'm-talking-to-you-again thing still reminded me of a Stephenie Meyer book. The second thing is a recommendation: If you loved this book, you will also love The Henna Wars, another favourite of mine. OwnVoices Muslim rep (although Bangladeshi and not Persian), high school setting, discussions of racism and cultural appropriation, and really cute romance.

Find more of my books on Instagram
Profile Image for destiny ♡ howling libraries.
1,664 reviews5,144 followers
January 28, 2020
If you know my reading tastes much, you’ll already know that I almost never pick up a contemporary novel unless it involves one of three things: diverse rep, a heartbreaking learning experience (for the reader or the characters), or a romance so sweet and lovable that I can’t help but get sucked in. It’s really rare that I find a book that has all three of those traits, yet here we are.

I didn’t understand how anyone could be so violently angry with me for something I hadn’t done, so much so that they’d feel justified in assaulting me in broad daylight as I walked down the street. I didn’t want to understand it. But there it was.

This is my first Tahereh Mafi read (unless you count the few chapters of Shatter Me I’ve read so far), and I could not put it down. I sat down late one night with the intentions of reading a couple of chapters before bed, and the next thing I knew, it was 4am and I had just finished it and could not stop crying from this mixture of sadness and grief and happiness and love and just… everything. Tahereh Mafi gave me literally every possible emotion I could imagine while reading this gorgeous story.

I worried that if I spoke or screamed my anger would grip both sides of my open mouth and rip me in half. So I said nothing.

First and foremost, it’s a story inspired by Tahereh Mafi’s own high school life: our protagonist Shirin is a high schooler in the wake of 9/11, shortly after the event occurred, which isn’t an easy place to be when you’re a Muslim girl, the daughter of Persian immigrants who fought and worked their way to the US from Iran, and a hijabi. On top of all of that, her parents move her and her brother Navid constantly, and where the story picks up, Shirin is yet again the new girl whose classmates won’t look past her scarf and skin color long enough to learn more about her: like the music she loves, or the immense value she places on her family and their Persian cooking, or her secret affinity for break dancing.

I was stuck in another small town, trapped in another universe populated by the kind of people who’d only ever seen faces like mine on their evening news, and I hated it.

Obviously, as a white woman from the US, with no immigration in my recent ancestors and no religious affiliations, I can’t begin to speak for the representation in this book; however, Tahereh explains in her author’s note that every bit of it is own-voice (even the break dancing!), and many of my Muslim friends have been raving about this book already. (If you have an own-voice review for this book, please let me know and I’ll boost your review! ♥) What I can say, though, is that Shirin is such an incredible character and I loved the representation. I learned so much, but more than that, I was given just a tiny little glimpse into what it must be like to be a Muslim in a xenophobic, Islamophobic world, and it broke my heart a million times over.

“I’m just—I’m sick and tired of trying to explain to the world why racism is bad, okay? Why is that my job?”

There’s also a running theme of Shirin discussing not only how racism affects her in obvious ways, such as the assailants who attacked her right after 9/11, but also in microaggressions and people being careless despite thinking they had good intentions. It’s so easy to understand why Shirin walks around with walls of thick stone surrounding her, and why it’s so hard for her to let people in—because even the people that seem “good” usually end up hurting her, whether it’s through ignorance or malevolence.

My parents had made sure to make an entirely separate, six-course meal for this friend of mine who’d never tried Persian food before, and they’d sat there and stared at him as he ate, and every time he said he liked what he’d eaten they would look up at me and beam, proud as peacocks, finding in Ocean further proof that Persian people had invented only the best things, including the best food.

I also can safely say that the storytelling itself is among the best of any YA contemporaries I’ve ever read. In between the anger and hurt Shirin lives in, she’s funny, clever, and just an all-around enjoyable narrator. Her family is so lovable (her brother and parents made me smile constantly), the descriptions of food had my mouth watering all the time, and most of all, the romance is one of the sweetest, purest, most adorable contemporary ships I’ve ever seen in my life.

But I knew Ocean and I were thinking the same thing. I could feel it in the subtle shifts of his body. I heard it in his sudden, slow inhalations. In the tightness in his breath when he leaned in and whispered, “Where the hell did you come from?”

I literally highlighted page upon page of Shirin and Ocean’s interactions, no shame. I laughed, I blushed, I cried so many times over how sweet they are together. Ocean is a rare YA love interest who can ride the fine line between being incredibly sweet and eloquent, without ever seeming overly scripted or unrealistic. Shirin and Ocean are the kind of couple that makes us believe in the endless weight of young love, whether we’re in our teens or long past them.

But I had never, ever touched someone and felt like this: like I was holding electricity inside of me.

I honestly feel like I can’t possibly gush enough about A Very Large Expanse of Sea. It is one of my favorite reads of the year so far, and I know it’s the type of story I’ll go back to over and over again because it won’t get old. Tahereh Mafi has earned me as a lifetime fan with this story, I have no doubt, and after reading this, I can’t wait to dive back into the Shatter Me world and then read everything else she ever writes, too.

All quotes come from an advance copy and may not match the final release. Thank you so much to HarperTeen for providing me with this ARC in exchange for an honest review!
Profile Image for jessica.
2,535 reviews32.7k followers
May 13, 2019
oh wow. im surprised by how much i actually enjoyed this! much more than i thought i would, considering i really had no expectations for it whatsoever. but it wasnt always upward positivity.

actually, my feelings whilst reading this would look similar to a square root symbol - √ - if i were to graph it. it began with pretty neutral feelings (like i said, no expectations), before plunging in great frustration (i found the main character to be extremely unlikable and insufferable) but then pleasantly and steadily inclined (i forgave the main character for her hostility towards literally everyone, eventually coming to understand it, and i enjoyed seeing her and her BF grow in the face of adversity).

overall, this a pretty wholesome story. i do wish i could have formed more of an attachment with shirin, but she kept everyone at arms length (which i guess included me) and i couldnt really find any sort of fondness for her. but i do like the message of this story and im excited to see if mafi writes more contemporary stories in the future!

3.5 stars
Profile Image for BernLuvsBooks .
773 reviews4,644 followers
March 29, 2019
A Very Large Expanse of Sea by Tahereh Mafi broke me while simultaneously filling my mind, soul and heart with vast emotions all at the same time.

This book deserves all the stars for the raw emotion it made me feel. Tahereh Mafi's voice was so honest - Shirin was funny, intelligent, clever and so angry. She was the perfect narrator. My heart bled for her. Shirin's pain was so real - I wanted to hug her fiercely. The story follows Shirin as her family moves to yet another new city. She deals with daily racism, hate and degrading comments from being a Muslim teen post 9/11. I adored her fierceness, her strength and her vulnerability. Tahereh wrote from her own personal experiences, creating a truly powerful and inspirational character in Shirin. I truly loved watching her grow throughout the book. Her self awakening was beautiful.

The romance between Ocean and Shirin was impossible not to get caught up in. Could he have been any more swoon worthy? He was the perfect complement to Shirin's fierceness. His innocence, tenderness and honesty were exactly what she needed to pierce through the armor she had built up around herself. Their relationship built up slowly and I was enthralled with every angsty moment of it. It made me feel like a love-sick teenager all over again. Their's was not an easy road to love - it was bumpy, heartbreaking and painful at times. Yet, it was wholeheartedly genuine, sweet and utterly undeniable.

To say this book was a roller coaster ride of emotion would be an understatement! I laughed, I cried, I gasped out loud and I definitely cringed at some of the racism and bigotry Shirin endured. Did I mention there was breakdancing?! There is and it was a wonderful, unexpected addition for this Bronx native! A Very Large Expanse of Sea was an emotional, beautifully written story - in short it's the kind of story you know you won't soon forget.
Profile Image for Tatiana.
1,401 reviews11.7k followers
July 18, 2019
2.5 stars, generously rounded up.

Islamophobia is terrible, but writing about it as a background to an overwrought, angsty, dull "Guys like you don't talk to girls like me" teen romance was an odd choice, IMO. It shifted the narrative's focus from Shirin's pain to her boyfriend's, making him the central recipient of hate. As a white woman married (for a long time, we met in 2003) to an Asian man who is in turns perceived as an "Arab" or "Mexican," depending on the preferred hated racial group of the assholes who find it acceptable to harass him at work or in the world, I can assure you, I am not the one who suffers in this equation, it's him. And in this story it should be Shirin.

I think maybe this strange imbalance has something to do with they way this story is written. Those who point to all tell, no show, mean that this book mostly reads like a long recap of things happening in Shirin's life. The story only stops and happens in real time during the inane conversations with the boyfriend, making those moments seem the most important, when they just aren't. Shirin is abused for her faith and for belonging to a certain culture, and yet so little page space is given to those subjects. We rarely spend time with her wonderful family (the only time they have an opportunity to shine is during a dinner when THE BOYFRIEND shows up) or her breakdance buddies (I find it hard to believe they wouldn't have stood up for her) or other minority teens at that school. They barely exist in the story. The only things that do exist are Ocean with his pretty eyes, and hate. And I needed more of Shirin and her world.

A story that could have been more if it wasn’t so fixated on a boy.
Profile Image for Larry H.
2,484 reviews29.4k followers
November 2, 2018
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, A Very Large Expanse of Sea . 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 itseithersadnessoreuphoria.blogspot.com, or check out my list of the best books I read in 2017 at https://itseithersadnessoreuphoria.blogspot.com/2018/01/the-best-books-i-read-in-2017.html.
Profile Image for Hannah Greendale.
703 reviews3,283 followers
November 6, 2018
Aside from a few short bursts of insight on a Muslim girl suffering racists microaggressions a year after 9/11, A Very Large Expanse of Sea is your average, run-of-the-mill coming-of-age YA romance featuring a teenager who hates school, laments life, is awkward around boys, doesn't understand her feelings for the first guy who's kind to her, etc., etc., etc.

Lots of telling; crucial moments that hold vast potential for tension and emotional depth are glossed over in brief recap. One male character's physically violent outbursts are never addressed. The conclusion is realistic yet unsatisfying.
"You sound so sleepy."

"Yeah," he said quietly. "I don't know. I'm tired, but I feel so happy."

"You do?"

"Yeah," he whispered. "You make me so happy." He took a deep breath. Laughed a little. "You're like a happy drug."

I was smiling. I didn't know what to say.

"You there?"

"Yeah," I said. "I'm here."

"What are you thinking?"

"I'm thinking I wish you were here."


"Yeah," I said. "That'd be great."
Profile Image for Chelsea (chelseadolling reads).
1,478 reviews19.3k followers
December 13, 2018
This was PHENOMENAL. I've always really enjoyed Tahereh's books but this being a contemporary really just stepped everything up for me. Fuck, I loved this SO MUCH. dsafsahdfkjsahfd

Please join us tomorrow (12/14) on Kassie's channel at 8pm PST as we discuss this amazing read. I hope to see you there!
Profile Image for Feyre.
102 reviews242 followers
March 18, 2019
“I didn't believe it was possible to hide a woman's beauty. I thought women were gorgeous no matter what they wore, and I didn't think they owed anyone an explanation for their sartorial choices. Different women felt comfortable in different outfits.
They were all beautiful.”
― Tahereh Mafi, A Very Large Expanse of Sea

This was a buddy read with my beautiful friend Imane.


I wanted to like this, really wanted to and I did enjoy the writing style and the cute romance but my biggest problem was Shirin, I've never read a book with a Muslim as a main character before, and as a Muslim girl myself, I thought that maybe I could relate to her ... but no, Shirin was so weird and angry, always complaining, she hated her school and lamented her life...
Okay, I get it. It sucks to be bullied because of how you choose to dress, but for me, Tahereh completely missed the chance to delve deeper into the experience of a Muslim teenager in a post-9/11 world. Many of the most interesting elements are glossed over, I expected much more than just a story about bullies and break dancing practices. I also felt that the ending was a bit rushed!
Oh, and btw i totally disagree with the author, hijab and headscarf are not the same thing, but this is a completely different discussion, if you want to learn more, you can check out this amazing Ted talk by Samina Ali
Profile Image for Korrina  (OwlCrate).
193 reviews4,554 followers
April 10, 2018
4.5 stars rounding up to 5. This book was really intense, raw and honest. I really felt how personal of a story this was for the author to write, and am grateful that she is putting this book out into the world.
Profile Image for ♛ may.
806 reviews3,797 followers
December 7, 2018
i'm conflicted, im conflicted, im conflicted, im conflicted, im conflicted, im conflicted, im conflicted, im conflicted, im conflicted

i got a lot to ??unpack?? but i dont know if i'm going to unpack it, so stay tuned, i guess



i'm sitting here reading this book and lowkey getting emotional bc there are comments and phrases that are just so natural to the main characters and I DIDNT THINK I WOULD EVER SEE THE DAY WHEN THIS WAS NORMAL IN A YA BOOK 😭😭😭😭😭
Profile Image for Valentina.
131 reviews81 followers
October 27, 2018
I’m a white girl. I know the privilege the color of my skin gives me.
Sometimes people stare at me, I can feel their eyes on me while crossing the street. It happens once in a lifetime and it gives me shivers. I don’t know why they do it, but I know they aren’t commenting the color of my skin, they are not assuming my culture or my religion. I don’t get racist comments, never had, never will.

This book was a punch in the stomach.
And if it was a punch in the stomach for me, a girl who never has gone through what shirin has, I can’t imagine what a massive gigantic kick in the stomach was for all of you who not only understand her story, but are actually living what she is daily.
I’m sorry.
I’m grateful Tahereh decided to write this story.
I’m happy she did it for each one of you who is going through all of this.
Profile Image for Muberra.
64 reviews51 followers
April 18, 2019
Wow. What a disappointment.

It's the typical boy-meets-girl story-line. The issue I had with this book was how the author romanticised that sort of relationship, which is completely against the principles of Islam.

I also didn't think the author gave a clear explanation on why most women wear the hijab. The hijab is an act of honour and dignity, an empowerment, and a guarantee that a woman will be judged according to her inner spiritual beauty rather than her outer superficial appearance. The hijab liberates and raises a woman’s status, and demands that she be judged according to her intellect rather than her sexuality.

Why do we repeatedly get Muslim characters that go against their religion, in a way that seems to reassure the non-Muslims that we're "just like them" and "not backwards/weird"?

Why can't we have a Muslim protagonist that proudly practices their religion and refuses to succumb to the social pressures around them?
Profile Image for Alana.
665 reviews1,266 followers
June 16, 2018
This book was EVERYTHING.

I posted a mini review on my blog, you can check it out HERE!

I thought I understood white privilege but this book.. THIS BOOK checked my ass real quick.

I don’t even have words. Please just do yourself a favor and add it to your TBR immediately.

Full review to come closer to release date!




Tahereh, darling, you are SLAYING 2018.
What did we do to deserve you?
Profile Image for Emma.
59 reviews2,312 followers
June 6, 2018
My favorite read of the year so far. so raw, emotional, and hopeful
Profile Image for Elyse Walters.
4,010 reviews53 followers
November 19, 2018
Could NOT pull away!!!!
Alright...I know I’m behind on a couple of reviews... ( no rules here right?/!)... lol
Busy with a remodeling project ...’
And a girl needs sleep...

I enjoyed both the Audiobook & ebook... sync combination!
LOVE the storytelling... melted over the characters ....

A part I laughed: ( yet - this still tells nothing about the entire story)....
This snobby girl - a bitch in other words - had the nerve to tell our leading girl Shirin that ‘she’ was a disgrace to her heritage....
that she didn’t even deserve to be wearing her hijab.
Snobby was from India and was righteous and judgmental.
Shirin, a teenage High School bright girl, Muslin, born in the United States, attacked two days after 911, just BECAUSE....
had taken enough ridiculous bullshit stabs for being a Muslim... who ‘liked’ to wear her headscarf.
So.... Shirin, looks at SNOBBY girl ... and tells her off ‘good. Shirin told her “you are what is wrong with our country .. your prejudice and righteousness”...etc etc. Snobby- girl had it coming!
But I loved the next part...
Snobby girl says to Shirin: “I’ll pray for you”.....( in her snobby sarcastic voice)...
Shirin says: “Great, I have a test after lunch today, a little praying that I do well would be great”...... [ not the ‘exact’ words].... but you get the idea!
I laughed!!! Great line! I may borrow some version of that some day.

This Young Adult Book is soooooo GOOD!!!!

Great Audiobook- FABULOUS VOICE to enhance emotions!!!
And....GREAT TO READ!!! - equal!!!!


Thanks to *Larry*!!! I read HIS review...sold me!!! And should you!!!
Thanks, Larry...

Drifting off to sleep from this deeply felt story!!! 😴
Profile Image for Kelly (and the Book Boar).
2,453 reviews7,566 followers
January 14, 2019
Find all of my reviews at: http://52bookminimum.blogspot.com/

Yeeeesh, or as this book would say . . .


You know what makes me want to punch someone in the throat more than anything in the universe? When the only words they can come up with during an argument are “wow” or “whatever.” The fact that this is pretty much the only response either of the two main characters in this book have to anything that offends them did not bode well for my enjoyment. Not to mention the laundry list of other things like . . .

1. I found Shatter Me to be okay, but I remember Mafi being quite the wordsmith. Definitely not the case here.

2. The female lead’s family has moved like a dozen times in her life – but apparently only to super racist uggo places (even before 9/11 took place which made uggos even more uggo) and yet don’t really have any money or anything to show for it so why move all the time???

3. If you want to argue that they weren’t poor – IT FLAT OUT SAYS THE OLDER BROTHER IS DYSLEXIC AND THEY COULDN’T AFFORD A TUTOR SO THE MC HAD TO “TEACH” HIM NOT TO BE DYSLEXIC ANYMORE . . . when they were middle schoolers. I can’t even talk about this topic further for fear my brain will explode.

4. How many teenage movies can be ripped off in one book? Let me count the ways – girl makes her own creations via altering thrift store finds à la Pretty In Pink and since there is no such thing as too much John Hughes (except somehow there is now because a subset of people are super offended by everything I thought was awesome when I was a teenager) we also have the unexpected show up by dream boy in his car à la Sixteen Candles and no clichéd story would be complete without every problem being solved via a breakdancing battle like the Step Up franchise has taught us.

5. While we’re on the subject of things that offend the younger generation – there are multiple occurrences of “being stopped with a kiss” so see Argument #4 above and the old lady generation teenie bopper movie stuff that now pisses people off as to my confusion.

6. These children DON’T EVEN KNOW EACH OTHER. Now I know that’s the mom in me speaking, but JFC I’d rather have the instalove than this supposed “deep” crap when he doesn’t even know she has a brother and she’s unaware he’s the star of the basketball team. Talk about self-absorbed douchebags.

7. Not everything is racist. Or there can be more than one reason. The dude in class who is disgusting and tells her he “sees nothing” when he looks at her (or probably any other random student) could have a multitude of reasons – they’re not on the same social plane as he is, they’re fat, ugly, gay, poor, rich, etc., etc., etc. The forest is missed for the trees when it comes to pointing out that individuals like him are AWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWFUL people – and yes maybe blatantly racist as well because they are pigs – but a lot of these kids were probably just assholes and thought she was a bitch because she acted like a bitch all the time and could have given a rip about her heritage.

8. Our MC wears hijab, but basically for a fashion statement. Wear what you want to wear, but good grief don’t get peeved when a classmate calls you out for conduct unbecoming.

I won’t be responding to any comments telling me I’m wrong on this one because (1) I’m well aware and (2) I’m sure the majority of those statements will be coming from children and Homey don’t play that. Before you get all up in arms, please note this is actual footage of me typing this review . . . .

I’m old. I’m cranky. I just didn’t get it.
Profile Image for Christy.
3,819 reviews32.4k followers
December 3, 2019
4 stars
“If the decision you’ve made has brought you closer to humanity, then you’ve done the right thing.”

A Very Large Expanse of Sea is a YA Contemporary following Shirin, a Muslim teenager. It takes place a year or two after 9/11. What was interesting to me straight away was the timeline. I was also a teenager during 9/11, it happened my sophomore year of high school, so I was essentially the same age as Shirin while all this was going on. My life, however, was very different.

Shirin's family moves around a lot and with each new city and new school, she finds herself subjected to the same racism and prejudice at the last place. Because of this, she's become hard. She's tough because she has to be. Shirin is American, she was born here and speaks English, though people treat her like an outsider- like a terrorist because of the color of her skin and the way she looks. It seems like her new school is much of the same, except for Ocean.

Ocean is a boy a year older than her in some of her classes. He is her lab partner and genuinely likes Shirin and wants to get to know her. It takes time, but very slowly he starts to tear her walls down. They start to become friends, but the attraction is there, too. Things aren't easy for them and as much as Ocean tries, they're just not accepted together by her classmates. It was heartbreaking to read about.

Through it all, Shirin stays brave, stays strong, and perseveres. I loved her and Ocean both. I also loved Shirin's brother, Navid and the rest of the breakdancing crew. They brought some fun and lightness to a heavy story and I loved how they saw below the surface with Shirin and all became like big brothers to her in a way.

This was such a powerful and important story. I listened to the audio book and it only took me a day to listen to it. I didn't want to stop once it was going. If you're looking for a hard-hitting YA Contemporary, I recommend this one.
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