Review: A Very Large Expanse of Sea by Tahereh Mafi || I don’t have words to describe my feeling properly

A Very Large Expanse of Sea

Tahereh Mafi

a very large expanse of sea by tahereh mafi

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. 

Publisher: HarperTeen

Published: October 16th 2018




Trigger Warning





Racism, Xenophobia, Bigotry

“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.”

Am I even eloquent enough to write this review? I can’t speak on the representation in this book, so I have some own voices reviews here and here.

This is the story about the life of Shirin, a Muslim girl a year after 9/11. We go through how she deals with the hateful people around her, finding her passion in breakdancing and discovering first love.

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“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” 

Mafi doesn’t sugarcoat what Shirin goes through. It felt so authentic, which can probably be accosted to it being #ownvoices and inspired by Tahereh Mafi’s experiences in highschool. It doesn’t hold back on showing the small-minded hatred people have and how Shirin deals with it.

But, I’m really glad this book wasn’t just about the “struggle”. Don’t get me wrong, it is very much a part of Shirin’s narrative and something she deals with daily and isn’t glossed over, but it wasn’t the only factor— she had hobbies, she gained friends,she fell in love. And it was so easy to understand where her anger and thoughts were coming from. She felt justified in her feelings and I couldn’t not like her. Her strength in this situation was so admirable, yet she had her vulnerable moments— she felt real.

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“Be careful with that ,” I said, nodding at the paper, “because if you text me too much, you’ll have to marry me. It’s the rules in my religion.” 

The romance had a bigger part in the story than I was anticipating. And though there is a huge emphasis on Shirin finding her self worth and combating hate with empathy and love, the romance was kind of just… there all the time and kind of felt like this turned into strictly a romance, especially in the second half. Dialing it back would have been cool, you know?

Yet I get it— Ocean had a huge part in her character development and I liked them together. Her pushing him away because of the fears of the consequences to come out of their relationship, it broke my heart because they both deserved happiness, but I understood it. Both have their struggles and are in no way perfect, but they were sweet together.

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Just try to be happy. Your happiness is the one thing these assholes can’t stand.

But if I’m honest? Shirin’s relationship with not only her brother Navid, but his friends— Bijan, Carlos and Jacobi? Was my favorite part of the book. The way they stuck up for her and got her into breakdancing, how pure and just there for each other they were… I loved it so much.

The ending kind of felt bitter sweet? It felt appropriate for the story, but things did kind of wrap up quickly. However, there was no doubt that I would love this; it managed to put me through so many emotions in one sitting… how could I not recommend?

8 thoughts on “Review: A Very Large Expanse of Sea by Tahereh Mafi || I don’t have words to describe my feeling properly”

      1. I’ve seen some people talking about it, but I thought I’d see more, since there are so many fans of the Shatter Me series. I wonder if there wasn’t as much promo for it? Either way, it sounds like a really powerful novel, so hopefully more people will pick it up soon. I’m glad you enjoyed it! ❤

        Liked by 1 person

  1. This review is great! I hope to read A Very Large Expanse of Sea this year as well since I read Furthermore by her and I need more of her delicious writing!

    Liked by 1 person

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