A Very Large Expanse of the Sea by Tahereh Mafi

My first encounter with Tahereh Mafi was overwhelming – the book was very highly anticipated for me because of how many praises I’d seen about it online and how many awards it was getting (congratulations on that!). This is as usual a spoiler-y review so beware of that.

First of all, I saw that there is a debate going on online whether or not this book is contemporary or historical fiction (IT’S SET IN THE 2000S WHAT!!!). Anyway, the story is set around the main character – Shireen and revolves around the fact that she and her family are Persian and Shireen wears a headscarf. She has moved around a lot, and the book starts off with her starting the school year in a brand new school.

The book is set in 2002 and so, we learn how Shireen has to deal with racism and bigotry post the tragic events of 9/11. She is a very angry young woman because she understands that she is not treated the way she is supposed to be treated and because she understands that people can sometimes be very horrible.

Her character development is an interesting one – she goes from being an angry alone type person, to embracing a new hobby that she has admired other people doing, to finding a friend group, to trying to be more kind both to herself and to other people.

The only part I didn’t really like about the book is how Shireen and Ocean’s relationship developed and the end of it especially annoyed me. The beginning was alright and my heart was breaking for her when she was warning him about the racists, but how they got back together and how he betrayed her and she simply brushed it off as if nothing happened really annoyed me.

A quote: “If the decision you’ve made has brought you closer to humanity, then you’ve done the right thing.”

My rating: 4/5 stars

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