Dear A Very Large Expanse of Sea,
An encounter with Tahereh Mafi’s books is enchanting. A Very Large Expanse of Sea brought new levels to her writing and experiencing the magical experience of what words can do.
P.S. Book Details
Author: Tahereh Mafi
Book Length: 310 pages
Book Genre: YA Contemporary Fiction
Publication Date: October 16, 2018
Awards: National Book Award Nominee for Young People’s Literature (2018), Lincoln Award Nominee (2021), Goodreads Choice Award Nominee for Young Adult Fiction (2018), NAACP Image Award Nominee for Youth/Teens (2019)
Synopsis: 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.
Tahereh Mafi’s contemporary fiction is beautiful. I first encountered her writing through the Shatter Me series and thought her style was distinct from other authors I had read. So, I continued reading her work. I enjoyed her middle grade fantasy novels a little more. Then, I read her contemporary fiction and fell in love with her writing.
What I appreciate about Mafi’s writing is how she connects to the heart of the character and communicates it to the reader in an imaginative way. In all her books, I have notice, the focus is on the inner journey accompanied by the outer journey. Shirin is an interesting character. When she is put into a new school, in the middle of high school, she is unsurprised by most things. Apart from a boy, Ocean, who is seemingly interested in her. I enjoyed watching her relationship with Ocean transform from oblivious, to pushing away, and eventually something more. Shirin show is strong, fierce, independent, and loving. I appreciated how she was a complex layered person, rather than only feeling one emotion at one time. Shirin felt like a character that was real to me as I read the book. The writing was beautiful and descriptive, I could imagine the scenes as if I were seeing them myself. Which is one of the best experiences to get to as a reader.
While there was deep character development and emotion, the story was not lacking. I enjoyed the seeing the community Shirin got involved in with break-dancing. It fit in so well to see Shirin’s devotion and loyalty to her family get translated into dedication and commitment to the sport. I won’t lie, reading about Shirin breakdancing and seeing Mafi dance in the book trailer had me wanting to be better at dancing myself.
After reading this book I felt inspired and excited for more books in this genre by Tahereh Mafi. An Emotion of Great Delight is coming out soon, and I am eagerly awaiting the release in June 2021. I would recommend A Very Large Expanse of Sea to people who enjoy The Poet X or On the Come Up. If you have read the Shatter Me or Furthermore series and enjoyed the style, try this one too!