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A Very Large Expanse of Sea by Tahereh Mafi

A Very Large Expanse of Sea by Tahereh Mafi

Synopsis from Goodreads:

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.
I am a fan of Tahereh Mafi since I've read her Shatter Me series and when this book came out last year, I've instantly added it into my endless TBR List. Last month, I came across an online book club on Instagram - @bookclubphilippines. The theme for the book of the month was Women Empowerment and they featured this book. I took that as a sign to finally open A Very Large Expanse of Sea and read it. I made a very good decision because this book is so good.

I had little to no idea what this book was about. I mean, the title itself doesn't speak much, right? I didn't know what to expect, but when I started reading Chapter One, I was instantly captivated. The pacing of this book was so easy to follow and Tahereh's writing style in this one is sooooo vastly different from the Shatter Me books.

A Very Large Expanse of Sea is set after the 9/11 terrorist attack and it follows a young Muslim girl going through her high school years. This book tackles relevant issues - racism, discrimination, bullying, and the like. It's a light read but there are so many lessons and thought-provoking things happening inside it. I loved reading this one that if I just didn't have to sleep, I would've finished it in one sitting.

There are so many good moments in this book, but there are also some things that didn't sit well with me. One thing was the breakdancing part. It's a unique aspect of Shirin's personality but it feels like it's forced into the story. I get that Tahereh wanted to incorporate something memorable but I don't know, it just doesn't feel like it belongs to the story. But then, I found out that some things in this book was inspired by Tahereh's personal experiences and that she took her love for breakdancing as an inspiration to write about it in Shirin's perspective. This book is somewhat autobigraphical in a sense. So whatever, it's not a big deal because I got to love Shirin more because of how passionate she is with breakdancing. I know that is kind of contradicting but whatever. 😂

Another thing was the obvious cliches in the book. I know myself, and I don't really like obvious cliches but for this book, even though it has tons of them, it just works. I'm a little mad at myself for tolerating such. Like hello? A popular guy falling for the introvert, out-of-place girl? The main character not noticing the popular guy at first but ends up falling for him? A "forbidden love" due to popularity reasons? Girl, this book has lots of those BUT I DEVOURED IT AND LOVED IT. Tahereh Mafi's contemporary debut is a success, and I am looking forward to more books from her that's in this genre.

Now let's talk about Shirin and Ocean. UGH, I love them. I love Ocean. 😭 He's the type of guy that I would fall for. The way Shirin went through every day without noticing Ocean, I just ate that stuff up, even though I know she'll fall for him in the end. Shirin's struggles were very relatable and there are so many times when I just exclaimed out loud how I agreed to her thoughts as I was reading through. This book had me reminiscing through my own high school experiences. And did I mention that this book is so much fun to read? There are lots of times that I just laughed out loud at the funny moments and squealed with delight when there were kilig moments. This book just made my heart light and I wish I could read it over again for the first time.

I love Mafi's story-telling powers, everything coincided and well, you just have to read this book to know why I'm feeling the way I'm feeling about it. It's a masterpiece, a very well-written masterpiece.

Rating: ❤❤❤❤❤

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About Renee Alexis

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Renee Alexis Taladua, 25, is a licensed metallurgical engineer who has left the field in search of a more fulfilling work lifestyle. She has a great love for books and new adventures. Her Goodreads profile suggests that her taste in books vary over time, depending on her mood and her current life situation.

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