Review: A Very Large Expanse of Sea by Tahereh Mafi

A Very Large Expanse of Sea
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 read 'Shatter Me' by Mafi like... nine years ago or something, and whilst I never finished the series because I didn't really like the direction it was going, I remember thinking that Mafi really had a way with words. I am very glad that she toned down her style for this book though, it didn't need beautiful prose. That being said, I think she toned down the style a little too much because this book just read as 'I did and I said' - telling not showing.

I hate to say this, because I get the feeling that this book is semi-autobiagraphical for Mafi and I don't want to insult the author in any way, but I simply didn't like Shirin as a character. I get it, she has every right to be angry at the world after how she was treated and people can be awful, but she doesn't allow herself to see other people as people. She is so prepared to be offended at every corner that she doesn't stop to think about how she might be percieved for that. She is described as 'mean' and 'scary' by many characters and doesn't see how that might be an issue.  I feel like if this is semi-autobiographical maybe the 30+ year old Mafi could have fine-tuned some of the characters a little bit.

 I liked Ocean, and I liked his persistance in bringing Shirin out of her angry defensive shell. I wish he had been more fleshed out though. They fall in this deep, all-encompassing love without knowing the first thing about each other which made it hard for me to really get on board with.

I love what Mafi was trying to do here, and she did a lot in raising awareness in me with regards to what Muslims suffered after 9/11. That was such an important thing for me... so why did this so suddenly turn into a romance plot. Why did Ocean's suffering take over Shirin's?
Look, I really appreciate what Mafi was trying to do here. I know how priveledged I am in my life and maybe this book didn't hit me where it was meant to for that reason, but it felt derailed and unfocused, like someone's memoirs that need a finetune and for that reason this book seriously disappointed me.


Book released 16th October 2018 by HarperTeen
Book received from the publisher/author in exchange for an honest review

No comments

Tell me your thoughts on the post, the book, the world. I like volcanoes, feel free to tell me about volcanoes.