“But one day, in the aftermath of a terrible tragedy, I’d woken up in the spotlight. It didn’t matter that I was just as shaken as everyone else; no one believed my grief. People I’d never met were suddenly accusing me of murder. Strangers would scream at me in the street, at school, in the grocery store, at gas stations and restaurants to go home, go home, go back to Afghanistan you camel-fucking terrorist. I wanted to tell them I lived down the block. I wanted to tell them I’d never been to Afghanistan. I wanted to tell them I’d only met a camel once, on a trip to Canada, and that the camel was infinitely kinder than the humans I’d met.”
Rating: 5/5 stars
Release Date: October 16, 2018
Thank you Harper Collins for providing me with an e-ARC in exchange for an honest review.
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.
My biggest wish for this book is not only for it to take the YA community by storm but also adult readers as well, because there is so much the world can learn from this book. I think one of the reasons this book resonated so deeply with me is because as long as I live, September 11, 2001 is a day I will never forget. Just about every single adult can tell you exactly where they were when they found out the news that rocked the entire world.
I was in my 3rd grade science class when my teacher’s husband frantically knocked on our window to let her know something bad happened in the city, which is no more than 20 minutes away from where I live. Our parents came to pick us up from school. No one had a clue what to do. It was a day filled with chaos, confusion, and fear. I sat on the top of my swing set with my dad that day and watched the smoke fill the sky of where the Twin Towers stood earlier that morning, thinking how they would never be a part of my skyline again. I listened to news reporters cry and say over and over again that the world would never be same, and it wasn’t. Family members would never return home from work again. Firefighters, police officers, EMT’s, paramedics, and just your everyday New Yorkers would die years later from complications of smoke inhalation. But what about the religion that just fell to blame for the doing of a few radical Islamists?
A Very Large Expanse of Sea is an incredibly brave and powerful #OwnVoices story about a Muslim girl living in a post 9/11 world. It’s 2002, one year after the attacks and Shirin, our MC who is inspired by true events from Tahereh Mafi’s life, has been bounced from school to school because of her father’s job. Shirin, is navigating high school, dealing with racism and xenophobia, and experiencing first love all at the same time. Meaning this book is one emotional rollercoaster. I’m not even kidding you when I tell you I was crying during the first chapter of this book. There were so many big fat ugly tears during this book. SO. MANY.
The beginning of this book and so raw and angry that I found myself highlighting almost every single paragraph. It hurt my heart so much to know that this story is unfortunately a reality for so many Muslim women all over the world. But besides the hurt this book provided it also made me feel incredibly ignorant, and I am not ashamed to say that. In fact, I’m rather proud to admit that. It’s not everyday a YA book will ground you. It made me realize so many simple things I take for granted because of my white privilege. And I am so thankful that this book reminded me of that so that I can work on bettering myself and using my voice for those whose voices are diminished because of race, religion, gender, etc.
Why you should consider adding this to your TBR
- As far as characters go this book takes the cake. Every single important character in this book was so lovable. From Shirin’s brother, to his break-dancing friends, to Ocean, to Shirin’s parents, every single one of added something special to this story
- The romance was just enough but not the entirety of the story, plus it features an interracial couple
- This book is guaranteed to make you laugh and cry, so just have a lot of tissues ready
- Breakdancing, need I say more?
- Character growth was a 13/10, I don’t think I’ve ever read a book with such well-written character growth and self actualization
- Being inside Shirin’s head will make you feel so close to her character even if you haven’t experienced the hardships that Shirin has. I can’t even emphasize enough how much of an eye opening read this was
- The ending, OH GOD HOW I CRIED, but it was so incredibly perfect for this story
“Ocean had given me hope. He made me believe in people again. His sincerity had rubbed me raw, had peeled back the stubborn layers of anger I’d lived in for so long. Ocean made me want to give the world a second chance.”
“There were two big difference between me and my brother: first, that he was extremely handsome, and second that he didn’t walk around wearing a metaphorical neon sign nailed to his forehead flashing CAUTION, TERRORIST APPROACHING.”
“I hated how long it took for the kids around me to realize I was neither terrifying nor dangerous; I hated the pathetic, soul-sucking effort it took to finally make a single friend brave enough to sit next to me in public.”
“I wondered, for the very first time, if maybe I was doing this whole thing wrong. If maybe I’d allowed myself to be blinded by my own anger to the exclusion of all else. If maybe, just maybe, I’d been so determined not to be stereotyped that I’d begun to stereotype everyone around me.”
“But if you walk away the second it gets hard, how will any of us ever learn? Who will be there to guide us?”
All in all, A Very Large Expanse of Sea will be going down as not only one of my favorite 2018 reads, but also one of my favorite books of all time. This story is worth the emotional ride it will take you on. It’s a story that should be heard for many years to come because it’s so important and relevant. Please, please, please drop everything you’re doing and pick this up because it’s officially out on shelves today!
Until next time,