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Book Review: A VERY LARGE EXPANSE OF SEA by Tahereh Mafi

As I was reading Mafi's 2018 novel, A Very Large Expanse of Sea, I found myself jotting down a list of my thoughts. Rather than use more energy than necessary, I present to you my thoughts in raw form:


-Says "wow" and "I don’t know" excessively - beware

-Kind of a badass, especially when confronted by her classmate

accusing her of ruining the female muslim image

-Needs to really work on her anger issues and sorting out her feelings

- how to do this?

-She is definitely still a teen - will these social issues and her responses

get “better” as she ages?

-Slightly reminiscent of my high school attitude - she doesn’t want to

look at or talk to many people, though for very different reasons

-Fabulously well-written character reminiscent of a John Green or

Nicola Yoon character

-I’ve never met anyone in my life that actually has a “who cares?”

attitude about literally everything. Maybe these people do exist but

I’ve always found that everyone cares about something in the end...

I’m thinking this is not the case with Shirin, though… (about 75%

through the novel this is what I’m thinking)

-There are moments that feel forced or overly directed and they read

more like stage directions. But, the dialogue and internal thoughts

flow so naturally that the “stage directions” are an easy problem to


-I love getting to learn about awesome female leads who are

experiencing life in a totally different way than I did or am.

-Also note I was in elementary school in 2002, the year Shirin’s story

takes place, but I totally remember the social climate/tension


-He feels to me like Zac Efron as Troy in High School Musical but with

a more disrupted home life

-Love story with Shirin is even similar to Troy and Gabriella (played

by Vanessa Hudgens) but it’s not too similar to become a distracting


“Still, it wasn’t hard for me to understand how we got here. I'd been expecting it. I'd been dreading it. But it was so hard for Ocean to stomach that the world was filled with such awful people. I tried to tell him that the bigots and the racists had always been there, and he said he'd honestly never seen them like this, that he never thought they could be like this, and I said yes, I know. I said that's how privilege works." - page 249

-Shirin is so full of hate - I sometimes think “but how could she not be?” - for everything and everyone but I realized on page 210 that it was too much hate. She hates Ocean’s mom, coach, teammates simply because Ocean has mixed feelings about his life revolving around basketball. (Shirin accuses all of the above of hurting Ocean by somehow forcing by implication that he must continue down the path he has created for himself and attempts to convince Ocean to take her advice and just quit.) My heart aches for her to find peace. She’s so strong so I don’t doubt it could be just around the corner…

-Shirin uses all of her anger under the pretense of protection; she is protecting herself from racist assholes and bigots, protecting her parents from the inane and mundane happenings of suburban high school life, and protecting Ocean from ruining his life simply by being with her. (Her reasons, not mine).

(Please know I do not mean to diminish her experiences in any way. I simply intend to convey that her anger extends through both unfortunate reason and extensive teenage anger. Children are not expected to be held to the same standards as adults, either.)

-The highlight of the book for me - Shirin’s terrifying encounter with a girl and a digital camera. No spoilers, but its grounding and emotional and I think a moment much needed for YA readers in today’s world.

-Does Shirin learn about caring in a non-angry way or will she maintain her IDGAF attitude?

“Things had been snowballing, fast, and I couldn’t pretend I wasn't scared anymore." - page 252

AVLEOS gets a solid 4 stars from me!

Check it out and let me know what you think. I'd love to continue this currently one-sided conversation!

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