Hello my fellow book lovers! Last month I read A Very Large Expanse of Sea on audiobook and I’m finally sharing my thoughts with you today!
Despite not being a fan of Mafi’s Shatter Me trilogy, this novel was one of my most anticipated releases of last year. Did it live up to the hype?
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.
A Very Large Expanse of Sea is deliberately set soon after 9/11 and stars a hijabi main character. The Muslim representation is #OwnVoices. Shirin’s anger is completely justified. She has been physically attacked for wearing a headscarf, is tired of people’s degrading assumptions and doesn’t want to let anyone close in order to prevent further harm.
She does find joy in break-dancing. I used to date someone with that hobby, so the lingo was giving me flashbacks to the war… YIKES. Anyway, it was nice to see Shirin happy. She’s obviously unhappy at school, and at home, she struggles with her parent’s expectations, which are so much higher than what they expect of her older brother.
Mafi did a wonderful job portraying Shirin. It’s sadly so easy for people to dislike angry female characters, but Shirin’s emotions were completely justified. I very much relate to her not having anyone to work with in class. While there are ways to avoid this, teachers often prefer the convenience of having classmates choose who they want to work with, at the expense of lonely and bullied students.
Surprisingly, I really enjoyed the romance! It’s no secret I’m not a huge fan of romantic relationships in my books, but I was rooting for Ocean and Shirin! I wish she would’ve made up her mind sooner though. I would’ve understood if she wanted to protect her own feelings, but Shirin was mainly worried about how people would treat Ocean if he started dating a Muslim girl.
I initially wanted to buy a physical copy, but I ended up listening to the audiobook instead. It was good, apart from the chat conversations. Hearing text messages read out loud is a huge pet-peeve of mine, I’ve discovered. It really disrupts the flow of the narrative.
If you can handle themes of racism and islamophobia, I highly recommend picking up this novel! It’s completely different from Mafi’s previous work, so if you weren’t a fan of those, you should still give this a chance.
Have you read a Very Large Expanse of Sea? What were your thoughts? Or are you interested in reading this book?
Thank you for reading,