I honestly think A Very Large Expanse of Sea is the best book I’ve reviewed on my blog so far. It is heart-breaking yet full of hope and forgiveness, and I haven’t felt that in a young adult novel before. It is picturesque and incredibly written, nothing but the best from Mafi. The plot and subject matter is heavy, but important. Let’s get into it!
Going into this book I knew I would love it because I had read Mafi’s other book series, Shatter Me. It is a crazy dystopian story following a character that will kill anyone that she touches. Shatter Me is written beautifully so I knew the writing would be great in this book, and it was even better than her other novels.
This novel follows 16 year old Shirin who is a Muslim girl living in America in 2002. Just after the horrors of 9/11. Shirin and her family have been dealing with discrimination and racism constantly, and she is sick and tired of the looks and comments she receives on the daily. She wears her hijab everyday and faces a lot of discrimination from that alone. She has a great relationship with her brother and after school they practise break dancing in the school gym to distract themselves from the treatment they’re suffering through. Through this she meets Ocean, a cute guy that actually wants to get to know her for who she is, and doesn’t treat her differently because of her race.
This story first and foremost is incredibly powerful and punches social stigmas about racism right in the face. Mafi is upfront and personal about racism that Shirin faces and how it was way more intense during the period immediately after 9/11. I loved the way that Mafi talks about it head on, she doesn’t make it seem random and foreign because racism is neither of those things. She makes it something that Shirin has to deal with constantly and Mafi’s ways of tackling it is done so well that she teaches people without making them feel taught.
The romance in this book is also done so well. Shirin is such a great character with strong and fierce traits that make her such a powerful young lady to look up to. She isn’t used to her classmates treating her normally, so when Ocean starts talking to her she doesn’t know how to feel. On top of that, Shirin is nervous about the fact that she is Muslim and he is white. What will people think about the two of them being together? Mafi makes their relationship and their problems so real that it feels like you are standing there with them. Ocean is also a great character who asks questions about Shirin and her culture, and it’s done, again, in a very realistic way which I really appreciate.
If you are not sold yet on this novel, just read it. It’s so, so, so good and I cannot recommend it enough. I would also like to add that I read it in literally one day. One school day. So in like 3 hours. It is just fantastic and it teaches readers so much and spreads such a great message!