Furthermore by Tahereh Mafi



Furthermore by Tahereh Mafi
Middle Grade | Fantasy
Published by Dutton
Released April 30, 2016
Goodreads | Amazon
Rating: 5_Star_Rating_System_4_stars

The first Tahereh Mafi book I read was A Very Large Expanse of Seawhich I rated 3.5 stars and really enjoyed. One of the things that struck me about that novel was how gorgeous Tahereh Mafi’s writing was, and that sentiment has only been strengthened by reading Furthermore.

Furthermore tells the story of a land full of color, and a young girl named Alice who is completely devoid of color. Alice’s father has been missing for several years, and no one has any idea where he disappeared to. Alice has younger, triplet brothers who she essentially has nothing to do with and a mentally absent mother who seems not to care about Alice. More than anything, Alice just wishes to have her father back and to be as colorful as the rest of the citizens of the land called Ferenwood.

When children in Ferenwood turn twelve, they participate in what’s called their Surrender. During this event, each child shows the town elders what kind of magical gift they have received, and then each of them receives a task to complete.

Alice’s Surrender doesn’t go quite as planned, so she agrees to help a boy named Oliver, whose task it was the previous year to find Alice’s father. Things are made difficult by the fact that Alice and Oliver definitely do not get along. As they venture into the land of Furthermore, things became stranger than Alice ever could have imagined.

Furthermore is beautifully written and very colorful, figuratively and literally. The story is full of whimsy and is exactly the sort of book I would have been obsessed with when I was of middle-grade age.

Alice is an immensely likable, sassy character, even if she is somewhat prone to violence, which I can’t condone. She’s an outcast and feels lonely, but at the same time her confidence in herself is a great message for children reading this book:

“Alice would choose to love herself, different and extraordinary, every day of the week.” 

At the same time though, Alice is vulnerable and learns quite a few lessons about friendship, honesty, trust, and embracing the unexpected throughout her journey.

“She’d decided long ago that life was a long journey. She would be strong and she would be weak, and both would be okay.” 

Oliver’s character I liked less, just because he wasn’t as well developed as Alice, and it was annoying how much he kept her in the dark, even when it was detrimental to both of them to do so. I did enjoy the friendship that gradually bloomed between them, but his character could have been better.

I’ve heard from some readers that they didn’t enjoy the speed at which the setting changes as Alice and Oliver travel through Furthermore. Essentially, each town or settlement in Furthermore has its own unique set of rules and dangers. Oliver knows some of what to expect because he’s been to Furthermore before, but he keeps Alice in the dark for the most part. The pair of them are constantly thrust into new, strange situations and communities, but I feel like it added to the whimsy of the overall story. The reader becomes just as flustered as the characters, which I enjoyed.

All of the characters of Ferenwood have magic, but the magic system is never actually explained beyond the fact that children are born with a unique magical gift. I read a lot of fantasy, so I tend to expect well-thought-out magical systems. Since this is a middle-grade book, I feel as though I should cut it some slack, but the lack of a well-explained magic system is the primary reason this book didn’t receive five stars.

I love this book for a variety of reasons, but above all else, for the novel’s main message:

“Why must you look like the rest of us? Why do you have to be the one to change? Change the way we see. Don’t change the way you are.”

Oh, and of course the origami fox. As you can tell from my blog design, I sort of like foxes.

Have you read Furthermore? What did you think? Let me know in the comments!

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A Very Large Expanse of Sea by Tahereh Mafi – A Review


A Very Large Expanse of Sea by Tahereh Mafi
Young Adult | Contemporary
Goodreads | Amazon
Published by HarperTeen
Released October 16, 2018
Rating: 5_Star_Rating_System_3_and_a_half_stars

A Very Large Expanse of Sea is Tahereh Mafi’s first contemporary novel, and it’s a good one. Mafi is known mostly for Shatter Me, which is a young adult fantasy series. In this novel, released at the end of 2018, she examines what it’s like to be a Muslim teenager in post-9/11 America.

Tahereh Mafi has said in many interviews that this is her most autobiographical novel to date, and she is also a Muslim-American who wears the hijab and was a teenager after the events of 9/11. I’m always intrigued by #ownvoices novels, so I was excited when I was finally able to pick this up at the library after being on hold for it for well over two months.

Overall, it was very enjoyable and enlightening, and a book that I feel is important that young adults read. It deals with racism and bigotry in the best way possible, by showing us the pain and hardships people experience when they’re victims of bullying and being singled out based on their skin color or nationality. Shirin, our main character, has dealt with all sorts of really terrible situations that no one should have to live with, and it’s caused her to essentially shut herself off to the people around her.

As a character, Shirin was immensely likable and, because of that, the situations that she finds herself in with other students, teachers, and even police are incredibly frustrating. My mind is constantly bogged down by how cruel people can be to others based on something such as what they look like or what they choose to wear. I found myself feeling so bad for Shirin for the way that she’s been treated, and it doesn’t help that her parents are essentially non-existent in her life. Despite everything, though, Shirin is a great character for the simple reason that she’s both strong and incredibly fragile:

“I always say that I don’t care what other people think. I say it doesn’t bother me, that I don’t give a shit about the opinions of assholes but it’s not true. It’s not true, because it hurts every time, and that means I still care. It means I’m still not strong enough because every time some mentally ill homeless person goes on a terrifying rampage when they see me crossing the street – it hurts. It never stops hurting. It only gets easier to recover.”

I wasn’t surprised at all when I found out that Mafi based some of the aspects of the novel off of events that happened in her own life because from the start it felt like a very honest book. It seemed too real not to have some personal experience behind her words.

This was the first book by Tehereh Mafi that I’ve read, but it certainly won’t be the last. I loved her writing style, and I hope her other books are as straight-forward and heartfelt as this one was.

The main reason I’m only giving this book three and a half stars is due to the romance between Shirin and Ocean. I understand that part of the intention of this book was to look at inter-racial relationships, and those parts of the book I did really enjoy and found to be very insightful. However, I don’t feel that the beginning of their relationship was very realistic. Shirin basically does everything she can to push Ocean away, and I have trouble believing that Ocean wouldn’t just give up. Heck, if I found myself in a situation like that, I would probably back off. She constantly sends him mixed signals, goes days without speaking to him (despite being his lab partner), and he’s clearly baffled by her behavior.

With the exception of that the issues I had with the relationship, I really enjoyed this novel, and will definitely be re-reading it again.

Have you read A Very Large Expanse of Sea? What were your thoughts?

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