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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12 Amazing Books That Came Out This Week

A Very Large Expanse of Sea by Tahereh Mafi

Amazon | Goodreads

Although I haven’t read any of Tahereh Mafi’s books (yet…), I feel like I’ve been hearing about this one for at least a year. The story takes place in 2002, a year after the events of 9/11, and follows Shirin, a sixteen-year-old Muslim girl who is experiencing prejudice and hatred.

Cry Wilderness by Frank Capra

Amazon | Goodreads

Frank Capra is known for being a film director, but this novel, written in 1966 and never published, is finally being released. The story is set in one of Capra’s favorite locations – Silver Lake in the Sierra Nevadas. A scandal finds the fictional Frank Capra, along with a cop named Lefty, living in the wilderness completely off the grid.

I am Behind You by John Ajvide Lindqvist

Amazon | Goodreads

You’ve probably heard of Lindqvist’s other novel, Let the Right One InIn his latest book, four families are suddenly and mysteriously transported from campsites to an endless expanse of grass. Each person transported has secrets that they are forced to confront. This book sounds very interesting, and I can’t wait to read it.

In the House in the Dark by Laird Hunt

Amazon | Goodreads

This is a horror story set in colonial New England. A Puritan woman goes missing: “On a journey that will take her through dark woods full of almost-human wolves, through a deep well wet with the screams of men, and on a living ship made of human bones, our heroine may find that the evil she flees has been inside her all along.” That definitely sounds like something I want to read! I also really adore the cover.

In Your Hands by Ines Pedrosa

Amazon | Goodreads

I always enjoy books told from multiple perspectives, so I’m looking forward to reading this story that is told from the perspectives of three women in one family, starting in Portugal in 1935 and ending with her granddaughter. Throughout the novel, they all fight against oppression and for a place in their world.

Melmoth by Sarah Perry

Amazon | Goodreads

Melmoth is the follow-up to Perry’s The Essex Serpent. Helen Franklin is taking refuge in Prague, working as a translator. One day, her friend Karel finds a mysterious letter about Melmoth the Witness, “a dark legend found in obscure fairy tales and antique village lore.” I really enjoy books based in mythology, folklore, and legends, so I have a strong feeling I’ll love this novel.

Riddance: Or: The Sybil Joines Vocational School for Ghost Speakers & Hearing-Mouth Children by Shelley Jackson

Amazon | Goodreads

I’m going to be reviewing this book relatively soon since the publisher was kind enough to send me an ebook edition of the ARC of this book. It’s about a school for children seeking to cure their speech impediments. The Headmistress of the school, however, harnesses the “gift” of her students to communicate with the dead. Although I do not have a stutter, I do have a speech impediment (a lisp and rhotacism), and I’ve never read a book with a character who has a speech impediment (except for a few where it’s treated as a joke). I’m really excited to get into this book.

The Black Khan: Book Two of the Khorasan Archives by Ausma Zehanat Khan

Amazon | Goodreads

This is a sequel to Khan’s The Bloodprintwhich I had never heard of until researching books being released this week. The series sounds wonderful though. Saladin Ahmed (whose comic books I love reading) has described it as “somewhere between N.K. Jemisin and George R.R. Martin.” The Talisman, a dark power or movement that suppresses knowledge and subjugates women is growing in the world. The Companions of Hira is a group of women who fight back against the patriarchy. Definitely something worth checking out.

The Library Book by Susan Orlean

Amazon | Goodreads

Something I’ve mentioned several times on this website is that I like books about books and reading, and this is another of those. It focuses on a library fire and examines our relationships to libraries, their importance, and more.

Trinity by Louisa Hall

Amazon | Goodreads

This is a novel about J. Robert Oppenheimer, one of the creators of the atomic bomb. I can’t say it any better than the book description, so here it is: “Through narratives that cross time and space, a set of characters bears witness to the life of Oppenheimer, from a secret service agent who tailed him in San Francisco, to the young lover of a colleague in Los Alamos, to a woman fleeing McCarthyism who knew him on St. John. As these men and women fall into the orbit of a brilliant but mercurial mind at work, all consider his complicated legacy while also uncovering deep and often unsettling truths about their own lives.”

Unsheltered by Barbara Kingsolver

Amazon | Goodreads

For many people, Barbara Kingsolver is a household name. I’m almost embarrassed to say that I’ve only read one of her many books, that one being Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: A Year of Food Life, which is a non-fiction book about living off-the-grid. This is her latest novel, and I’ve already heard amazing things about it. The story follows Willa Knox as she investigates the history of her home.

Wind Rider by P.C. Cast

Amazon | Goodreads

This is the third in the Tales of a New World series. “Mari, Nik, and their newly formed Pack are being hunted. Thaddeus and the God of Death will stop at nothing until they are obliterated from the earth. But Mari and Nik have one goal: to reach the plains of the Wind Riders….. But will the mysterious Wind Riders accept the Pack?”

What new releases are you most excited about?

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2018 National Book Awards Longlist for Young People’s Literature

The National Book Foundation announced their longlist for young people’s literature. There are some obvious names on the list, like Tahereh Mafi, but a few others you may not have heard of yet.

The Poet X by Elizabeth Acevedo

The Assassination of Brangwain Spurge by M.T. Anderson and Eugene Yelchin

We’ll Fly Away by Bryan Bliss

The Truth as Told by Mason Buttle by Leslie Connor

The Journey of Little Charlie by Christopher Paul Curtis

Hey, Kiddo by Jarrett J. Krosoczka

A Very Large Expanse of Sea by Tahereh Mafi

Blood Water Paint by Joy McCullough

Boots on the Ground: America’s War in Vietnam by Elizabeth Partridge

What the Night Sings by Vesper Stamper

I haven’t read any of these yet, although A Very Large Expanse of Sea and The Assassination of Brangwain Spurge are both on my reading list. Have you guys read any of these? What did you think?