It's a cerebral, impassioned, and zeitgeisty bildungsroman that follows two young people ahead of their time but trapped by a society that strips them of any real power ... There is no hard and fast solution to the issues that plague Ocean and Shirin, and they never quite go away. Nonetheless, their polarizing union paves the way for tolerance within the novel's universe, while acknowledging there's still a very long way to go. A Very Large Expanse of Sea is young love at its most gut-wrenching; though it takes place in the past, it's timeless in its themes and will continue to affect readers, months after they've closed the book.
...Jaded and cynical in the face of humanity’s repeated cruelty at the sight of her hijab, Shirin only plans to get through high school as quickly as she can and let no one past her guarded exterior. It works until she meets Ocean James, who sees more than just her headscarf and is charmingly persistent about learning who she is, from her love of music to her burgeoning skills on the break dancing team her brother starts ... As usual, Mafi excels at highlighting the relationships between her characters, whether it’s the warm, supportive teasing between Shirin and her brother or the bittersweet agony of the deep connection between her and Ocean. Rich characters, incisive writing, and a powerful story will thrill readers beyond Mafi’s already stalwart fans.
A year after 9/11, 16-year-old Shirin is starting yet another first day of school at her third high school in two years, and she’s over it. Having grown used to the misconceptions, name-calling and outright racism hurled her way for wearing a hijab, Muslim-American Shirin has developed a tough exterior and an even tougher interior ... But when Shirin is paired with Ocean James in biology class, he slowly begins to chip away at the walls Shirin has constructed ... While immersing themselves in georgious prose, readers will feel for Shirin as she stands up for her beliefs in the midst of hurtful words and violence, and they’ll cheer as she experiences first love and laugh-out-loud moments. Intense, emotional and resonant.
A Very Large Expanse of Sea hits all the well-worn beats readers have come to expect from teen romances, but it’s able to reframe a familiar story through the lens of a culture too rarely humanized on page or screen. The result is a singular (and, rightly, National Book Award-longlisted) new novel from one of YA’s brightest voices ... Like any good teen love story, a second love interest is introduced, but this is where the book’s one weakness comes into view... the character is ultimately a missed opportunity ... These are small quibbles, though. Stories of an American Hijabi remain few and far between, and Mafi’s thoughtful, personal, and powerfully emotional novel delivers a strong argument for why we need more.
Hijabi Shirin, 16, starts at a new school in small-town America shortly after 9/11. She rages at those who assume that her religion and headscarf make her a terrorist, but instead of letting her anger 'grip both sides of my mouth open and rip me in half,' she uses indifference as armor against the hostile stares of her peers ...Mafi infuses a contemporary love story with a heartbreakingly realistic portrait of one post-9/11 Muslim life in the United States. Mafi openly addresses many common misconceptions about Islam and what it means to be a woman of color in the face of racism, showing how differences can be applauded, not feared.