Book Review: A Very Large Expanse of Sea by Tahereh Mafi

Hello everyone! I hope everyone is enjoying their summer so far. I was very surprised to pick this one up this month. I didn’t have this on my summer tbr, honestly I wasn’t even thinking about reading this in June, but it was an available ebook through my library and I just went with it. I actually ended up reading it within 24 hours, all on the kindle app on my phone. I have never read an ebook on my phone, and I think now I’m actually a little bit obsessed. I can’t wait the share my thoughts and feeling’s on this read, so let’s just dive right in!

Title: A Very Large Expanse of Sea

Author: Tahereh Mafi

Pages: 298 pages

Format: ebook

Genre: young adult contemporary, romance

Publication Date: October 16, 2018

Triggers: hatred towards the Muslim religion, bullying, racial slurs


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.

  • Nostalgia- There was so much ’90’s/early 2000’s nostalgia I couldn’t even process all of it. The nokia phones, AIM Messaging, the minutes on the family plan, BREAKDANCING CLUB. There was at no point a questionable point in this book where you thought you weren’t sucked into 2002 all over again.
  • Muslim Representation/Lots of Diversity- Despite being a book about hatred to certain races/religions, I thought there was tons of diversity throughout the book. We had Shirin of course, Navid, Carlos, Yusef, Amna… so many diverse characters who were actually pretty enjoyable (except for one but we will get to that in a bit). I not being a woman of Muslim religion or Persian heritage, actually learned a lot of things about the religion I didn’t know. I loved learning about the meaning of certain objects, the culture, everything. I think these were the most enjoyable parts of the book.
  • Writing- The writing was pretty good. I kind of was hoping for more, since Mafi is kind of one of those authors with a lot of hype, but even though it didn’t fully match my expectations, it was still good writing and made everything come together nicely.
  • The feeling- I’ll admit, this book made me emotional at some points where I just felt so saddened for Shirin, and so disgusted towards the human race. I had to keep reminding myself ‘it’s 2002, people were confused, there was a lot of hatred coming from every direction’, and although maybe things now aren’t as severe, A LOT of the situations in this book are still happening! It’s just disturbing some of the hate in the world, and I feel like this book really needs to shine brighter and have more people read it in order for people to fully understand.
  • Rushed ending- Like most contemporary YA’s, the ending was incredibly rushed. And I mean.. RUSHED. It was like 4 pages long. I was expecting Mafi to know to not rush an ending, but oh well!
  • Shirin- It’s not that I hated Shirin or anything, she just wasn’t enjoyable enough for me to really get a feel for her and see if I could enjoy her. She was up and down with me whether she was liked or not. I wish she was a little less hateful, but on the flip side, I do understand why Mafi wrote her the way she did.
  • Character Development- I felt like Ocean was becoming extremely violent towards the end, and I ended the book feeling like instead of moving forward and growing with some of these characters, we took like 500 steps backwards. I’ve never felt this way before, and it was definitely one of my big reasons as to why it didn’t gain the 5 star rating.

What have you guys thought of this book? Leave your thoughts down below.

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2 thoughts on “Book Review: A Very Large Expanse of Sea by Tahereh Mafi

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