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A Very Large Expanse of Sea (edizione 2018)
di Tahereh Mafi (Autore)
A Very Large Expanse of Sea di Tahereh Mafi
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Mafi's writing style in Shatter Me did NOT work for me, nor do I do romance as a genre, so I was surprised by how much I liked this! I love a prickly protagonist who grows by seeing themself through others' eyes (in that way it reminded me of Eliza and Her Monsters), and I appreciate a straight male love interest who is believable *and* a genuinely good dude.
I read this and Darius the Great alongside each other, and having those two very different Persian families in conversation was fun. I was hoping both would be this summer reading list's Aristotle and Dante, and I think that works!
This short young adult novel about Shirin, a 16-year-old Muslim girl in 2002, born in America to Iranian parents, has won numerous awards, including a nomination for the National Book Award for Young People’s Literature in 2018.
Shirin and her older brother Navid have moved a lot, because her parents are always trying to improve their lives. Navid has an easier time adjusting than Shirin; he is a good-looking male who can protect himself, and perhaps most importantly, he doesn’t wear a head scarf, as does Shirin.
Shirin has a virtual spike-covered wall around her to protect her from the slings and arrows of degrading, ill-informed, and cruel insults from fellow high schoolers and even high school teachers. Since the attack on 9/11, however, it has gotten much worse. Mostly she tries to tune it all out (literally) by listening to music all day through headphones that are invisible because of her hijab. She also works out her frustrations physically by practicing break-dancing after school with her brother and some of his friends.
She thinks she is weak though because she does get hurt: “I still cared too much. I was still so easily, pathetically, punctured.”
Shirin won’t stop wearing the hijab though; she likes, and even needs, the power she feels it gives her over her own body. But Shirin is stronger than she realizes, and remarkably mature and self-confident, and that also helps. After one of her teachers subjected her to an incredibly insensitive episode in class, she wanted to drop his class, and he tried to convince her to stay. She told him:
“‘I’m tired as hell, Mr. Jordan. I’ve been trying to educate people for years and it’s exhausting. I’m tired of being patient with bigots. I’m tired of trying to explain why I don’t deserve to be treated like a piece of shit all the time. I’m tired of begging everyone to understand that people of color aren’t all the same, that we don’t all believe the same things or feel the same things or experience the world the same way.’ I shook my head, hard. ‘I’m just — I’m sick and tired of trying to explain to the world why racism is bad, okay? Why is that my job?’”
Her newly assigned bio partner, Ocean James, a year older at 17, is different than the rest. He is kind, funny, and seems genuinely interested in getting to know Shirin. He willingly admits his ignorance over her culture and expresses embarrassment about it. And Shirin finds it harder and harder to resist his overtures. But if they were to have a relationship, could it hold up against the reaction of their classmates and the community at large? Furthermore, while Shirin knows from past experience what to expect, she worries over how would it affect Ocean. She feels the need to protect him from what she knows will happen; his white privilege has made him oblivious to the particular cruelty he would be facing by being open about his feelings for Shirin. And yet, it is so hard to resist the pull toward him she feels.
Discussion: Mafi said in an interview that this novel was inspired by her own time in high school. One shudders to think about what kids who are “different” in any way have to endure. But if anyone can bring the emotions to life that teens experience, it is Mafi, who’s Shatter Me series shows that she has a unique talent for remembering exactly what it is like to be young, to hurt, to love, to feel passion, to be confused, and to learn to tap into resiliency and strength. For those looking for romance, there are few better than Mafi, but she couches her relationships in commentary on important social issues, so that her books are more than just stories about runaway hormones.
Evaluation: This is an excellent book that will resonate with teens who are made to feel like pariahs in high school, as well as for those just looking for a swoony novel.
An important book trapped in a YA “Romance”. Having read the “Shatter Me” trilogy by Tahereh Mafi I was really looking forward to this book. After deciding that I wasn’t going to continue with the “Shatter Me” series I wasn’t sure if I would read another Mafi. Seeing this book while on vacation in Scotland with a 3 for 2 sale I had to get my hands on it.
In this book we follow Shirin. She is a 16 year-old Muslim living in the aftermath of 9/11. She is done being stereotyped. Because of all the hate and discrimination she has to deal with on a daily basis, she has put up a wall that’s hard to break down. After meeting Ocean, he wants to change her world. Only Shirin knows it’s impossible to be together with all the xenophobia going on. Shirin tries to be her own person in a world where she doesn’t seem to fit in. Can Ocean and Shirin be together and what sacrifices do they have to make?
So like I said at the beginning of this review I really enjoyed Mafi’s writing style on the Shatter me series. It was the first series where I believed in a love triangle and where I didn’t care who was the endgame as long as all the characters were still there. This book made me excited to read an own-voices Muslim living in the aftermath of 9/11. I was hoping for another “The Hate You Give” Moment.
Sadly, I was let down by what I got. Maybe my expectations were too high, maybe I lost some of the meaning while listening to it on audiobook or maybe it just wasn’t as good as I hoped it would be.
Not saying this is a bad book by any means. The writing was marvelous, I liked the idea of getting to know a Muslin girl and seeing how her struggles made her a better person. It’s just that the main character was really unlikable. Every time Ocean would swoon and sight about her I couldn’t help myself wondering WHY!? I understand that dealing with all the shit that Shirin had to deal with on a daily basis is tough. I can also understand you can get bitter because of it. It’s just that with the romantic plot taking over more than 75% of the book I want to like the couple you know.
Another problem I had was the romantic plot. To compare “THUG” again. There the romantic plot was a part of the main story. It served a purpose to have a boyfriend who turned against you. Here the plot with Ocean took so much time and took away the important message the book was trying to say.
If you’re looking for a short YA novel with a big romantic plot this is the book for you. If you’re looking for a book that tackles the issues that were promised, still read the book because every own-voices book is important. Even if it has some flaws.
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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.
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Sistema Decimale Melvil (DDC)813.6Literature English (North America) American fiction 21st Century
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Definitely a love story, so don't go in expecting otherwise, but a very worthy one. ( )