Book Review

Review: A Very Large Expanse of Sea by Tahereh Mafi

Rating: ☆☆☆☆ .5
Audience: YA contemporary
Length: 320 pages
Author: Tahereh Mafi
Publisher: HarperTeen
Release Date: October 16th, 2018
Image & Other Reviews on: Goodreads


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. 


This is a book that is hard to put down. I finished it within hours and was utterly involved in every aspect of this book. I love Mafi’s work and this was fantastic.

I will never understand or be able to comprehend the things Shirin goes through. I could truly feel her anger coming off the page within the first few chapters. This was only the beginning of how well placed the emotions were throughout this book. It’s been awhile since I have felt everything an author was trying to convey through her characters.

Ocean was this precious, sweet soul who I seriously had flutters reading about. All of his interactions with Shirin were immensely heartfelt and was a strong reminder that, yes they’re bad people, but there are a lot more good people in the world. It’s something I personally strive to remember and connected on a deeper level with. I didn’t always love how he was treated by Shirin, but I sought to understand the base reasoning that drove her decisions.

Her big brother, Navid, was the best protector. I loved seeing him throughout the book constantly ensuring that Shirin knew someone had her back (along with his group of break dancing friends). The break dancing did take a back-seat to the overall love story. I personally didn’t mind because Ocean brought out a lot of self-realization for Shirin.

I appreciated that Shirin acknowledged her right to feel angry, but also her right to let it go [within reason]. Her ability to work on giving the world a chance made me love her character even more.

The writing may seem juvenile at times, but upon further thinking it over, it’s highly accurate. There’s a lot of uses of: wow, like, and just and I kept thinking, oh my goodness this is driving me insane — then, wait, I know I used to talk that way as a teenager myself.

Overall audience notes:

  • Young adult contemporary
  • A lot of language
  • Romance: some intense kisses
  • Violence: physical, verbal
  • Trigger warnings: islamophobia, xenophobia, racism, mentions of past assault