“Are you racist, or are you just having a bad day?”
I had never read a book by Tahereh Mafi, but I definitely had heard of her. For one, her Shatter Me series and middle-grade Furthermore duology are very popular in the book world. Second, I feel like Mafi and husband fellow author Ransom Riggs are the power couple of the bookish community, #couplegoals.
The reason why I never ventured into her books was because they were fantasy and that’s just not my genre. When I heard she was writing a contemporary story I was really excited—I finally could see what her writing was like, why was she so popular. Guys, I GET IT! A Very Large Expanse of Sea shook me to my core and has become one of my favorite books of the year. I saw a lot of myself in the main character, Shirin. She is an angry teen, and she has a lot to be angry with—the amount of racism in this country is staggering and its especially horrible after a national tragedy, 9/11 being the ultimate. She puts her frustrations and that anger into a passion for breakdancing and a love in a white boy that takes her completely by surprise. A lot of this book was taken from Mafi’s personal experiences as a hijab-wearing teen in post-9/11 America. I’m not saying I know what it means to have to face that kind of animosity from peers, but I have had people call me intimidating, something Shirin experiences, as well.
As a whole, Tahereh Mafi’s writing is absolutely beautiful, you could feel the frustrations Shirin is going through of not only being the victim of blatant racism but also the trials of just being a teen, especially a teen in a brand new town and school. I loved the relationship Shirin had with her brother, and, as a dancer, I loved that they shared this great passion of breakdancing. And of course, I LOVE Ocean. Ocean and Shirin are total opposites from each other—Ocean lives with his head in the clouds when it comes to their relationship, thinking everything can be solved with love. Whereas, Shirin looks at her relationship with a lens of reality, even though this does hold her back in living her life to the fullest. She has reasons to be cautious and because of the color of his skin, Ocean has never experienced the trauma that comes with racism.
I really think this is an important book for people to read, to gain a different perspective. Walk in the shoes of someone who is different from you. I can’t wait to read what ever book Tahereh Mafi comes out with next.