There always seems to be that one book or book series that everyone on #bookstagram, book blogs, #booklr, and book twitter seems to be reading. A few months ago one such book was A Very Large Expanse of Sea, a young adult fiction book by American author Tahereh Mafi.
At the beginning of this month I found myself in the library perusing the shelves for books to borrow when a particular book spine caught my eye. This spine stood out to me because it was colourful and it just had something about it which made it seem oddly familiar. Doing a double-take and looking once more at the book spine, I realised that the many bright colours on the spine against a white background reminded me of the cover of a book I had seen popping up a lot online. Could it be A Very Large Expanse of Sea, I thought? Pulling out the book I realised, yep, it sure was that very same book! Hooray for libraries!
Like with many popular books I see a lot of online, I realised that I didn’t actually really know what A Very Large Expanse of Sea was about. Like at all. However, it only took one quick read of the blurb to hook me in. In case you didn’t already surmise from the title of this post, I did in fact end up borrowing and reading the book.
The story is told from the perspective of Shirin, “a sixteen-year-old Muslim girl who wears hijab” (A Very Large Expanse of Sea, blurb). This massively piqued my interest as I have never read a book from such a character’s perspective before. Really, I think this is a major reason why diversity and representation are so important: it’s so interesting and eye-opening to hear the stories others have to tell and to experience things from a new perspective. Shirin’s character was fascinating to gain insight into because she is such a multi-faceted, captivating character. It was interesting to see her personal growth and to hear her thoughts throughout the entire book.
As well as being an intriguing insight into a different kind of perspective than I’m used to, this book was, in many ways, a typical contemporary young adult book. A Very Large Expanse of Sea featured young love, discrimination, adapting to new environments, family, confidence, and breakdancing. Furthermore, a lot of it felt like a deeply personal and based-on-true-experiences account of Mafi’s life, particularly in regards to young love, cultural experiences, and discrimination.
If you like young adult stories with romance, you just might love A Very Large Expanse of Sea. I have never personally been particularly into the romance genre, so the romantic relationship elements of this story didn’t appeal to me too much. Overall I liked the book because, although this book did heavily feature the relationship between Shirin and Ocean, there was so much more to the story which added to the overall complexity and richness of this novel. The book is rife with elements of self-understanding, close family and friend relations, and confidence in artistic expression through breakdancing.
[POSSIBLE SPOILER]: One thing that I found particularly interesting was the language of water used occasionally throughout the book, especially in moments when Shirin was realising her feelings for Ocean.
He kissed me again.
I drowned.A Very Large Expanse of Sea (164)
I found that to be a very interesting little recurring theme in the book, especially since it links to the title— A Very Large Expanse of Sea. Even Ocean’s name follows this theme, since an ocean is indeed a very large expanse of sea.
There’s so much more I could say but I don’t want this book review to end up being too long, so I’ll leave it at that!
So, what are your thoughts: Have you read this book? Did you love it/dislike it?