A Very Large Expanse of Sea

A Very Large Expanse of Sea

Book - 2018
Average Rating:
Rate this:
A year after 9/11, Muslim teenager Shirin has completely withdrawn from social life, until she meets Ocean James in her biology class and is tempted to actually let her guard down.
Publisher: New York : Harper, an imprint of HarperCollinsPublishers, ♭2018.
ISBN: 9780062866561
Characteristics: 310 pages ;,22 cm.


From the critics

Community Activity


Add a Comment

This book is about a 16 yr old girl named Shirin experiencing hate because of her hijab (head scarf) and her religion. Everything seems to go wrong and so she built herself a wall to protect herself from all the hate there is against her. She is tired of all the stares given to her and all the degrading comments. Everything changes when she meets Ocean James. Finally she lets someone in.

Pros and cons of the book *IN MY OPINION*
Pros: I liked how the author described things it was cool how she took it from Shirin's perspective and made it seem so realistic. I also liked how it addressed stereotyping and racism and it spread some awareness about it and how people feel about it.

Cons: There is A LOT of swearing/language... Shirin in the book who is supposed to reflect her religion I suppose... didn't show it much I felt like the only thing that classified her as a Muslim was her head scarf. There is also a lot of romance which I didn't particularly like.

If these things do not bother you then this might be the right book! No hate. I just wanted to share my opinion. Have a good day.

Jan 25, 2021

The story of “A Very Large Expanse of Sea” takes place during the year 2002, about a year after the shocking event of 9/11. The story follows the struggles and experiences of Shirin, a sixteen-year-old Muslim girl who is tired of being stereotyped and treated differently because of her religion, more specifically, the hijab (religious head-covering) she wears that represents it. Shirin has to deal with loads of hate and discrimination, which is not limited to rude stares, racist comments, and even physical violence. As a result, she becomes hesitant and wary of other people--scared of becoming hurt. But then her world turns upside down as she meets someone. A blond, blue-eyed someone named Ocean James. He’s the first person in what seems like forever who actually wants to get to know Shirin and doesn’t see her differently. But, they come from two different worlds that seem utterly irreconcilable.
I loved this book so much! It was romantic yet remarkably heartbreaking and also touched on some important, relevant topics like stereotyping, discrimination, and bigotry. Mafi has a beautifully refined writing style that really touches your heart. Knowing that it was based on the author’s real-life experiences made it feel a hundred times more genuine.

Dec 10, 2020

I really loved this book. It kept me enthralled and I couldn't put it down! the subject and theme is important and the characters really spoke to me... If you are sensitive to language I don't recommend, but I loved it! I would say it is suitable for 14 yr and up!

I simultaneously feel like I've also been pierced in the chest while also being buoyed up with helium and happiness that this book is out in the world. This is a wonderful story about two human beings meeting and falling in love, of breaking down the barriers we build against the world in order to protect ourselves. But perhaps more importantly, it's about racism, xenophobia, and people's horrible tendency to "other" their peers. It's about how people deal with that tendency. It's unflinching, it's raw, and it's real. And it's so, so lovely for all of that.

I am a white Canadian, and being a white Canadian, I have not experienced any of the things that Shirin experiences over the course of this novel. Reading this felt like a punch to the gut, a stark reminder of how different other people's lives are in comparison to the privilege that I've always had just because of where I was born and the colour of my skin. It's unfair, it's cruel, it's absolutely heartbreaking - and I'm so glad that Tahereh didn't shy away from giving us details. We, as a society, need this book.

This could have easily just been a fluffy contemporary, but Shirin and Ocean and their stories are woven so intrinsically with the colours of their skin and the places they were born that it went so much deeper than that. There are so many things that Shirin has to fight against in order to go about her life, that Ocean just doesn't have to face, but his struggles are also never trivialized. Tahereh deftly balances the two of them and the whole thing made me so mad at the world, but also so glad that we live in a time where this can all be written about. We need to talk about this. About racism and the violence done against others and the ways that we, as a society, need to do better.

The only reason I left a star off is because sometimes I don't vibe so well with the writing. It's reminiscent of Shatter Me at points, with a lot of commas and run-ons, and it just jarred me sometimes. However, story-wise, I do think this is an important book. It's a book anyone could, and SHOULD, pick up. It's mind-opening, empathy-inducing, and starkly real in a way a lot of contemporary isn't.

HKK_Teen_Staff Apr 10, 2020

A powerful, heartbreaking, contemplative look at prejudice from the eyes of a Muslim teen after 9/11. The story takes place in 2002, but feels so relevant to today. I loved being a part of Shirin’s story. One of my favorites from 2018.

Feb 29, 2020

A Very Large Expanse of Sea by Tahereh Mafi is YA novel about, Shirin, a Muslim sixteen year old girl who wears a hijab, starting in a new high school one year after 9/11. This is a well written, complicated, and authentic story of that sophomore year in Shirin life. It is also straight forward and understandable. This is the year she falls in love, becomes a breakdancer, faces discrimination, try’s to do the right thing, and so much more. She learns about herself as the year unfolds.

Tahereh Mafi has created characters and situations that ring true. She was a high school sophomore 2002, the year after 9/11. She writes in a way that engages the reader to feel for Shirin and those around her. This is a good read! I recommend it.

Feb 24, 2020

A very cute and heart warming read. I really enjoyed reading this book, and was given to me through a Christmas book exchange party.

LPL_MaryW Jan 09, 2020

This book really moved me. It was so raw and honest and beautiful, and I adored it - I might even reread it sometime. It's about a Muslim American girl named Shirin, who guards herself against others because she is constantly harassed in post-911 America (and it's 2002, so). She wears hijab, she loves breakdancing with her brother (so cool!), and she doesn't have any friends. Not until she meets Ocean, who is kind to her, who is very very interested in her, and with whom she tries desperately not to fall in love. But maybe love is just what she needs? Shirin's romantic self-sabotage was something I could relate to on a molecular level, and I had never read another book that featured that quality. One of my favorite YA books ever - I will carry this story with me for a long time.

Lots of language. Do not recomend it to anyone who is language sensitive
I will never read this book again.

Apr 28, 2019

I raced through this lovely little YA novel, thoroughly engaged with the characters. I appreciated the representation of the daily, hourly, microaggressions that people in the dominant culture seem to feel so entitled in directing to people who are 'other,' especially after 9/11: “I was so raw from repeated exposure to cruelty that now even the most minor abrasions left a mark.” Shirin's anger and non-engagement from her surroundings make perfect sense: “I could no longer distinguish people from monsters. I looked out at the world around me and no longer saw nuance. I saw nothing but the potential for pain and the subsequent need to protect myself, constantly.” I appreciated that the author made the point that it is not up to the marginalized to educate the people in the dominant culture. I appreciated the gap between parents and children, contextualized in the kind of aggressions they experienced, and leading to a failure of empathy, parent to child: “People had been shitting on me for having the wrong name/race/religion and socioeconomic status since as far back as I could remember, but my life had been so easy in comparison to my parents’ own upbringing that they genuinely couldn’t understand why I didn’t wake up singing every morning.” And I appreciated the step into complexity, recognizing that the stereotyping goes both ways. “I wondered, for the very first time, if maybe I was doing this whole thing wrong. If maybe I'd allowed myself to be blinded by my own anger to the exclusion of all else. If maybe, just maybe, I'd been so determined not to be stereotyped that I'd begun to stereotype everyone around me.” All of this in the context of a sweet love story, and Shirin's maturing: “The more I got to know people, the more I realized we were all just a bunch of frightened idiots walking around in the dark, bumping into each other and panicking for no reason at all. So I started turning on a light....” My only hesitation: I was as shocked as Shirin was at the mercurial shift in her popularity at school -- success at breakdancing is sufficient to overcome Islamaphobia?

View All Comments

Age Suitability

Add Age Suitability
Jan 24, 2021

sarahmokhtari thinks this title is suitable for 13 years and over

Apr 02, 2020

frenchhornistba thinks this title is suitable for 13 years and over

OPL_KrisC Feb 20, 2020

OPL_KrisC thinks this title is suitable for 13 years and over


Add a Quote

I felt suddenly like I'd been pierced in the chest. I felt suddenly like I wanted to cry.

"Just try to be happy," Jacobi finally said to me. "Your happiness is the one thing these assholes can't stand."

JCLEmilyD Dec 28, 2018

"...you sacrificed my comfort just to make yourself seem progressive. You put me in that shitty situation because you thought it would be shocking and exciting." (p.123-124)

JCLEmilyD Dec 27, 2018

"People struggled to believe this, because people struggled to believe women in general. It was one of the greatest frustrations of my life."


Add a Summary

There are no summaries for this title yet.


Add Notices

There are no notices for this title yet.

Explore Further

Browse by Call Number


Subject Headings


Find it at Library

To Top