“This beautiful and eye-opening novel takes place one year after 9/11, and the deeply rooted racism that became more aggressive after the attack. Intentional or not, Shirin's peers treat her differently than anyone else. She tries to get by under the radar, but it's hard to do that when Ocean, a popular white boy, takes an interest in her-- and not just because of her culture. Although it's based 16 years in the past, A Very Large Expanse of Sea is still an important and relevant novel in today's world affairs, and an essential edition to every literary collection.”
— Andrew King, University Book Store, Seattle, WA
“Venturing into realistic fiction for the first time, Tahereh Mafi tells the story of a high school sophomore attempting to navigate a post-9/11 world without sacrificing her Muslim identity, while also reconciling her intense feelings for her all-American-boy lab partner. As much adversity as she faces, both outside and within, Shirin is a wonderful person to spend a book with. Readers will find this story of prejudice, love, and breakdancing (yes, breakdancing) has taken up residence in their hearts long after they’ve put the book down.”
— Sarah Holt, Left Bank Books, St. Louis, MO
A National Book Award Longlist title
From the New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of the Shatter Me series comes a powerful, heartrending contemporary novel about fear, first love, and the devastating impact of prejudice.
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.