A Very Large Expanse of Sea
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.
A book that should be on every teen's shelf.
In the year after 9/11 Shirin must navigate being the new kid--again-- in a small town high school. Her parent's move around a lot and the only friend she'd ever really been able to count on his her older brother. Now, things are even worse as kids distrust her for the simple fact she wears a scarf on her head.
Enter Ocean, a boy Shirin knows nothing about and yet can't get rid of. He sees behind the stereotypes to the girl beneath who just wants what everyone else does. To fit in, to avoid the bullies of high school, to have someone who cares.
What I loved:
Almost everything. This story brought me to tears on numerous occasion. It dives into a lot of tough subjects from the teacher who thinks he's an ally but really isn't to the fellow Islamic kids who tell Shirin she shouldn't wear the scarf. Every part of her life holds a bit of pain except one, breakdancing. The addition of something so relatively normal, something that crosses cultural lines is brilliant.
At the end of the day, this book has one main message. Whatever Shirin's heritage, whatever country her parents were born in, she is American and that's all she wants others to see.
What was just okay:
I can't say much because spoilers, but the ending left me unsatisfied.
I can't say enough good things about this book, but it's one that should be required reading in schools.
Well-written, emotional, and just as relevant for today's world as the post 9/11 world it depicts.