For my next read, I decided to pick up one of the ARCs I received at Frenzy Presents, an event held by Harper Collins Canada for book bloggers.
Genre: Young Adult Fiction, Contemporary Fiction
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.
I loved reading this book! The story is refreshing and encompasses so much: identity, loneliness, growth as a person, social issues, young romance. Shirin is a young girl who is angry most of the time because of the way she is treated by those in her community at at her school. As we read her story, we get inside the head of so many young women who cover their heads. They have the freedom to choose how to dress – and yet their choice is reviled. As I read about the experience of this young Muslim woman, I respected her and began to understand the choices she had made. What I love about this character, though, is that she grows and develops during the story. She learns to see others for who they are and, as a result, grows as a person.
This novel is honest. It forces you to see the experience of a Muslim teenager living in America. It encourages you to look at preconceptions – your own as well as those of others. A Very Large Expanse of Sea is a story I would recommend not only to teens, but also to older readers who are looking to understand the experience of young people from another culture living in a western society.
I give this novel ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ 5 stars.
© Colline Kook-Chun, 2018
(This novel was the 74th in my 50 book pledge for 2018)