A Very Large Expanse of Sea

Tahereh Mafi

fiction contemporary romance young adult
challenging emotional reflective medium-paced

310 pages | first published 2018

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.

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emotional 80%
reflective 52%
hopeful 48%
challenging 33%
inspiring 32%
sad 25%
informative 21%
funny 11%
lighthearted 11%
tense 11%
dark 2%
relaxing 2%
adventurous 1%


medium 60%
fast 33%
slow 6%

Plot- or character-driven?

Character: 76% | A mix: 23%

Strong character development?

Yes: 87% | It's complicated: 7% | No: 4%

Loveable characters?

Yes: 80% | It's complicated: 11% | No: 8%

Diverse cast of characters?

Yes: 94% | It's complicated: 4% | No: 1%

Flaws of characters a main focus?

Yes: 66% | It's complicated: 23% | No: 6% | N/A: 3%

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