Parents' Guide to

A Very Large Expanse of Sea

By Mary Eisenhart, Common Sense Media Reviewer

age 13+

Muslim teen busts stereotypes in bitterly funny school tale.

A Very Large Expanse of Sea Poster Image

A Lot or a Little?

What you will—and won't—find in this book.

Community Reviews

age 18+

Based on 1 parent review

age 18+

Book good

It's 2002, and 16-year-old Muslim teen Shirin's planning to get through the school year the same way she's gotten through school for years, by not engaging with anybody -- but A VERY LARGE EXPANSE OF SEA, in the form of Ocean, her lab partner, intervenes. Thanks to her striving, upwardly mobile parents, who fled Iran for the United States and never stop working, she's in a new town and a new school every year anyway, so it's not like there's any point making friends. In the wake of an incident at her last school, when 9/11-inflamed hooligans threw her to the ground and tried to rip her hijab from her head, only to go free when a cop essentially said she asked for it, not engaging seems like a really good plan. But then her brother Navid, the popular one, recruits her for a breakdancing team. And she and Ocean fall in love, leading to many misunderstandings between them and a lot of hostility from others.

Is It Any Good?

Our review:
Parents say (1):
Kids say (14):

As she herself suggests, this heartfelt, poignant, bitterly funny tale of a foul-mouthed Muslim teen trying to survive post-9/11 high school is the book Tahereh Mafi's been trying to write all along. Confronted with A Very Large Expanse of Sea, i.e. her lab partner and unexpected love interest Ocean, narrator Shirin learns quite a bit about overcoming some of her own prejudices as well as surviving those of others. In the process we learn a lot about Muslim daily life and culture -- and what it means to different people. In addition to a lot of crude language, there are many life lessons and unexpected sweet moments, as well as a growing sense of empathy with troubles other than your own.

"People had been s---ting 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. ... When I was a kid and would tell my mom that people at school were mean to me, she'd pat me on the head and tell me stories about how she'd lived through war and an actual revolution, and when she was fifteen someone cracked open her skull in the middle of the street while her best friend was gutted like a fish so hey, why don't you just eat your Cheerios and walk it off, you ungrateful American child."

Book Details

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