A Very Large Expanse of Sea: A Chick Lit Wednesday Review

cover art for A Very Large Expanse of Sea by Tahereh MafiShirin is used to moving and being targeted by idiots because of her headscarf–especially now, a year after 9/11. She has no expectations for her new school to be any better.

Except things start to feel different when her older brother tells her they’re going to start a breakdancing crew. Then there’s her lab partner, Ocean, a boy who keeps surprising her—in good ways not the usual disappointing ways.

Even with the promise of something great, Shirin is wary. Even if she and Ocean are ready to take a chance on each other, Shirin isn’t sure her new school is ready for it. After being angry for so long, Shirin has to decide if she’s ready to let anyone in or start caring again in A Very Large Expanse of Sea (2018) by Tahereh Mafi.

Find it on Bookshop.

A Very Large Expanse of Sea is Mafi’s first foray into realistic fiction and hopefully won’t be her last. The novel is narrated Shirin and inspired heavily by Mafi’s own experiences as a teen (including the breakdancing!).

Shirin is a sharp character. Her narration is filled with wry observations and her edges are cutting after years of having to learn to protect herself from people who never want to take the time to see her as anything but other. Lyrical prose and a sweet romance work well to offset Shirin’s bitterness at the world in response to the hate and racism that has become part of her everyday life.

A Very Large Expanse of Sea is a thoughtful and ultimately hopeful story. Recommended for readers looking for quirky characters, breakdancing, and for anyone who has ever had to choose between holding onto bitterness and grabbing for something sweeter.

Possible Pairings: Love, Hate and Other Filters by Samira Ahmed; Saints and Misfits by S. K. Ali; Emergency Contact by Mary H. K. Choi; The Last True Poets of the Sea by Julia Drake; Nice Try, Jane Sinner by Lianne Oelke; 500 Words or Less by Juleah del Rosario; Not the Girls You’re Looking For by Aminah Mae Safi

Shatter Me: A Chick Lit Wednesday Review

Shatter Me by Tahereh MafiShe has been locked up for 264 days with nothing but a small notebook, a broken pen and the numbers in her head to keep her company. It has been 6,336 hours since she touched another human being. The last time she did, it was an accident murder.

264 days and she gets a roommate cellmate. Not just any cellmate, but the boy she remembers from before everyone knew she was a monster. The boy who could be her undoing. Or maybe the boy who can change everything.

She spent her entire life trying to be better, to be safe. But now it is time to fight in Shatter Me (2011) by Tahereh Mafi.

Find it on Bookshop.

Shatter Me is Mafi’s first novel as well as the first book in a trilogy.

Shatter Me is the interesting if somewhat scattered story of a heroine whose touch is lethal. Narrated by the heroine, the story is filled with crossed out text to show thoughts she either does not want to have or acknowledge. The strike-throughs made for an interesting, multi-layered reading of the story but there are a lot of them and it does become hard to take after a certain point.

The narrative style is also unique and used to good effect conveying the narrator’s isolation and her growing fascination with the changing world around her. At times the writing verges into long sentences and scattered thoughts more commonly found in stream-of-consciousness pieces. Unfortunately the writing becomes so extremely intricate at times that it often swallows the plot whole in favor of ornate prose.

Even without the elaborate writing, Shatter Me has a slow plot. The story starts with the heroine on her own in a cell. And although the story has a fast pace, pieces of the plot do not begin to fall into place until the middle of the story with many twists not being revealed at all until the last fifty pages.

Without revealing too much, there is also a romance that sometimes sizzles on the page. Sometimes it also just felt unconvincing. While the premise is quite clever, it was frustrating to read through an entire book only to get an unsatisfying conclusion setting up the next installment in the trilogy.

Mafi’s writing is beautiful; she makes her heroine’s isolation and her desperate desire to be touched, for any physical affection, palpable. She introduces a winning heroine and a compelling world in Shatter Me that will appeal to readers looking for an exciting sci-fi/dystopian read–as long as their willing to ride along for the next book in the trilogy too.

Possible Pairings: Wintergirls by Laurie Halse Anderson, Red Queen by Victoria Aveyard, Girl, Serpent, Thorn by Melissa Bashardoust, The Infinity of You & Me by J. Q. Coyle, Eve by Anna Carey, Wither by Lauren DeStefano, Graceling by Kristin Cashore, Soulprint by Megan Miranda, Divergent by Veronica Roth, The Sin Eater’s Daughter by Melinda Salisbury, The Light at the Bottom of the World by London Shah, Alphas (television series), X-Men (any media format)

*This book was acquired for review from the publisher at BEA 2011*