Tuesday, November 13, 2018

A Land of Permanent Goodbyes by Atia Abawi

Summary: In a country ripped apart by war, Tareq lives with his big and loving family . . . until the bombs strike. His city is in ruins. His life is destroyed. And those who have survived are left to figure out their uncertain future.

In the wake of destruction, he's threatened by Daesh fighters and witnesses a public beheading. Tareq's family knows that to continue to stay alive, they must leave. As they travel as refugees from Syria to Turkey to Greece, facing danger at every turn, Tareq must find the resilience and courage to complete his harrowing journey.

But while this is one family's story, it is also the timeless tale of all wars, of all tragedy, and of all strife. When you are a refugee, success is outliving your loss (Via Goodreads.com).


Pages: 288

Release Date: January 23rd, 2018

Rating: 4/5 Stars

Review:

I read A Land of Permanent Goodbyes earlier this year and it has resonated with me since. The novel follows Tareq, a teenage boy living happily in Syria until a bomb hits his town and he must flee with his surviving family members. While I already knew about the ongoing Syrian refugee crisis, this novel made me consider the impacts of the crisis on Syrians and the world. I had never really thought about the crisis before and this novel made me think and address my ignorance toward the crisis. Since reading the novel, I have considered pursuing a law degree and eventually working in immigration and refugee laws.  

While the novel follows Tareq, it also features a second main character, Alexia, who has alternating chapters with Tareq. She is an American volunteer helping refugees once they have reached the Greek coast. In addition to these two characters, a narrator of sorts is  featured, who embodies the concept of "Destiny." It reminded me of the narration of Death in The Book Thief; however, I felt as though the execution was not as strong as Death's role in The Book Thief

I enjoyed Tareq's character; however, I never fully understood the point of Alexia's character. She was on a completely different continent than Tareq and, while they eventually meet, she resembles the white-savior trope. She provided no subsistence to the novel. While she aided refugees, she could have been anyone. Her character was not nearly as developed as Tareq's. She had no real role or necessity. I never felt particularly attached to her because there was nothing defining or special about her. I understood the value of Tareq's story and character, but not hers. She was interesting, but she could have been featured in any other novel, she had no groundbreaking purpose in A Land of Permanent Goodbyes.

Atia Abawi's writing was extremely engaging. While the story was enough to keep the reader engaged, her writing was extremely addicting. My heart was beating during the Mediterranean crossing and I was mourning for the loss of characters along the way. She developed a fantastic story and tough characters that were able to beat even the worst of circumstances. Her characterization of Tareq was perfect. He was a sweetheart. He loved his family dearly and did all he could to support them. He is a fantastic brother and an extremely loyal companion. It is unfortunate that teens and children have to undertake such frightening, dangerous, and exploitative tasks. 

I absolutely loved A Land of Permanent Goodbyes. While I had some issues with the characters, the story was phenomenal and extremely powerful. I felt a range of emotions throughout the novel and I am excited to read Atia Abawi's other novels. The Syrian refugee crisis is an extremely important topic and I am glad to see it being featured in literature. Whether you are extremely knowledgeable about the Syrian refugee crisis or not, I would highly recommend A Land of Permanent Goodbyes. It is an emotional, engaging, and quick read, I highly recommend it.



Thursday, November 8, 2018

Love, Hate, and Other Filters by Samira Ahmed

Summary: A searing #OwnVoices coming-of-age debut in which an Indian-American Muslim teen confronts Islamophobia and a reality she can neither explain nor escape—perfect for fans of Angie Thomas, Jacqueline Woodson, and Adam Silvera.

American-born seventeen-year-old Maya Aziz is torn between worlds. There’s the proper one her parents expect for their good Indian daughter: attending a college close to their suburban Chicago home, and being paired off with an older Muslim boy her mom deems “suitable.” And then there is the world of her dreams: going to film school and living in New York City—and maybe (just maybe) pursuing a boy she’s known from afar since grade school, a boy who’s finally falling into her orbit at school.

There’s also the real world, beyond Maya’s control. In the aftermath of a horrific crime perpetrated hundreds of miles away, her life is turned upside down. The community she’s known since birth becomes unrecognizable; neighbors and classmates alike are consumed with fear, bigotry, and hatred. Ultimately, Maya must find the strength within to determine where she truly belongs (via Goodreads.com).


Release Date: January 16th, 2018

Pages: 281

Rating: 4.5/5 Stars

Review:

In Samira Ahmed's debut novel, she explores the presence of Islamophobia in American society. Love, Hate, and Other Filters follows Maya, a Muslim American teen, dealing with normal high school problems, such as where to attend college, overprotective parents, and love issues. All of those problems, however, are diminished when a terrorist attack in a different city by an apparent Muslim American man that shares Maya's last name occurs. Her entire world is turned upside down and all the hopes she has are put aside because of societal opposition to her religion. 

One of the most powerful aspect to Love, Hate, and Other Filters is the switch in tone that occurs within the novel. While the chapters alternate between Maya and a mysterious person seemingly planning a terrorist attack, the tone for the mystery person is continuously ominous; however, the tone in Maya's chapters drastically changes. If you were unaware of the synopsis and read this novel, it would appear as though the novel was a typical contemporary romance from the first half of the novel. It mainly focuses on Maya's love life and typical problems of high school students. The terrorist attack, however, transforms the tone and focus of the novel. The story no longer follows her typical life. It follows a wave of Islamophobia against her and her family.  


While I was aware of Islamophobia before reading this novel, I never realized how quickly it could escalate. The man responsible for the attack was not even confirmed, but the attachment of a Muslim American to it made the town turn on Maya and her family. They were not even related to him, but they were targeted because they were Muslim and shared the same last name, which is common for people of most backgrounds. This is not the first time people have shared the same religious faith and last name without being related. There is only so much originality in the world. I will spoil part of the novel, which is the fact that the Muslim American man did not even commit the attack. He was an innocent bystander killed by a psychotic white man. No white people were harmed because a white man committed this crime, but Muslim Americans were harmed because a Muslim American's name was attached to it. He was not even confirmed to be the perpetrator, everyone just assumed.  


In addition, not only was the livelihood of Maya and her family endangered. The attack led her parents to forbidding her from attending her dream school, NYU, because they were worried for her safety. Her parents rationalized the decision because their family's business and Maya was attacked because a Muslim American man was thought to have committed the terrorist attack, but what if another attacked happened and a Muslim American was actually responsible. She disregards her parents and attends NYU anyway, permanently damaging her relationship with her parents, specifically her mother. While I had hoped there would be a happy ending, there really was not. Maya may be attending her dream school, but her family is somewhat estranged from her because of Islamophobia. Maya and her family have done nothing wrong to receive this type of mistreatment, but they have still suffered as a result of it. 


I preferred the second half of the novel. While I did not enjoy seeing the damages of Islamophobia on Maya and her family, I did not necessarily enjoy Maya's relationship with her crush. He was a decent character, but I did not find him particularly charming or endearing. Their romance was fine, but it was not something I wanted to continue reading about. While the rest of the novel was rather depressing and made me wish for the romance, Love, Hate, and Other Filters was an extremely powerful novel and the contrasts within the novel nicely distinguished the story. The novel still would have been powerful without the beginning, but the first part of the novel complimented the second part of the story perfectly.


Love, Hate, and Other Filters is a groundbreaking debut novel that I highly recommend. Samira Ahmed captured me with her powerful story-telling and I am extremely excited to read her next novel, Internment, which is slated for release in March of 2019. Love, Hate, and Other Filters was one of my favorite novels of 2018 and I am ready for her next emotional read.






Wednesday, October 31, 2018

Salt to the Sea by Ruta Sepetys

Summary: World War II is drawing to a close in East Prussia and thousands of refugees are on a desperate trek toward freedom, many with something to hide. Among them are Joana, Emilia, and Florian, whose paths converge en route to the ship that promises salvation, the Wilhelm Gustloff. Forced by circumstance to unite, the three find their strength, courage, and trust in each other tested with each step closer to safety.

Just when it seems freedom is within their grasp, tragedy strikes. Not country, nor culture, nor status matter as all ten thousand people—adults and children alike—aboard must fight for the same thing: survival (Via Goodreads.com)

Pages: 393

Release Date: February 2nd, 2016

Rating: 5/5 Stars

Review:
 
Ruta Sepetys is one of my absolute favorite authors. Her debut novel, Between Shades of Gray, is one of my all time favorite novels and is currently a completed film under a different name, Ashes in the Snow. I know that the movie has been shown to various audiences in the United States and Lithuania; however, I am not aware when the movie will be released on a larger scale. Nevertheless, I am extremely excited to watch the film. Between Shades of Gray and Salt in the Sea deal with two different issues during World War II, but a character from each novel is related and the novels surprisingly coincide in an unexpected yet unfortunate way.

I love that Ruta Sepetys explores rather unknown parts of World War II. While concentration camps and the inhumane treatment of people by the Nazi should continue to be explored, as a first generation Lithuanian American, Between Shades of Gray deals with the deportation of Lithuanians by the Russians during World War II. Salt to the Sea tells the story of several teenage refugees and soldiers aboard the Wilhelm Gustloff, which is the largest maritime tragedy in the history of the world. While you probably know about the Titanic tragedy, have you ever heard of the Wilhelm Gustloff? I remember Salt to the Sea was published around the time we were talking about World War II in my AP US history class. The only reason I remembered the significance of the ship was because it was briefly mentioned in our textbook and the novel was soon to be released. Both topics dealt in Ruta's World War II based novels are important components of World War II; however, they are rarely mentioned in textbooks or mainstream talks about World War II. 

The characters of Salt to the Sea are quite the crew. They all come from various countries, circumstances, and walks of life. Some are automatically your favorite character while you want to throw others overboard. The story follows four main narrators who are all attempting to aboard the Wilhelm Gustloff to escape mainland Europe, Nazi threats, and the imminent invasion by Russia. Many of the characters have witnessed, been a part of, or have suffered directly from the tragedies of war. They converge along the way and while aboard the Wilhelm Gustloff. While I loved most of the characters, Emilia was my absolute favorite. She is a young Polish teen who is attempting to flee Europe after her family was slaughtered. She can barely speak German so she has to communicate to the others with a combination of Polish and German; however, individuals of Polish descent are being hunted at this time by the Germans. Poles are considered as lesser and she has to keep her nationality hidden along their journey otherwise she faces death or imprisonment in concentration camps. She has also encountered additional threats along the way that I do not want to spoil.

While I loved the characters and the writing, I will note that I did not love how short the chapters were at times. The story alternates chapters from each of the main four characters and although short chapters can be beneficial for suspense, it could be annoying at times with the number of main characters there were. For example, we could spend ten pages with one character then two with another. The alternating chapters added depth to the story and variation of chapter length did keep me engaged in the story; however, it was sometimes difficult spending very little time with one character and then a lot with another. I would sometimes forget the conflict one character faced or what they were doing because it felt like I had bookish whiplash from the constant change in narrator. Sometimes too much was going on to keep track. Within their narrations though, each character had their own unique voice and it was easy to tell who I was reading about without looking at the character's name at the beginning of the chapter. 

Salt to the Sea was an emotional novel that I thoroughly enjoyed. Ruta Sepetys is one of my absolute favorite authors and I highly recommend reading any of her novels. She spends so much time researching her novels. It takes her a bit longer to publish books than most authors I read, but the wait is completely worth it. Readers can tell that she puts all her energy and her heart into every novel she researches and publishes. Ruta wants hidden histories to have more attention. Her characters might not be real, but their stories and the past people they represent are phenomenal and eye-opening. While I already love reading about history, Ruta makes history intriguing and engaging for all her readers. I cannot recommend Ruta Sepetys or Salt to the Sea enough.



Thursday, October 25, 2018

ARC Review: A Girl Like That by Tanaz Bhathena

Summary: A timeless exploration of high-stakes romance, self-discovery, and the lengths we go to love and be loved. 

Sixteen-year-old Zarin Wadia is many things: a bright and vivacious student, an orphan, a risk taker. She’s also the kind of girl that parents warn their kids to stay away from: a troublemaker whose many romances are the subject of endless gossip at school. 
You don't want to get involved with a girl like that, they say. So how is it that eighteen-year-old Porus Dumasia has only ever had eyes for her? And how did Zarin and Porus end up dead in a car together, crashed on the side of a highway in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia? When the religious police arrive on the scene, everything everyone thought they knew about Zarin is questioned. And as her story is pieced together, told through multiple perspectives, it becomes clear that she was far more than just a girl like that (Via Goodreads.com).

Pages: 378

Release Date: February 27th, 2018

Rating: 5/5 Stars

Review
 
A Girl Like That is an extremely amazing yet underpromoted novel. It follows, Zarin, an Indian girl who moves with her aunt and uncle to Saudia Arabia after her mother's death. Her abusive aunt leads her to estrange herself from her family and Zarin begins "acting out," which ultimately brands her as "a girl like that." She is thought to have slept with everyone and all the girls at school despise her. The story starts with the mysterious death of her and her best friend, Porus, and works from the past until it intercepts with their deaths. I only remember seeing the cover of A Girl Like That once or twice around its publication date then it seemed to have vanished from the Earth. While it is not a well known novel, it is a fantastic read and I highly recommend it.

One of the well addressed topics within the novel is the contradictory treatment of men and women in Saudia Arabia. Women are restricted from things such as dating or being in the presence of men, but men date and interact with women easily. The idea as a whole transfers to the entire world. Although Zarin is considered derogatory terms because of her "relations" with guys, those same guys are able to have relations with women and not receive any slack. It is the perpetuation of a "boys will be boys" attitude while women are deemed impure if they demonstrate the same behavior.

Zarin is also not "a girl like that." She does hang out with a few guys, mainly Porus, but she rarely does anything with them. She mainly sits in their car and smokes with them. Society and her peers paint her in a certain light by judging her behavior, but they do not know who she actually is. Ironically enough, the guys she hangs out with have good reputations; however, they are predators. A couple of them are truly terrible people and I will give a warning for rape/sexual assault content within the novel

The entire point of A Girl Like That is the fact that Zarin's peers do not know who she is. They believe her to be a certain person, but they never allow themselves to get to know her, they prefer to judge her instead. The only person who actually knows Zarin is Porus. He is the only person that realized she was not "a girl like that" while she was still alive. Everyone else discovers who she truly is after her death. They should not have gotten the truth after her death, they should have understood her before she was gone, it might have changed the outcome of the novel.

I absolutely loved Zarin and Porus individually and together. They were both well developed characters with distinguishable tones and chapters. I loved how independent and strong Zarin was while Porus was such an adorable and supportive friend. I wish that Zarin had been more accepting of his friendship sooner, but I understand why she was so abrasive. While I did enjoy the end of the novel, I wish it could have ended differently. They both deserved more time on Earth and the readers deserved to have more time with them. They were both such phenomenal characters, I wish there was more to their story, I just want more.

A Girl Like That was one of, if not, my favorite book of 2018. It had fantastic characters, a great story line, and a lasting message. I experienced a lot of different emotions throughout the story. Although you know how the story ends at the beginning, it still does not prepare you for the journey you are about to take with the characters. I highly recommend reading A Girl Like That, I cannot give it enough praise, it deserves to be more mainstream. I am excited to see what else Tanaz Bhathena publishes in the future.



Monday, October 15, 2018

ARC Review: This Is Kind of an Epic Love Story by Kheryn Callender

Summary: A fresh, charming rom-com perfect for fans of Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda and Boy Meets Boy about Nathan Bird, who has sworn off happy endings but is sorely tested when his former best friend, Ollie, moves back to town.

Nathan Bird doesn’t believe in happy endings.

Although he’s the ultimate film buff and an aspiring screenwriter, Nate’s seen the demise of too many relationships to believe that happy endings exist in real life.

Playing it safe to avoid a broken heart has been his MO ever since his father died and left his mom to unravel—but this strategy is not without fault. His best-friend-turned-girlfriend-turned-best-friend-again, Florence, is set on making sure Nate finds someone else. And in a twist that is rom-com-worthy, someone does come along: Oliver James Hern├índez, his childhood best friend.

After a painful mix-up when they were little, Nate finally has the chance to tell Ollie the truth about his feelings. But can Nate find the courage to pursue his own happily ever after? (Via Goodreads.com)


Pages: 286

Expected Release Date: October 30th, 2018

Rating: 5/5 Stars

Review:

This Is Kind of an Epic Love Story is Kheryn Callender's debut Young Adult novel and it did not disappoint. It was one of my most anticipated YA debuts of the year and I was fortunate enough to read an advanced copy of it. One of the things that amazes me so much about the novel is its length. Although it is less than 300 pages long, the characters and plot-lines were extremely well developed and it felt as though I spent 500 pages with the characters instead of less than 300. I loved the story, the characters and their relationships, as well as the writing style. I would highly recommend preordering or purchasing a copy on October 30th.

This Is Kind of an Epic Love Story follows Nate Bird, a teenager content with hanging out with Flo, his best friend and ex-girlfriend. His normalcy, however, ends when his childhood best friend, Ollie, returns to town and uproots the reason for their estranged relationship. The dynamic between Nate and Ollie was adorable. Although the novel ultimately follows their romance, it also captures them reacquainting themselves with one another and reestablishing their friendship. The novel perfectly captures the awkwardness and struggles of reforming friendships with ex-friends. It was nice for them to have a fresh start but it was also interesting seeing their past relationship explored as well.

The novel featured a lot of diversity in race, disabilities, sexuality, and sexual-orientation. While racial diversity as well as diversity in sexual-orientation and sexuality are important to represent, I hope to see more disability representation in novels moving forward. Ollie suffers from a hearing impairment and while he is able to read lips at times and can communicate verbally as well as through writing, he does struggles with lip reading and if he is not directly facing whomever he is talking to them he is unaware they are speaking to him. Throughout the novel he uses ASL and Nate does on occasion as well. Ollie taught Nate some ASL as a child and Nate is reacquainted with it as his and Ollie's  friendship redevelops. While diversity in novels generally lacks in numerous capacities, I have read maybe one other novel with a character that suffers from a hearing impairment and I hope to see more representation of that and other disabilities in the future

One of my favorite parts about Nate and Ollie's relationship was their encouragement of each other. Nate has a passion for movies and screen writing; however, he is unable to finish a script and feels poorly about his abilities as a writer. Although Nate feels this way, Ollie encourages him to finish a script and submit it for a scholarship contest for summer classes at an arts school in New York City. While Ollie feels more confident in his photography skills than Nate does in his writing, Nate still gives the same encouragement to Ollie with his photography.

Another great component of the story is the dynamic between all the characters. Ollie and Nate have a large friend group at school and the readers continuously see their relationship with Ollie and Nate as well as their relationship with each other and their significant others. Similarly, the family dynamic of both Nate and Ollie are also explored. I am still shocked at the size of the novel because Kheryn Callender manages to fully develop so many characters and their relationships in such a short length. It is an extremely impressive feat and I commend them for that, their work is truly amazing.

I loved This Is Kind of an Epic Love Story. It has fantastic characters, a great plot, and it is truly an epic novel. It features a multitude of diversity and is overall a fantastic Young Adult contemporary novel. I would highly recommend ordering a copy. I am excited to see what Kheryn Callender is working on next. My only complaint about the novel is its incorrect titling. It is not kind of an epic love story, it is an epic love story.




Thursday, October 11, 2018

ARC Review: What If It's Us by Becky Albertalli and Adam Silvera

Image result for what if its us
Summary: Arthur is only in New York for the summer, but if Broadway has taught him anything, it's that the universe can deliver a showstopping romance when you least expect it. 

Ben thinks the universe needs to mind its business. If the universe had his back, he wouldn’t be on his way to the post office carrying a box of his ex-boyfriend’s things.

But when Arthur and Ben meet-cute at the post office, what exactly does the universe have in store for them?

Maybe nothing. After all, they get separated.

Maybe everything. After all, they get reunited.

But what if they can’t quite nail a first date . . . or a second first date . . . or a third?

What if Arthur tries too hard to make it work . . . and Ben doesn’t try hard enough?

What if life really isn’t like a Broadway play?

But what if it is? (Via Goodreads.com).


Pages: 433

Release Date: October 9th, 2018

Rating: 5/5 Stars

Review

What If It's Us was one of my most highly anticipated reads of 2018. I was fortunate enough to read an advanced copy before its publication and I absolutely adored it. Adam Silvera is one of my absolute favorite authors having published two of my favorite novels, History is All You Left Me and They Both Die at the End. I have previously read and enjoyed Becky Albertalli's Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda, the novel based on the movie Love, Simon. While I was excited to read the novel, I was the most curious on how the novel would end because Adam Silvera writes notoriously sad novels while Becky Albertalli writes notoriously happy and uplifting novels. What If It's Us was absolutely fantastic, it perfectly melded their two writing styles and characters into a cohesive and amazing novel.

The novel follows Arthur and Ben, two boys that differ in their perspective on fate and the universe. Arthur is an optimistic in terms of fate while Ben is a pessimist. After they meet in  a New York City post office they both start searching for each other and eventually reconnect. While their meeting seemed to be straight from a romance novel, the rest of their story does not and they have to reconsider if the universe really meant for them to be together. Their relationship was adorable and they were definitely opposites attract. Arthur is much more outgoing and bubbly while Ben is more reserved and quiet. They make an amazing duo.

The novel is constructed of chapters alternating in Arthur and Ben's perspective. Becky authored Arthur's chapters while Adam wrote Ben's. While I enjoyed both characters, I preferred Ben's character. I did, however, relate to both of the characters. They were two distinct and lovable characters that I would love to read about again or see a cameo appearance in one of their upcoming novels. I hope they plan to write more novels together in the future, their writing styles perfectly pair with one another. I do hope for more standalone novels as well, but I hope they continue coauthoring together. Some authors are better coauthoring or only writing by themselves; however, Adam and Becky succeed at both.

While the romance was sweet, I also loved the friendships and side characters of the novel. Arthur, who is only in New York City for the summer, left his two best friends, Jessie and Ethan, in Georgia and is in constant contact with them. Ben, a Brooklyn native, is always with his best friend, Dylan, who has a revolving door of girlfriends. In addition, Ben's ex-boyfriend, Hudson, and Dylan's ex-girlfriend/Hudson's best friend, Harriett, are in the mix. While you want to dislike Hudson and Harriett at first, they are both highly developed and lovable characters. Even Arthur's coworkers were incredibly fun and involved. Of all the side characters, Dylan was my absolute favorite. He was hysterical, extremely supportive, a coffee snob/addict, and falls in and out of love a little too quickly. They all made a great squad that I would loved to have been a part of. 

Another great component of the novel was the family dynamics. Both Arthur and Ben's parents were extremely supportive of them and were the typical embarrassing parents when it comes to dating. They were constant throughout the novel and one of the highlights.

An interesting dynamic within the novel was Ben being in summer school. That is one thing not typically shown in Young Adult novels. Summer school in my opinion has a bad reputation. In media, students who are not too bright or do not care about school are typically depicted as summer school student; however, many people there simply struggle with school and the material they were learning. While Ben does admit that he and Hudson were more caught up in their relationship than school, Ben struggles with learning. Ben is not necessarily there because he does not care about school, he just struggles with it. 

What If It's Us is one of the best books I have read this year. The characters, plot, and writing were fantastic. While Adam and Becky are amazing authors by themselves, both of them together added another dimension to their writing abilities. Their styles melded perfectly and the end was the perfect middle ground for both of their styles. I hope to see more novels co-written by the duo, but I am also looking forward to their own standalone novels. I highly recommend What If It's Us if you are looking for a cute romance. 




Thursday, September 27, 2018

ARC Review: A Very Large Expanse of Sea by Tahereh Mafi

Summary: 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 (via Goodreads.com).



Pages: 310

Release Date: October 16th, 2018

Rating: 5/5 Stars

Review
Tahereh Mafi is one of my absolute favorite authors and I was fortunate enough to read an advance copy of her latest novel, A Very Large Expanse of Sea. I have loved her dystopian series, Shatter Me, for over five years and I was thrilled when she announced the publication of A Very Large Expanse of Sea. This is her first contemporary novel and it is rather personal. It follows Shirin, a Muslim American teenager, trying to navigate a post-9/11 world. Tahereh Mafi was a freshman in high school at the time of 9/11 and while the novel is a work of fiction, she noted that some of the novel was inspired by personal experiences. A Very Large Expanse of Sea is an extremely powerful novel that I highly recommend.

After reading A Very Large Expanse of Sea I am absolutely disgusted by humanity. I absolutely loved Shirin's character, she is a strong, courageous, capable, and intelligent young woman, but the intolerance she faces is despicable. I hate that she and other individuals encounter discrimination because of their religion, race, sexual orientation, etc. I am extremely privileged that I do not face situations where I am discriminated against because of my religion, race, or sexual orientation. Shirin, however, has dealt with discrimination throughout her entire life. Managing high school is difficult enough without other complications. She should be enjoying her teenage years and not waiting for the other shoe to drop. 

While there were heavy topics depicted throughout the novel, breakdancing was also explored. I had no prior knowledge of breakdancing, so learning about it was extremely fascinating. I loved that Shirin had a unique hobby because many Young Adult novels portray many of the same hobbies. While many teens do read, write, or draw, there are teens that also have different hobbies not commonly portrayed in novels or the mass media. I really enjoyed the inclusion of breakdancing within the novel. I know that I definitely do not have what it takes to be a breakdancer, but I loved seeing Shirin's journey with it.

An interesting component of the novel that I did not consider until starting it was the technology and modes of communication portrayed within it. Obviously the novel is based in the early 2000's and should reflect the advancements of the time, but it was interesting seeing the use of AIM messaging and the popularity of flip phones. As an individual born in 2000 and with the novel being aimed toward an audience slightly younger than me, it was interesting to see the programs used by teens when I was a baby.

Although I loved the novel, I did not necessarily love the cover. While it does have pretty writing and it is not the worst cover that has ever existed, I feel as though the cover designer/publishing company could have gone in a different direction with the cover design. I do not feel as though the cover accurately reflects the novel or the power within it. I would have loved to have an image of a breakdancing hijab wearing teen or another image that closer reflects the novel.  

I absolutely loved A Very Large Expanse of Sea. It was a different avenue of Tahereh Mafi's writing, but it was an amazing novel and I highly recommend preordering or purchasing a copy on October 16th. It was one of my most highly anticipated novels of 2018 and it did not disappoint. I am interested to see if Tahereh will write more contemporary novels alongside her Shatter Me series. Nevertheless, I am excited to read whatever she writes next.