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i sold my first book when i was 23, a veritable lifetime ago. mostly i remember being terrified and feeling very alone. i’d never heard of a YA author who looked like me. never seen a YA author who looked like me. no one had ever given me permission to do this, to simply write books for fun, for pleasure—to make a career out of it. i’d never heard of a Muslim woman on the YA bestseller list, never seen a woman in hijab on book tour. there was no one to talk to or turn to or rely on. no one to blaze the trail before me. seven years later and i’m about to publish my eighth book and it’s hard not to reflect on a myriad of things. AVLEOS is the most personal book i’ve ever written. i hope you enjoy it. ❤️
What you might not think of is the genuine, emotional, fully seated-in-reality powerhouse that is A Very Large Expanse of Sea. If you do nothing else the rest of this year, you must read this book.
Shatter Me, For Real
What a beautiful, raw, heart-breaking, yet somehow uplifting story. I couldn’t put this book down. It’s been a while since a book with as much substance as this one has drawn me in so completely. And I never thought I’d say that about a book with so much breakdancing.
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A VERY LARGE EXPANSE OF SEA tour dates are up on @hypable! and, as promised—a video. it’s been fifteen years since the last time i did this sort of thing, but click through the link in my bio to see me breakdance and talk a bit more about the book. ?❤️ // a word about the tour: i’m sorry i’m not hitting more cities for AVLEOS. with two books out in the same year i’ve done a lot of work travel this year, and as i already toured for RESTORE ME a few months ago, i’m trying to strike a balance. my work/personal schedule is a bit crazy atm, but i promise to try and see more of you next spring for DEFY ME!
Shirin’s high school experience isn’t your typical one and it boils down to a scarf. Pretty crazy how that scares people in the aftermath of 9/11. And it’s mind-boggling how cruel high schoolers (and let’s be real, grown adults) can be.
I was stuck in another small town, trapped in another universe populated by the kind of people who’d only ever seen faces like mine on their evening news, and I hated it.
But then there are those people who are so good, they help to block some of that bad stuff out. And that’s Ocean to Shirin. Their relationship is almost Romeo and Juliet-esque, but thankfully no one dies in the end. Where Ocean is naive yet open and bold, Shirin has wrapped her anger around herself like the thickest wall, thinking it will be enough to protect her. But this boy with a strange name manages to find a crack and break that wall down. And sure, that makes Shirin’s life much more difficult, but is one really living if we’re not experiencing the ups and downs that come with love? A wall is good protection, but it’s certainly not letting in any light.
Shirin’s experiences are based on Tahereh’s, which makes me think I would love to be best friends with Tahereh. She’s snarky, relatable, and still manages to keep her head straight on her shoulders despite everything that’s thrown at her. Her story is one you won’t want to leave.
The more I got to know people, the more I realized we were all just a bunch of frightened idiots walking around in the dark, bumping into each other and panicking for no reason at all. So I started turning on a light.
There have been a few books this year that I’ve called my favorite or the best book I’ve read all year, but A Very Large Expanse of Sea takes the cake. Yeah, yeah, I know I say that every time, but I mean it this time! I meant it the other times too, but I wasn’t as wise as I was now back then.
It’s a rare book that makes you feel more than you’d like to, and examine yourself in ways that are a bit uncomfortable, while somehow telling the most beautiful, relatable story of first love. It falls into the ranks with The Hate U Give or Simon vs The Homo Sapiens Agenda – they’re these un-put-down-able stories that mean something to their readers and society beyond just being fun. They’re a snapshot of the world at a certain time. In this case, AVLEOS takes on Islamophobia in its height. It’s hard to read, especially when you’ve had an idealistic life and let yourself believe the things that happen to Shirin don’t actually happen in real life. But it’s well worth it.
It’s also a rare book that can make a flight from Connecticut to Texas feel like it’s 10 minutes. A Very Large Expanse of Sea achieved that. Please read this book!