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Oh my, I'm really caught up in this series. (Still not viewing the tv adaptation.)
"Ganymede didn’t erode or weather. It changed when rocks fell on it from space, or when warm water from the liquid core forced itself onto the surface and created short-lived lakes. Neither thing happened all that often.
At home on Mars, wind and dust changed the landscape hourly. Here, she was walking through the footsteps of the day before and the day before and the day before."
***Warning: This review assumes that you've read the book.***
I so wish this book had done more. It's hard to say this, but it felt phoned-in. I'm surprised it was long-listed for the National Book Award.
It felt a bit like Ms. Mafi was not writing from a need to write this story, although I'm sure she felt passionate about the project when the idea occurred to her. It's Own Voices about a Muslim girl's struggle with prejudice (others' and her own), it has a sweet young-adult romance, and the heroine has a hip, unusual hobby. But everything was explored on such a superficial level, I found myself thinking, "I guess it's nice to have a meh book about diverse characters." We need diverse books that hit it out of the ballpark, but we also need diverse books that are just okay.
I got the sense that Ms. Mafi began writing this with the idea that there was an important story to tell: a person who is unjustly rejected and ridiculed by society because of her religion and clothing can herself begin to adopt prejudices. But then I picture Ms. Mafi unexpectedly finding herself slogging through the manuscript, trying with some discomfort to make it part memoir, second-guessing herself on how to tackle these serious issues, wanting it to be YA, thinking (erroneously) that the romance was the key to her character's growth, and the whole while she wasn't achieving the depth or lyricism that she wanted. But she'd written something by the end, it was finished, and her editor liked it well enough.
It was so benign, as literature. Shirin's family's religious life is oddly absent (the only mention of praying is when she and her brother lie to their parents that they've said their morning prayers) while focusing almost exclusively on the family's cultural traditions. The sections about break dancing are described without a hint of passion, or what it feels like for the character to dance, or what dancing makes her feel. (Some of the sections about her hobby sounds almost rote, like a wikipedia entry of break dancing and its history.) Break dancing doesn't tie in thematically in any sense, it just moves the plot along. The prose is flat and telling. ("Music [through earbuds hidden under her scarf] made my day so much easier. Walking through the halls at school was somehow easier; sitting alone all the time was easier.") And by the end, the story spends far too many pages and too much emotional energy on the struggle that the white boyfriend character, Ocean, faces when he dates Shirin. (He loses his basketball scholarship, gets expelled from school, Shirin worries about what their relationship has done to his college prospects and breaks up with him for the sake of his future, etc.)
It's incredibly valuable to show not only characters of color and of diverse religions and cultures in YA literature, but also the wide range of diversity there is. For example, undoubtedly Ms. Mafi's family and many other Muslim families are very accepting of white friends, so that the parents' welcoming attitude toward Ocean reflects an accurate part of the spectrum of the lives of children of immigrants. But while I don't expect Shirin's parents to reject Ocean, I do think his whiteness, his boyness, would create at least a small issue for these otherwise traditional parents--would be discussed, would be grappled with. By eliminating all sources of conflict about Shirin and Ocean's relationship other than what the outside world lobs at them, we get that same sense of superficiality that the novel has in so many dimensions. (Even Shirin's otherwise protective brother arranges for a quiet rendezvous for them in Shirin's bedroom.) In general Shirin's parents are not three-dimensional characters but a montage of charming, jovial characteristics.
After reading the focus on Ocean's struggle toward the end, I became suddenly disappointed by the title, too. A Very Large Expanse of Sea is, in fact, an ocean. I have an active imagination, and I picture Ms. Mafi's beta readers or editor pointing this out. I see the author tossing in this line to try to deflect the criticism that this book is too much about the boy: "We broke apart, fighting to breathe, holding on to each other like we were drowning, like we’d been lost, left for dead in a very large expanse of sea.” See there, she says? Now it's a line in the book, now it's only a double entendre.
We need diverse books, even the ones that are just okay. This one is just okay.
Excellent sequel to the first book of the series. All our favourite characters have returned... well most of them. :) I have been firmly confirmed in my favouritism towards Amos and Chrisjen Avasarala. That being said, I love most of the characters. And we get to meet the stellar Bobbie Draper, Martian marine extraordinaire. She and Chrisjen working together are the absolute best.
The plot of this book clips along at a decent pace and the writing style makes it an easy, fluid read. I have to say that I've watched all 3 existing seasons of The Expanse and have found that the they're fairly faithful to the books and the changes not too jarring.
Anyway, loved my read and am looking forward to getting to book 3, which I have on tap soon. :)
This reader's personal opinion, ©2019, all rights reserved, not to be quoted, clipped or used in any way by goodreads, Google Play, amazon.com or other commercial booksellers*
Well sort of a review. I've had this sitting in my currently reading well after I finished it, mulling over what to say.
It's a damn good book and excellent science fiction. The basis of the tv series The Expanse -- which I have not watched and want to read further in series before starting.
Two things had it languishing on the TBR pile for quite a while -- wasn't sure how dark/horror it was (partly from seeing tv series trailers) and the number of POVs.
It's not horror in the sense of slasher films and the type of science fiction where there's some mutant something or unexplained monster showing up. It is intense and there is violence and death -- but not what I'd consider horror.
The point of view changes surprisingly did not bother me; well handled and well written. I am very curious how that's handled in the tv series with so much of what makes this book what the characters are thinking.
The type of juicy worldbuilding I enjoy without boring infodumps and lectures.
Definitely continuing the series.
*©2019. All rights reserved except permission is granted to author or publisher (except Penumbra Publishing) to reprint/quote in whole or in part. I may also have cross-posted on Libib, LibraryThing, and other sites including retailers like kobo and Barnes and Noble. Posting on any site does not grant that site permission to share with any third parties or indicate release of copyright.
Ratings scale used in absence of a booklikes suggested rating scale:
★★★★★ = All Time Favorite
★★★★½ = Extraordinary Book. Really Loved It.
★★★★☆ = Loved It.
★★★½☆ = Really Liked.
★★★☆☆ = Liked.
★★½☆☆ = Liked parts; parts only okay. Would read more by author.
★★☆☆☆ = Average. Okay.
★½☆☆☆ = Disliked or meh? but kept reading in hopes would improve.
★☆☆☆☆ = Loathed It. Possibly DNF and a torturous read.
½☆☆☆☆ = So vile was a DNF or should have been. Cannot imagine anyone liking. (Might also be just an "uploaded" word spew or collection that should not be dignified by calling itself a "published book." If author is going batshit crazy in the blogosphere over reviews -- I now know why they are getting bad reviews. Or maybe author should take remedial classes for language written in until basic concepts like using sentences sink in. Is author even old enough to sign a publishing contract or do they need a legal guardian to sign for them?)