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.
Potentially Sensitive Areas: Mild sexual themes, Racism, Strong language, Racist slurs, Islamophobia
Booklist starred (September 15, 2018 (Vol. 115, No. 2))
Grades 9-12. Mafi (Whichwood, 2017) tackles the life of an American Muslim teenager in the wake of 9/11 in this visceral, honest novel. Jaded and cynical in the face of humanity’s repeated cruelty at the sight of her hijab, Shirin only plans to get through high school as quickly as she can and let no one past her guarded exterior. It works until she meets Ocean James, who sees more than just her headscarf and is charmingly persistent about learning who she is, from her love of music to her burgeoning skills on the break dancing team her brother starts. But while Ocean’s presence is a breath of fresh air, it also terrifies her: What happens when he gets past her walls? What happens when they shatter and she’s left more vulnerable than ever before? Sympathetic Shirin’s sharp, raw voice narrates the novel, and her captivating story opens a window onto a different narrative from the one typically dominating the airwaves after 9/11. As usual, Mafi excels at highlighting the relationships between her characters, whether it’s the warm, supportive teasing between Shirin and her brother or the bittersweet agony of the deep connection between her and Ocean. Rich characters, incisive writing, and a powerful story will thrill readers beyond Mafi’s already stalwart fans.
Publishers Weekly (August 20, 2018)
Hijabi Shirin, 16, starts at a new school in small-town America shortly after 9/11. She rages at those who assume that her religion and headscarf make her a terrorist, but instead of letting her anger “grip both sides of my mouth open and rip me in half,” she uses indifference as armor against the hostile stares of her peers. That is, until she meets Ocean James in her biology class. Against her better judgment, Shirin lets Ocean in and slowly begins to fall for him. But the new couple soon becomes targets of racism, xenophobia, and bigotry. Meanwhile, Shirin finds solace by starting a breakdancing crew with her brother and his friends. Mafi (the Shatter Me series) infuses a contemporary love story with a heartbreakingly realistic portrait of one post-9/11 Muslim life in the United States. Mafi openly addresses many common misconceptions about Islam and what it means to be a woman of color in the face of racism, showing how differences can be applauded, not feared. Ages 13-up.
About the Author
Tahereh Mafi is the New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of the Shatter Me series. She was born in a small city somewhere in Connecticut and currently resides in Santa Monica, California with her husband, fellow author Ransom Riggs. She can usually be found over-caffeinated and stuck in a book.
Her website is www.taherehbooks.com
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