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Mini-reviews: The Geography of Lost Things + A Very Large Expanse of Sea

pub 10/2/18 by Simon Pulse
Young Adult - Contemporary
Received from pub via Netgalley
In The Geography of Lost Things, Ali is dealing with the aftermath of her estranged father’s death, a breakup, and a not-so-great financial situation. So when her father leaves her his most prized possession, a 1968 Firebird convertible, her first instinct is to sell it to the highest bidder, who happens to be someone 300 miles away. She can’t drive stick but her ex-boyfriend Nico offers to help and she finds herself unable to turn him down. The road trip is about as awkward as you would expect but I found myself wondering right away why these two break up. Especially as the trip takes an interesting turn with Nico’s suggestion to NOT sell the car but instead “trade up” items throughout the trip until they reach Ali’s monetary goal. The concept was actually really fun and interesting. It’s like that saying, “one man’s trash is another man’s treasure,” and it was cool to see how the author used that to move the road trip along, introduce new characters and allow Ali and Nico to work through their issues. It also made me think about my own “junk” and what I’d like to get rid of. However, even though I was happy to be along for the ride, something was missing. I wanted to connect to Ali more and wished her mother had played a bigger role (she is absent in a way that didn’t make sense to me) plus the reason for Ali and Nico’s breakup felt strangely anticlimactic. That said, the book is still fun and I was pleased with how it all wrapped up.

Do I recommend? If you’re in the mood for a light contemporary and love road trip books, this could be worth checking out from the library.

pub 10/16/18 by HarperTeen
Young Adult - Contemporary
Received from pub via Edelweiss
I loved the Shatter Me series by Tahereh Mafi so when I heard she was releasing a contemporary novel, I couldn’t wait to get my hands on it. In a lot of ways, it’s exactly what I expected from her – beautifully written, deeply empathetic and complex characters. But what surprised me was the raw honesty of the story itself and how I couldn’t help but wonder how much was inspired by Mafi’s own experiences. It takes place a year after 9/11 and Shirin, a sixteen-year old Muslim girl, is dealing the best she can with this politically-charged time. She’s stereotyped and degraded because of her appearance and her hijab and she’s just tired. But then things start to change. First she and her brother’s friends start a break dancing club and she finds solace in the music. Then she meets Ocean James (doesn’t he sound dreamy?). His earnestness and genuine desire to get to know her breaks through the walls she’s built up. But of course, an interracial and inter-religion relationship at a small-minded high school (and town) is never, ever that simple. What they face made me so angry because I don’t doubt that people can be that awful but also sad that they have to go through this at all. It’s a powerful story and one I’m glad Mafi decided to write because it needs to be heard.

Do I recommend? Yes! I hope this is just the first of many more contemporary novels from Tahereh Mafi.

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