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.
This is the first book I experienced as an audiobook on the Storytel.in – a brilliant app wherein you can listen to some recent (and old) books in audio format – which is an entirely new experience for this meant that I could listen to books while doing menial adult work 😀
I have been in awe of Tahareh’s Mafi’s writing talent since her Shatter Me Series – but that was YA Dystopian fiction where AVEOS is a contemporary fiction, that has in her own words, been inspired by her own teenager years and her break dancing years (could this woman be any more, awesome?)
Shirin is a Hijabi wearing Muslim girl in America whose life has been affected by 9/11 – for she can barely remember what her life had been like before the Islamophobia, the fear and the terror of even just walking back home from school.
It definitely doesn’t help that her parents tend to move their family almost each year for better job & educational opportunities – all of this was conducive to her making an armor around herself, just so she could survive the jabs, the taunts and at times, even physical assault to contend with.
It’s easy to connect with Shirin – the way her emotions, her terror and her fears just leap out of the page, was even more realistic than I could have imagined for I knew going in that the experiences are/were inspired by real events.
Shirin is determined, in this last move, to be alone and angry, even with the loneliness hanging over her head. Until one day, her brother puts together a break dancing crew as a club in the school – break dancing had been Shirin and brother’s passion – but when he takes an initiative, that’s when Shirin realizes that a part of her, a large part of her has become apathetic to her own aspirations and her dreams.
But being a part of break dance team gives Shirin a purpose – an understanding of her emotions; her anger, but also gives an outlet to those emotions, that fear & terror that has become an integral part of her life; her personality.
On the other hand, as a teenager, she is also experiencing what can be said, her first serious burst of feelings for a boy, a white boy nonetheless – Ocean – who she believes looks at the world with rose colored glasses, one that doesn’t let him truly but surely understand that devastating effects of going against the societal expectations – leading to give mixed signals; which I honestly would have hated in any other situation, but here it made almost painful sense – I hurt for Shirin and the reasons why she couldn’t even hope to hope a little.
The talent of Ms. Mafi comes through brilliantly even the contemporary genre – like with dystopian genre, just pulls you into the story & keeps you interested right till the end – though I still am not on board with the love triangle (sort of!) she tends to put in her books + the climax happened a little too quickly for my liking – I was expecting a little more drama, a little more angst before I got my closure (I can be an emotional fool at times!).
But AVEOS is a book that everyone needs to read at least once, whether you have been discriminated against or not – you will understand how easy it is to be terrified of something that we do not understand or how easy it is to follow the crowd mentality and how hard, difficult it is to go against that specific mentality.
⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ .5