An Emotion of Great Delight by Tahereh Mafi (256 pages)
In An Emotion of Great Delight, Shadi Feels Like a Ship Lost At Sea
An Emotion of Great Delight begins two years after September 11th. Seventeen-year-old Shadi is still dealing with the fallout of the terrorist attack that shook the world. She may be American, but most people don’t see her that way because of her traditional Iranian dress, the hijab. As if the FBI raiding her mosque and facing racism at school weren’t enough, Shadi is dealing with personal tragedy as well. Her brother is dead, her father is dying, and Shadi just isn’t equipped to hold what’s left of her family together on her own.
Just as Shadi begins to disappear under the weight of her grief, Ali, an old friend, reemerges in her life. But as Ali and Shadi work to rekindle whatever flame once burned between them, they both find that falling into their old relationship just isn’t possible. They’ve both had new experiences that have impacted them in meaningful ways. Shadi isn’t the same person she once was and she needs more from this relationship than she did the last time around. As the two work to find new footholds in each other’s lives, we can see how much they’ve been changed by the world around them.
Blurring Identity, Falling in Love, and Finding Hope
Known best for her dystopian thriller Shatter Me series, Tahereh Mafi is back with this realistic and stunning novel not of delight, but of great sadness. Mafi’s lyrical style is so well-suited to the heavy emotions that Shadi feels as she tries to navigate the aspects of her life that have so much impact on her but are so out of her control. When she’s reunited with Ali, you can see her struggling to regain some of that control that she’s clearly been without, a feeling that readers, particularly younger readers, can really empathize with.
While Shadi’s experiences seem very particular, the emotions she struggles with are universal, which would make this novel appealing to readers of all ages. Older readers who remember 9/11 have those memories to draw on as they read while younger readers may have their own experiences of feeling alone or being bullied to draw directly from. Readers of any age or background can empathize with Shadi as she attempts to navigate unimaginable situations while garnering strength beyond her years.
The Bottom Line: 4/5 Brookie Stars
For fans of the Shatter Me series or more similarly A Very Large Expanse of Sea, you’ll definitely recognize Mafi’s lyrical prose that is hard to put down. While this story is not as uplifting as the title might suggest, watching Shadi’s strength and resilience are a force in their own right. The story does, however, leave a few loose ends. At under 300 pages, which is short for a YA novel these days, I would’ve liked to have seen a bit more resolution in some areas. That being said, maybe the loose ends are more true to life than the neatly wrapped packages we’re sometimes gifted at the end of a novel. I would definitely recommend picking up a copy when it hits shelves June 1st!
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Rachel Gomes is a 30-something high school English teacher who lives with her high school sweetheart-turned-husband and their son. Rachel is a voracious reader who loves to learn and has her doctorate in Curriculum and Instruction. She’s happiest listening to podcasts and talking to friends about the latest news in nerd culture.
Favourite book: Don’t make me choose between A Song of Ice and Fire and Harry Potter
Favourite brunch spot: The Farmer’s Table