The Iranian-American narrator and main character of the book. Shirin is a Muslim teenager navigating racism and Islamophobia in America after 9/11, and as a result she frequently isolates herself from others in order to protect herself.


Shirin’s love interest and a high school basketball star. Ocean is a popular white student who doesn’t quite fit the mold of the high school athlete. He is curious and kind. The title of the book references Ocean’s name and the cultural distance between Ocean and Shirin.


Shirin’s older brother. Navid is outgoing and friendly, and he tries to help his sister make friends as well. Navid is dyslexic but he works hard to succeed in school despite his dyslexia.

Shirin’s mother

An Iranian immigrant to the United States. Shirin’s mother lived through war and revolution in Iran. Although she wants the best for her children, Shirin’s mother uses tough love to try to teach Shirin resilience.

Shirin’s father

An Iranian immigrant to the United States. Shirin’s father came to the country when he was sixteen. He is an avid reader, and he is very good at making things.


A Persian friend of Navid’s and a former gymnast. Bijan is part of the breakdancing crew, and he uses his experience as a former gymnast to help the others. He tells Shirin that he is in the process of figuring out his sexuality.


A friend of Navid’s. Jacobi is part of the breakdancing crew, and he’s the first person to make Shirin feel that her pain has been acknowledged and is therefore valid.

Mr. Jordan

The teacher of a class called Global Perspectives. Mr. Jordan is considered to be cooler than most teachers and he tries to be sensitive to Shirin’s situation, although he fails spectacularly.


A Lebanese student that attends Shirin’s school. Yusef is also Muslim and reaches out to Shirin to try to get to know her.


A Muslim girl at Shirin’s school. She is disappointed in Shirin at first because she thinks Shirin is not being a good example of a Muslim girl.

Coach Hart

The basketball coach at the high school. He uses bullying tactics to try to keep Ocean from seeing Shirin.


A friend of Navid’s and part of the breakdancing crew.