Chapters 12–15

Summary: Chapter 12

At lunch back at school, Shirin goes to her favorite tree and meets a handsome Lebanese boy named Yusef. At breakdancing practice, Navid questions Shirin about leaving school and asks who she was with. She tells him about Ocean and then asks Navid if she is pretty. Navid turns the question over to the other boys, who tell Shirin that while she is pretty, she’s also very scary. Jacobi warns that being angry all the time isn’t good for her.

Summary: Chapter 13

Shirin reflects on Jacobi’s warning about being angry all the time. She considers her own stereotypes and defenses. Shirin exchanges messages with Ocean, and he asks if they can talk on the phone because he wants to hear her voice. During their phone call, Ocean asks Shirin if she’s ever had a boyfriend. After the call, Shirin feels unnerved and determines she will stop talking to Ocean. 

Summary: Chapter 14

The chapter opens with Shirin admitting she’s skipped Mr. Jordan’s Global Perspectives class four days in a row and that she’s made steps to drop the class. When Mr. Jordan confronts her in the hallway about her absence, she fires back at him with her own truth and calls him out on his disrespectful teaching practices. As students gather to hear their confrontation, Mr. Jordan pleads with Shirin, asking if they can continue to talk privately in his classroom. She agrees. There, Mr. Jordan apologizes and asks her to return. Shirin explains her hurt feelings and the bigotry she confronts daily but decides to not drop the class. Mr. Jordan mentions that Navid has signed the breakdancing crew up for the school talent show, which upsets Shirin until she realizes that the others are willing to perform.

Summary: Chapter 15

Shirin and the rest of the breakdancing crew meet for practice. Bijan teaches Shirin to do a backflip. As they leave the dance room, a cheerleader approaches Shirin and asks her about Carlos, so Shirin introduces them to each other. Suddenly, Shirin sees Ocean leaving the gym. She hasn’t talked to him in days, and she knows he doesn’t know why. Shirin just doesn’t want to lead him on, so she’s avoided him all together.

Analysis: Chapters 12–15

That Shirin finds her tree—the place to which she often retreats during lunch to eat alone—occupied by someone else is indicative of her world beginning to open up. However, she continues to rely on her defensive nature to protect herself. Shirin explains to Navid, Carlos, Bijan, and Jacobi that she is so guarded with others because everyone, in her experience, is horrible. As the conversation continues, she begins to wonder if defaulting to anger all the time isn’t productive. When Jacobi truly sees her and acknowledges her pain in a way neither her parents nor even her brother ever have, the intensity of the affirmation affects her deeply.

Shirin wonders if she can let herself get close to certain people, which results in her agreeing to remove the barrier of online communication and instead talk to Ocean on the phone. The lack of punctuation and actual dialogue during their back-and-forth is indicative of the easy flow with which they are able to converse as they get to know one another. Shirin notices herself lowering her defenses and it scares her, so she distances herself from Ocean.

The conversation between Shirin and Mr. Jordan underlies the latter’s lack of awareness and inability to put himself in her shoes. Shirin tells him that it’s not okay to use her as an example in class to make a point, and that it’s not her job to teach the other students about racism and stereotypes. Ultimately, her willingness to return to class further suggests a softening of Shirin’s rough exterior, though the extent to which Mr. Jordan now understands her perspective remains to be seen.