Chapters 30–33

Summary: Chapter 30

When Shirin calls Ocean, he begs her not to break up with him, knowing that his mother has confronted her. She hangs up on him and ignores his repeated calls.

Summary: Chapter 31

Over the two-week winter break, Ocean texts “I love you” to Shirin over and over, but she doesn’t respond. Shirin and Navid buy a roll of linoleum to practice breakdancing. During this time, Shirin struggles with the pain of losing Ocean, and after two weeks, Ocean stops texting.

Summary: Chapter 32

Yusef joins the breakdancing crew and becomes good friends with Navid. Shirin, still struggling with her decision to break up with Ocean, asks her father how a person knows if he or she has done the right thing. 

Summary: Chapter 33

Back at school, Ocean is absent, and the students ignore Shirin. An Indian girl, Amna, reaches out to Shirin, apologizes for her past behavior towards Shirin, and invites Shirin to sit with her at lunch. One day in the breakdancing room, Shirin is talking to Yusef when Ocean suddenly appears at the door, but he leaves quickly. Shirin later learns that Ocean was suspended for fighting after the incidents involving Shirin. He returns to biology class but will not speak to her.

Analysis: Chapters 30–33

After Shirin breaks up with Ocean, the loneliness that dominated her life at the start of the novel comes back in full force. Shirin “doesn’t have the vocabulary” to talk about her feelings, so she throws herself into breakdancing. For her, breakdancing is a means of expression, a safe place, and an outlet through which she’s able to gain back some semblance of control.

These chapters mark the return of silence as a motif. Though Ocean texts her daily for weeks, Shirin does not respond. She uses silence to create distance between them, just as she does with her parents. However, just as silence doesn’t fix the communication difficulties she has with her mom and dad, ignoring Ocean only makes her feel worse.

The ease with which Shirin is able to interact with Yusef and Amna—a direct contrast to her interactions with the other students—only serves to underscore how deeply she still cares for Ocean and how painful their separation is. Yusef and Amna don’t require explanations; they already know what it is like to be Muslim. Shirin finds the familiarity comforting, but while her relationship with Ocean wasn’t quite as effortless, she was patient with him and willing to make it work.

Shirin explains her choice to continue wearing hijab as a means of control, once again emphasizing one of the novel’s most significant themes. If the only reason she stops wearing it now is to acquiesce to racist bullies, she reasons, then she’s forfeited her power.