Chapters 34–38

Summary: Chapter 34

The day of the talent show arrives. Backstage, the boys are nervous, but Shirin seems cool because she doesn’t care. They perform so well that they win first prize. The other students change their attitudes toward Shirin as a result, and she finds the hypocrisy maddening. She wonders how students would have felt if she and Ocean started dating now, after they deemed her cool. One day, Ocean approaches her locker. He tells her she was great in the talent show, and she tells him how much she misses him, a statement that brings tears to Ocean’s eyes. When Shirin returns to her locker after practice, she realizes that she never locked it. After examining its contents, she sees that nothing is missing, but she notices that her journal, which she keeps at the bottom, has been moved to the top.

Summary: Chapter 35

Shirin reads through her journal, mortified that Ocean may have read it but grateful that he might now know how she honestly feels.

Summary: Chapter 36

Shirin is having lunch with Amna under the tree when they hear a fight break out. When they approach the crowd of students, Shirin sees Ocean being pulled back. She later learns that Ocean quit the team and was suspended from school again, this time for breaking Coach Hart’s nose. 

Summary: Chapter 37

While Shirin is getting ready for school, Ocean appears and asks her to skip school and spend the day with him. They go to his bedroom, and he apologizes for reading her journal and for all that has happened. Ocean explains that he just needed to know what his mother said to her, but then he discovered all of the things Shirin suffered at school, and he felt terrible about everything. Shirin assures him that none of it is his fault. They briefly discuss what Ocean might do about school. Then they kiss, and when they embrace, Shirin notes that it feels like they’ve been drowning in a very large expanse of sea.

Summary: Chapter 38

Ocean’s mother hires a lawyer for his hearing. At the hearing, Ocean learns that he is not expelled, so he and Shirin spend a few happy months together as the school year wraps up. Ocean quits basketball, and Shirin realizes that Ocean has awakened hope in her heart. She reaches a deeper understanding about her own insecurities and those of the other students—and she realizes that she needs to let down her walls. Shirin’s father tells the family that they will be moving away again after Navid graduates. In July, Ocean stands in the street as Shirin and her family drive away. When she can no longer see him and she feels her heart will break, Ocean texts her, “Don’t give up on me.” The story ends with Shirin stating, “And I never did.”

Analysis: Chapters 34–38

At the end of the book, Shirin experiences a sudden transformation in the eyes of her peers. Breakdancing has been Shirin’s only constant, her way of feeling in control of her life, and in the end it grants her not just control but strength as she pulls off moves she’s been practicing since the beginning. That Shirin describes their breakdancing routine as evoking “a larger heartbeat” underscores the humanity and commonality inherent in the art form, and foreshadows the changing hearts and minds of her peers.

The hypocrisy of her classmates, and their apparent willingness to pretend they have never treated her cruelly, is not lost on her. They have simply placed her in another box. However, Shirin evokes the commonality of the “larger heartbeat” by deciding that “we were all just a bunch of frightened idiots, bumping into each other and panicking for no reason at all.” She includes herself in that, and realizes people aren’t faceless masses but rather just that: people. She makes the conscious decision to turn away from anger.

When Shirin decides she hopes Ocean has read her journal, it confirms that she relishes the opportunity to be vulnerable with him, and that she realizes there is freedom in being seen and understood like this, and in being her true self.

In Chapter 36, she flips the script. Though long the object of pointed staring, Shirin now takes the opportunity to look at Ocean for a long, uninterrupted period, signifying that she sees him even more clearly now than she did before. Furthermore, her desire to see his room before he’d cleaned it suggests she wants to see and understand him even better.

The story begins with Shirin describing the “emotional whiplash” of changing schools, and her description in Chapter 34 of the “whiplash” she’s now experiencing from the “abrupt transition from nasty to nice” bookends the narrative—as does the fact that she and her family are moving once again. Now that Ocean has been suspended and Shirin is no longer seen as the enemy, the external forces that drove them apart have been removed, only to reappear in different forms. Where before the distance between them was metaphorical and a result of their differing lives and perspectives, now the distance is literal. However, her final words in response to Ocean request that she not give up on him—“I never did”—suggest an ambiguous happy ending.