Title: The Sea of Tranquility: A Novel
Author: Katja Millay
Genre: Young Adult/ Literature Fiction
Publisher: Simon and Schuster
Rating: 5 of 5 stars
I live in a world without magic or miracles. A place where there are no clairvoyants or shapeshifters, no angels or superhuman boys to save you. A place where people die and music disintegrates and things suck. I am pressed so hard against the earth by the weight of reality that some days I wonder how I am still able to lift my feet to walk.
Former piano prodigy Nastya Kashnikov wants two things: to get through high school without anyone learning about her past and to make the boy who took everything from her—her identity, her spirit, her will to live—pay.
Josh Bennett’s story is no secret: every person he loves has been taken from his life until, at seventeen years old, there is no one left. Now all he wants is be left alone and people allow it because when your name is synonymous with death, everyone tends to give you your space.
Everyone except Nastya, the mysterious new girl at school who starts showing up and won’t go away until she’s insinuated herself into every aspect of his life. But the more he gets to know her, the more of an enigma she becomes. As their relationship intensifies and the unanswered questions begin to pile up, he starts to wonder if he will ever learn the secrets she’s been hiding—or if he even wants to.
The Sea of Tranquility is a rich, intense, and brilliantly imagined story about a lonely boy, an emotionally fragile girl, and the miracle of second chances.
I’m not one to follow hype or trends, and I’m just going to be completely honest here…it really takes a lot to persuade me to read a book. I’m sort of one of those weirdos who likes a book to reach out and find me in a unique way; and that typically means more than just hearing the title thrown around a few times at the coffee shop. It doesn’t have to be a new release either; if it grabs me, I grab back.
Well, take all that I just said and basically throw it out the window because with this book, I fell for it all. Not only did I find myself intrigued by it based on what I heard (without reading a line of the synopsis) but then Ms. Millay herself joined in on some of our Twitter book chats about The Prince and her responses and thoughts blew me away too. Here I was, listening to the hype and thoroughly impressed by the author’s way of thinking (not to mention her pristine taste in reading) even before I had my eyes on a page. So much for my ways of selecting a book.
Before I could even begin this review, I had to get out all the “wow”s and “wait…what just happened?!” because that’s been the extent of my verbal usage over the last few days while I was sucked into this story. The style of writing is like nothing I’ve ever experienced before and I am even shocked at my own reaction to it. I’ve been blown away by writing before, but nothing prepared me for the quick-fire POV segments that had me and my brain in a wicked tennis match-styled motion that almost gave me whiplash. I’m not usually the type to read in 1st person, however, I do enjoy the occasional hidden passage way an author leaves for me to enter a character’s thoughts. With this story, those hidden passages are more like a matrix that has me turning all sorts of directions and kept me looking for the next one. This story couldn’t be told any other way. Period.
In this story we meet Nastya Kashnikov. A very inwardly reserved but outwardly bold girl who is a walking contradiction and who tends to relish and then despise the attention it brings her. She has a lot to say but doesn’t quite say them in the way you would expect. From the first page, we know she’s hurt, angry and seeking revenge but, we just don’t know who or what is at the other end of that rage. Her choices confused me at first and I even began feeling like I would become another gawker she has to deal with. There is a moment in this book, about 25% or so in, that had me re-reading and then shaking my head in disbelief at what I just felt. It’s a scene where she’s running. Not running from someone or something…just running.
And it floored me.
I’m not a runner. Heck, I don’t really enjoy sweat (who does?) but, in this scene I literally feel as if my feet are hitting that pavement and I can almost feel the dampness on my face from the night air. It was unreal. I’m running with her; hearing her thoughts, feeling the motions, and wanting to push farther. This scene stupefied me to the extent that I asked my husband, the marathon runner, to read just that part and tell me what he saw. He agreed with me and immediately wanted to know whose head he was just in. He was shocked I told him it was a girl. A teenaged girl at that.
I don’t blame myself for what happened, but when they tell you that something was completely and utterly random, they’re also telling you something else. That nothing you do matters. It doesn’t matter if you do everything right, if you dress the right way and act the right way and follow all the rules, because evil will find you anyway. Evil’s resourceful that way.
Now we get to my favorite character…Josh F*cking Bennett. Here is a boy who’s also had his fair share of pain and has also developed his own way of dealing with it. He’s unique to say the least but not at all intimidating as I would think someone in his shoes would be. Nope. He’s kind of like a big teddy bear that I just want to cuddle with. He seems to lack facial expressions here and is very indifferent to life around him but there are moments when the real Josh shows up and it’s then that I see the scared but hopeful boy hiding just beneath the surface. He’s got a huge heart but doesn’t like to show it and it’s when Nastya and he finally cross paths that this story dives into the matrix of thoughts. To hear these two, whether inside their heads or not, is a gift. Yes, I said gift. Because as the reader, I got to have something from them both that no one around them had been given and it made me feel special. When in my life did I ever think that a book with teenaged characters could make ME feel special? Never, until now.
Maybe I don’t need to save her forever. Maybe I can just save her right now, in this moment, and if I can do that, maybe it will save me and maybe that can be enough.
Each of their journeys through this life is fraught with angst, confusion, and even some rage. All of which is earned but which they haven’t learned to completely handle yet. Being a teenager is hard, but it’s even harder when you feel the eyes of everyone around you watching and waiting for the next tragedy to happen. Nastya and Josh share more in common than they realize but it’s the time it takes them to get to the point of sharing that was the best part for me. Seeing these two navigate this treacherous path, holding on to one another in one second while shoving each other the next damn near killed me. I had way too many episodes of “Breathe, Elizabeth, breathe” than I’d like to count but darn-it if I didn’t keep on doing it.
I need to know that there’s a way for people like us to end up okay. I need to know that there even is such a thing as ok, or maybe not just okay, maybe even good, and it’s out there and we just haven’t found it yet.
Ms. Millay wove a story so tight that I couldn’t even feel it surround me until it was too late. This world she created had me, in my ripe old age, standing right back in high school, in the middle of the courtyard watching the cliques and waiting for the next gossip item to fall in place. The dynamic she created not only with her main characters, but also with her supporting cast had me in awe and fully feeling as if they were as invested in Josh and Nastya as I was. To say that I enjoyed this story is an understatement. I didn’t just read it, I basically lived it too. My heart pumped and ached with every ebb and flow there was and my mind just hummed with all the questions I wanted to ask but never pushed out. Ms. Millay has taken that angst, confusion, rage, and tragedy and turned it into a story of love, forgiveness, acceptance, and healing. This story floored me but more than that, it made me realize what all the hype was about. It made me thankful for the unique way this book found me and now I just hope I can entice just one reader to take a step into this world and see for themselves.
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Disclaimer: I received a copy of this book directly from the author or publisher I was not paid to read or review this book. All opinions are my own, and I was never influenced by anything or anyone.