TITLE: The Sea of Tranquility
AUTHOR: Katja Millay
GENRE: Contemporary YA
FORMAT: Ebook, 448 Pages (Atria Books)
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 herâher identity, her spirit, her will to liveâpay.
Josh Bennettâs 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 wonât go away until sheâs 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 sheâs been hidingâor if he even wants to. (from Goodreads)
The Sea of Tranquility is aÂ beautiful, heartbreaking, gut wrenching, haunting, dark and hopeful novel. I finished it about a week ago (after reading it in one sitting!), and the emotions it caused in me still feel fresh and truthfully I am still processing them. Can you tell I loved it? Because I think saying I loved this book is an understatement.
Nastya Kashinkov is a strong but broken teenager. Hoping to escape her past, she moves in with her aunt and starts at a new school. But she isn’t the daughter and niece her family remembers: she’s hasn’t spoken in over a year and dresses as inÂ provocativeÂ manner (she calls it her “russian whore” look). Right from the novels start, we’re made aware that something horrific has happened to Nastya, she was a piano prodigy but is no longer, she has died and been brought back to life (but not to who she was). Nastya story’s isÂ purposelyÂ revealed in a slow manner and in works. I’m not usually a fan of slow reveals but in this case, it was done so well and in a natural manner that is really worked for me. The story is told from the POV of Nastya and Josh, something that works incredibly well here. I really enjoyed getting each character’s perspective and in the case of Nastya, it showed the duality of just how strong she is while also being deeply affected by the past events.
Nastya as a character is depressing but also amazing. She clearly suffering from the result of a traumatic event: she chooses not to speak, to beÂ invisibleÂ yet also puts herself out there in aÂ confrontationalÂ manner with how she dresses. She could have easily become the clichÃ©d emo character but she isn’t at all. Her innerÂ monologueÂ gives you the insight into how she doesn’t want to be this person yet doesn’t know how to be who she was. She doesn’t want to hurt people and yet she feels like she always is. Â She feels like she can’t be saved and yet you know that she wants to be. I felt her pain, even before the revelation of what happened to her was done (in aÂ trulyÂ hard to read in that fantastic kind of way). There were times when I wanted to shake her and make her do things differently, but it was in that way you want to do when you care about someone.
Josh Bennett, the other lead of the story and Nastya’s love interest, is an equally broken character, albeit in a different. Everyone is Josh’s life has left him and now he just wants to shut down and be invisible. But that changes with the arrival of Nastya. The dynamic between Josh and Nastya is captivating. The give and take, push and pull, had me turning page after page. I just couldn’t get enough of them. And this went beyond just them falling for each other. Their romance is perfect in that imperfect kind of way but what I loved the most was that at the core of their relationship was an understanding of each other’s pain that one else could. Josh doesn’t save Nastya and Nastya doesn’t save Josh but rather Â knowing each other brings them to a place where they want to change and heal their pain.
TheÂ surroundingÂ cast are also wellÂ developedÂ and interesting. I loved the dynamic between Nastya and Josh’s best friend Drew. Their own relationship and Drew’s character are both given the time and importance to beÂ developedÂ and explored. None of the characters in the story felt like throwaway orÂ place-fillers.
I’ll say it again, the story is beautifully written. It is a time a very dark novel, the hinted to events thatÂ occurredÂ to Nastya are disturbing and they way her post-traumatic stress manifest itself is hard to read at time. But the magic ofÂ The Sea of Tranquility is that this is so well done that youÂ sympathizeÂ and cheer for the characters. The pitfalls of the “emo” broken girl are pretty much avoided. The writing is by far some of the best I’ve read (and not just in the YA genre).
Both these characters are damaged people, you understand why they turn away from the world the way they do and yet with each other, they find the hope needed to break free of the darkness. It’s truly beautiful story telling.
The Sea of Tranquility is amazing story telling that affects you to your core. Nastya and Josh are wonderful, real characters. I cannot praise this book enough! Definitely pick up a copy of it if you haven’t already.
A huge thank you toÂ Atria Books for making this book available for review via NetGalley.