Publisher: Atria Books
Format: Paperback, 448 pages
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.
Full of rage and without a purpose, former pianist Nastya Kashnikov wants two things: to get through high school without anyone discovering her past and to make the boy who took everything from her pay.
All 17 year-old Josh Bennett wants is to build furniture and be left alone, and everyone allows it because it’s easier to pretend he doesn’t exist. When your name is synonymous with death, everyone tends to give you your space.
Everyone except Nastya, a hot mess of a girl who starts showing up and won’t go away until she’s insinuated herself into every aspect of his life. The more he gets to know her, the more of a mystery she becomes. As their relationship intensifies and the unanswered questions begin to pile up, he starts to wonder if he may ever learn the secrets she’s been hiding or if he even wants to.
The Sea of Tranquility is a slow-building, character-driven romance about a lonely boy, an emotionally fragile girl, and the miracle of second chances.
Please Note: This book contains mature content including profanity, drug/alcohol use, and sexual situations/language.
The following review is based on a copy I got from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for my honest opinion.
The Sea of Tranquility is one of those books everyone tells you to read because of how amazing it is. You go in expecting it to be great… but you have no way of knowing just how painfully real, how delicate, how brutal, how deeply affecting a story you are about to be swept into. I think there is no way to read this book and not be in some way changed by it. I know that the characters and what they faced will stay with me for a very long time, and that my mind and heart are the richer for it.
The most amazing thing about this book are the characters. I have never met two fictional people like Nastya and Josh. I know that many contemporary YA and NA books focus on characters that are in some way ‘broken’, but any that I’ve read of so far pale in comparison. Josh and Nastya are not just a series of traits or letters on a page, they become people. There is nothing shallow, nothing fabricated or melodramatic about them. They are complex, and strong, and shattered, and no longer believe that anything will ever be okay. And once you start to learn about what they’ve been through, you can’t blame them. My heart broke for their pain, their grief, their anger.
The story is told alternately from Nastya and Josh’s point of view, and I loved the chance to see into both of their heads! Their voices are so strong and basically leapt off the page from the very beginning. Nastya enters a new school in a new town where she now lives with her aunt after leaving her family behind. She has not spoken a word in over a year. She wants to be left alone. Josh already is alone, because everyone gives him a berth and no one knows how to deal with him. He doesn’t talk much either and never asks Nastya any questions, which is part of why they start spending time together after a chance-encounter.
I loved seeing them grow closer. There was nothing rushed, nothing forced about it. No talk of love after only weeks of knowing one another. I even would have been content if there’d been no romance at all, because the connection between them and their interactions were enough – which is not to say I didn’t root for the two of them to become a couple!
The minor characters are also amazing. There is so much more to them than I initially expected, especially Drew, Josh’s only friend who also grows close to Nastya. I never imagined him to have as much depth but it made me like him a lot more.
Another character I really liked is Clay, a talented artist. I generally love how important creative expression (or lack thereof) is in the story! It’s not just something cool to add to the people, it’s part of who they are and how they view and deal with the world around them.
Despite how bleak and painful the story may sound at this point, it also made me laugh quite a lot! The dialogue is awesome, both the spoken conversations and the things Nastya and Josh think but don’t say out loud. Both have a no-nonsense attitude and call things how they are. I also really like how openly the book treats questions of sexuality, drinking, and being confronted with things you aren’t ready for.
The pace is slow-building in the beginning, but I never wanted it to move faster because it never bored or bothered me. This isn’t an action-focused story, it’s about the inner journey of the characters and their changes. It needs time to grow, or it would not be believable. There are peaks of high emotion and drama, but never anything annoying or over the top. Katja Millay is also wonderful at spreading out information without ever revealing too much. Despite seeing into both Josh and Nastya’s heads, it’s a long time before there is any clarity to what precisely happened to her, and the reveal, once it comes, was very different from how I expected it to go down!
I don’t really know what else to say because I don’t want to give anything away, and the beauty and power of The Sea of Tranquility is in the details. In the things that go unsaid. In events for which there are no adequate words. This is a story about hope and despair, about choices, about hoping for second chances but not daring to, about anger and hatred and the wish for revenge. About fear, and how it might be overcome. About healing. About wondering whether one even deserves to heal, or be happy. It’s about how our expectations shape the world, and about how nothing is ever simple or black-and-white. It’s angsty. It’s powerful. It’s so compelling you will not want to put it down. It will make you feel the full range of emotions without being tear-jerky, without you feeling manipulated into feeling anything. It’s a story I will re-read because I know there are so many hints I will pick up on that I could not know about the first time around. I would not change a single word in it. I don’t have the right words to talk about it. So do yourself a favor and just go read it – it will be time well spent!
I only just finished reading this book and maybe I should have waited a bit longer with writing the review to better digest the story. There are a lot of things I haven't touched on in the review. But I just needed to voice my thoughts somehow! Have any of your read it yet? What did you think? Or if you haven't, what intrigues you about it? I'd love to hear your opinions in the comments :)