The Sea of Tranquility by Katja Millay
Publisher: Atria Books
Publication date: November 13th 2012
Rating: 4 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.
The Sea of Tranquility is a story about two broken people and their road to healing, but also the unexpected connection found through mutual pain. It was an emotional and touching story, and one that had me in a bit of a turmoil after finishing.
We begin The Sea of Tranquility with Nastya enrolling in a new school with her aunt as her guardian. Her aunt is a nurse and works nights, so she’s pretty much on her own, which seems like exactly what she needs. This story is an unfolding mystery. We don’t know how Nastya got to the point she is in, you’re just dumped into things knowing something truly horrible has happened. She has moved away from her family because she can no longer look into their faces and see the expectations in them. They keep looking for the “before” girl and she can’t take it anymore. We see her maneuvering in school with an invisible “force field” in place around her that no one will want to penetrate.
“I've scared, offended or made everyone uncomfortable enough to stay away. Mission accomplished.”*
One more thing to ensure that everyone is kept at arm’s length is the fact that Nastya hasn’t talked for the last two years. This is where she runs into Josh, who seems to have his own “force field” in place, and Nastya finds herself wanting to know why. Much to her dismay, she’s drawn to Josh and finds herself wanting to figure out his story.
Josh has been subject to tragedy no one would want to consider. He’s alone in the world except for his friend Drew and Drew’s family the Leighton’s. He goes to school and immerses himself in woodworking, the one joy in life. When he spies Nastya and the vibe she puts off, he’s curious but doesn’t make it his business to figure her out. That is until she shows up late one evening and deposits herself in his garage while he works. Josh doesn’t expect anything from Nastya and she can’t help but insinuate herself into his life, finding comfort just by his presence. Somewhere along the line they start becoming close, drawing something from each other that helps the healing, and falling for each other in the process.
Nastya is an angry victim, surviving on with the hatred at what happened to her and what has become of her life. Nastya was robbed of her options. Initially, I didn’t really care for her. It’s difficult to like someone who doesn’t like them self. Also, she was unlikeable in the way she dealt with her family when they clearly were in pain. But you slowly understand why she treats them as she does, and I started to become attached to her. She doesn’t treat the ones that love her in the way to inflict pain, it’s just that she is incapable of giving them what they need. When she moves to her aunt’s, the pressure is off and the healing begins.
When reading a story where the characters are stuck in tumult, it’s impossible not to have some of these feelings rub off. I did feel some emotional turmoil while reading this, especially in the last 25%. Josh is an amazing guy but he does something I almost couldn’t forgive him for, and to be honest, it still smarts when I think of it, but I can understand why he did it. He was hurting too and accepted comfort that made me want to throw up just as much as Nastya. But their romance is full of swoon, so don’t let this discourage you. I loved this quote:
“You know I meant it. I am human. And male. And not remotely blind. Do you want me to say it again? You are distractingly, even if-that-is-not-a-real-word pretty. You are so pretty that I bullied Clay Whitaker into drawing me a picture of you so I could look at you when you aren't around. You are so pretty that one of these days I'm going to lose a finger in my garage because I can't concentrate with you so close to me. You are so pretty that I wish you weren't so I wouldn't want to hit every guy at school who looks at you, especially my best friend.”*
I was completely sucked into this story. The writing draws you in making you anxious to know what happened to these people to put them in such a state. The main characters were compelling but so were the secondary ones like Drew, Josh’s best friend, Tiereny and the Leighton.
I appreciated how The Sea of Tranquility showed that friendship and love can help someone broken, but that alone will not completely fix you. A person must come to that on their own and want it for themselves. A heartbreaking but beautiful story.