Thursday, July 16, 2015

Diary Entry #036: Book Review—THE SEA OF TRANQUILITY by Katja Millay

Title: The Sea of Tranquility
by Katja Millay
Date of Publication: November 13th 2012
Genre: Young Adult | Contemporary

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 just wanted one person who would look at me and not want to see someone else.”

Oh my God. This book. This book is terribly beautiful. I know terribly and beautiful are like, paradoxical, but it’s the only way I can describe it.

I’ve wanted to read this book a couple of years ago but I just hadn’t been able to because other books just keep on piling up and it got buried underneath it. Besides, I found that I don’t like reading about depressed characters for fear that it would end in suicide or something equally tragic. But this book popped up again on my Goodreads account and I read the blurb again and thought, hmmm...maybe I should just face this book head on and read it. And so I did. 24 hours later, here I am, still feeling overwhelmed.

Nastya’s back-story wasn’t unique except for the not-talking part. But there was something in her narration, and that something was the fierceness and sarcasm that I love for every character I read about, and that hooked me right away. Her thoughts were so raw but still restrained and I don’t know how that author managed to do that, but I was thoroughly impressed.

Normally, I don’t like books that are all narration and so very few actual dialogues and it came to a point where I was reading this and thinking exactly that and I wanted to quit but oh, wait it changed! And from there, the story just got more and more interesting and it was like nothing and everything was happening at the same time. I don’t know how to explain that well, but sometimes when an expected premise of a book was shattered, the book becomes monotonous in between until it reaches the climax. That was not the case with this book. The tension built oh-so-slowly. I felt like it would snap at any moment even when I’m just halfway through the book. And that was remarkable because the author managed to sustain one chapter after another without the book having a boring part. That was such a feat, so kudos to Ms. Millay.

The characters of this book weren’t ones to be ignored. All of them had something to say and all of the words fit perfectly to create a not-too-complex web of stories. Drew, Tierney, Sarah, Mrs. Brighton, Clay, Asher, Nastya’s parents, Josh and Nastya herself—everyone has flaws and I loved them more for it.
Another thing I loved about this book was, like the tension, the romance built from mild annoyance, to staring, to staying just a little bit longer, to listening, to a maybe-we’re-friends, to yes-I’m-jealous, until it reached that I-love-you-but-I-don’t-know-how-and-when-and-whether-it’s-a-good-thing-to-even-acknowledge-it stage. In short, it wasn’t insta-love (which I absolutely loathe and makes a story so unrealistic). I loved that it tackled family, identity, friendship, loss, and all kinds of suffering without the story being convoluted and having too many external conflicts and issues.

But what I love the most about this book is the story itself. Like I mentioned earlier, Nastya’s story wasn’t unique but I can say that this book is one-of-a-kind. It’s both beautiful and heartbreaking story of salvation, about how people act and react towards tragedy and how two broken souls can find solace with each other and feel whole. Okay, that was too philosophized but I can’t help it because this book is so beautiful that I have to find beautiful words to describe it. It literally took my breath away because I think I stopped breathing when I read the final words, trying to wrap my head around such wonder. I wouldn’t say much anymore, because a) honestly, I can’t find the words, and b) I might just write a spoiler.

All I know is that I love this book and it left a mark on both my mind and heart and I’m gonna remember this for a long, long time.

5/5 Sea of Stars

About the Author:

Katja Millay graduated with a degree in film and television production from New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts and has worked as a television producer and film studies & screenwriting teacher. Her debut novel The Sea of Tranquility was a recipient of the American Library Association’s Alex Award and was named one of the Best Books of 2013 by the School Library Journal. She currently resides in Florida with her family.


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