Review: The Sea of Tranquility by Katja Millay

Posted June 6th, 2013 in book review / 22 comments


by Katja Millay

Publisher: Atria Books (June 20th (paperback)
Genre: Contemporary Romance, Young Adult
Format: eBook (448 pages)
Source: NetGalley and Publisher for honest review
Purchase: Amazon Print | Amazon Kindle | Barnes & Noble | Book Depository
Rating: ★★★★★ ★ (6 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.

At A Glance
I. Die. You know the dreaded question: If you were stranded on a deserted island and you can only bring five books with you, which ones would you bring? Most readers would panic because the idea of only 5 books is sickening, but it seems that question is not so hard for me anymore. Because, hands down, The Sea of Tranquility would be one of those five books, and I would enjoy it again and again for years on end. That’s why I had to give it my rare 6 stars.

The Good
I had to wait some time to write this review after reading this book because I needed time to let the awesomeness soak in. If I hadn’t, I would be a rambling mess of emotions. Even now, I don’t know what to say. How can I describe the perfection of this book? Maybe it’s not perfect for everyone but I can guarantee that most of us readers will fall madly in love with The Sea of Tranquility. Right now this book has almost 14,000 ratings on Goodreads and is averaging a 4.56 star rating. That’s pretty damn amazing.

Let me start off by saying that this is not a perfect romance. This book is more about two troubled souls, who have horrible pasts of lose, who find kinship with each other. It’s a slow build and it’s so worth the wait. Nastya and Josh remind me of the peanut butter and jelly in a PB&J sandwich (yes, that’s what I had for lunch today). They couldn’t be more opposite in their structure, in their overall essence, but together they meld and blend into rightness. It just takes that one time for them to come together and you know from then on they should never be separated. And then you see how similar they really are.

And let me also mention that this book may seem slow in the beginning, but believe me, it needs to be that way. You can’t jump into something like this without having your heart be ripped into shreds. You have to be eased in. This book packs so much emotion that I still feel raw weeks after reading it. The writing is not just words and sentences. It’s art incarnate. I don’t know if I have read a better written book in all my life. The dialogue is both witty and soulful. The pacing is perfect for this kind of book. The characters’ inner thoughts broke me, then healed me, then broke me again. I was an open wound for a couple days while reading this book, and I loved every minute of it. I think my bottom lip even quivered from time to time as I forced myself to hold back the tears.

This is definitely a character driven novel. Millay goes above and beyond when making Nastya and Josh into real people. I never once thought that I was reading a book. I felt like Nastya and Josh were recounting their lives up close and personal. Even the side characters like Drew became real to me. I know these characters more than I know any family member, best friend, or even myself.

I don’t think anything with a beating heart could not feel bad for Nastya. She went through a heartbreaking and tragic experience that no one should have to endure. And because of this event, she has stopped speaking, to anyone. Being mute can make it hard when you go to high school, but when you dress like a Russian hooker on purpose, it’s apparent no amount of teasing or bullying will ever affect you. Nastya is the living, breathing version of the doorknob sigh reading “Do Not Disturb.” Everything she does is to keep people away. After losing a piece of her soul, she wants nothing to do with the world. But then she meets Josh. And for the first time in a long time she’s interested…interested in interacting and living. Nastya is troubled and emotionally fragile but she is also a very strong person. She has to be with what she’s gone through. She’s bright and talented, even if she doesn’t think so anymore. But what she needs is to heal. And even Josh may not be able to do the job, because sometimes we have to heal ourselves first.

Josh has lost everyone some way or another. And when everyone close to you seems to die, you kind of become a social void. The high school kids are a little afraid of Josh and he likes it that way. He’d rather be left alone. Then the mute and exotic Nastya comes into town stirring controversy and Josh can’t help but notice. But it’s not until Nastya starts forcing herself into his daily routines that Josh starts to see the girl no one else sees. He sees someone emotionally damaged but beautiful nonetheless. She’s unique and mysterious and Josh wants to solve the mystery of her past but he let’s Nastya reveal things on her own time. He gives her the space she needs and offers her security in his house and his garage where they work on his woodworking together. Josh is quiet and understanding, which is exactly what Nastya needed.

The Sea of Tranquility was powerful, deep, and beautiful. It has everything a reader can hope for in a book. The plot was well thought out and executed amazingly. And the mystery behind Nastya was handled so well I still feel tense from the suspense. Ugh, I wish I was a better writer because I still don’t think I even skimmed the surface of what this book is like or how it made me feel. It’s indescribable.

I have to mention how perfect that ending was. I was a little nervous it was going to be a sad ending but no, it wrapped up everything very well and even has the best last sentence ever in the world. My heart broke into happy little pieces then formed back together stronger than before when I read the last page.

The Bad
How dare anyone suggest something is bad about this book!!! 🙂

The Snuggly
Mercy! Nastya and Josh have the most complicated, messed up relationship. They start out ignoring each other, then become awkward friends, then you think there can be more after a special night, then Nastya ruins it all, then Josh makes it worse. You will want to yell and scream when it comes to these two. They are both emotionally stunted and how they even became friends is beyond me. But you will also love them to the little red recesses of your heart because no two people deserve to be happy more than these two.

We get a sex scene that isn’t graphic. It’s appropriate for YA readers. However, there is a sexual assault scene. So be prepared.

Final Thoughts
Remember, this is not a full blown romance type of book. The romance and relationship building takes forever, but it’s perfect for this book. You just have to give it time. This is a character driven book with a lot of tragic elements but has inspiring moments in it that makes it so worth all the heartbreak. VERY, HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.

“People like to say love is unconditional, but it’s not, and even if it was unconditional, it’s still never free. There’s always an expectation attached. They always want something in return. Like they want you to be happy or whatever and that makes you automatically responsible for their happiness because they won’t be happy unless you are … I just don’t want that responsibility.”  

“I wished my mother was here tonight, which is stupid, because it’s an impossible wish.” He shrugs and turns to me, drowning the smile that cracks me every time.
“It’s not stupid to want to see her again.”
“It wasn’t so much that I wanted to see her again,” he says, looking at me with the depth of more than seventeen years in his eyes. “I wanted her to see you.”  

“There are so many things that can break you if there’s nothing to hold you together.”  

“We’re like mysteries to one another. Maybe if I can solve him and he can solve me, we can explain each other. Maybe that’s what I need. Someone to explain me.”  

“People who go around advertising their birthdays are douchebags. It’s a fact. You can look it up on Wikipedia.”  

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22 Responses to “Review: The Sea of Tranquility by Katja Millay”

  1. Lori L. Clark

    This is hands down one of the most beautifully written books I have ever read. If Katja Millay taught classes on how to write words that will stick with a reader the way hers have, I’d be front and center. I agree with you… there is nothing I didn’t like about The Sea of Tranquility.

  2. Nereyda @Mostly YA Book Obsessed

    I just finished this one yesterday and I agree with you 100%! Holy freaking hell what an amazing bookk! Everything about it was perfect in its own messed up way. And that lat line of the book: perfection! Gave me the damn chills!

    And now I want a PB&J sandwich.

    GREAT review! I’m dreading mine…

  3. Ashley

    Aww I love PB&J! LOL! Anyway great review! I really like what you said about hwo we can’t jump right into the book; we have to be eased in. That’s so true!! The beginning is a little slow moving, but it didn’t really bother me, and it totally paid off!!

    Awesome, awesome, awesome review! Such a good book!

    • Jennifer Bielman

      I forgot if you read this one or not. So happy you liked it to. I didn’t mind the slow beginning either, but thought I would mention it since many people seem to complain about it the most.

  4. elisa

    I knew I was going to read this book, but now it is a total must! I am so happy because I have been reading a couple meh YA books lately and have been a tiny bit turned off the genre. I am looking forward to this one. Wonderful review 🙂

  5. Jaclyn Canada

    This one has been on my to-read list for quite a while. So wonderful to see it earn the 6th star. I am definitely looking even more forward to it. The high-charge emotion scares me but I believe you when you say it’s worth it. Excellent review! Jaclyn @ JC’s Book Haven.

  6. kimbacaffeinate

    I should have done my rare 6 for this too and I am giggling because most of us who reviewed it felt compelled to share at least one quote. I loved the slow build and heck yes it was perfect! Lovely review Jennifer!

  7. Bellas Bookshelf

    I’ve had this in my ereader for FOREVER now. I am stunned I have yet to open it. I read a review a few days ago that mirrored yours in its enthusiasm and love for the book. I said to myself if I see another review like this Ill read it asap and here’s your review 24 hours later!
    Whenever I see a review like yours for any book I immediately bump it up to the top of the TBR Mountain.
    Great review! Thanks 🙂

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