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Monday, January 14, 2013

Review: The Sea of Tranquility by Katja Millay

Publisher: Atria Books
Published: November 13, 2012
Pages: 448
Source: For Review from Simon & Schuster
Rating: 5 Stars

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.

In short: Though The Sea of Tranquility by Katja Millay is an emotionally draining novel, it is also one that will leave you breathless from the outstanding beauty of the characters and the writing.
This book is angst-central. Nastya and Josh, the novel's alternating narrators, are two terribly defeated and depressed characters. They are both subject to some pretty appalling situations, which they deal with over the course of the novel. I usually find myself becoming annoyed with characters that are so angsty, but for some reason I found it didn't bother me in The Sea of Tranquility. Perhaps because debut author Katja Millay does such a brilliant job at showcasing her characters and their circumstances with such genuine and raw emotional depth that you can't help but truly FEEL what they are going through with painful clarity.

Alright, so that doesn't sound like so much fun, so let me clarify: The Sea of Tranquility is about a lot of pain, but through all that hardship, there is HOPE. There is no way I could have enjoyed this novel otherwise. Nastya and Josh can be fairly depressing - though still expertly written - but they do have an excellent support system in the form of some equally well written secondary characters who provide a much needed lightness to contrast all the despair. Plus, while the journey is hard, the ending is beautiful.

I think some people will probably find The Sea of Tranquility to be a bit slow in the beginning and hard to get into. For me, however, I feel that slow start was needed to ease myself into this incredibly draining story. And I urge anyone who is having a difficult time getting into the story to keep reading as what you will find in the end is a beautiful and heartfelt story that will stay with you long after you close the book.

In other news, I am becoming something of a contemporary-issues genre fan! Well... it has really just been The Sea of Tranquility and one other book a few months ago, but dammit if they weren't both truly amazing reads that left a profound effect on me. I am just impressed that someone like me - Miss Speculative Fiction Addict - could be finding new loves in realistic fiction, especially ones with such serious subject matter. Shows that it pays to go outside your comfort zone every once in a while! I HIGHLY recommend The Sea of Tranquility to both contemporary and non-contemporary fans.

Other Reviews:
Belle's Bookshelf
For What It's Worth
Tracy's Happy Bookshelf

Authors Links:


  1. Thanks for the link! This book is definitely angst-central, but you're right, there's a strong sense of hope, especially towards the end. I'm becoming a big fan of contemporary books too.

  2. I think this is the kind of book you have to be in the right mood for. I've been hearing nothing but amazing things about it, but I've been a little hesitant to pick it up because of the slow pacing and because I'm afraid those characters will make me feel depressed too. But your review definitely made me want to read it soon even if it's a slow burner, because it sounds like it could overwhelm me like just few books can. Wonderful review :)

  3. I have this one very high up on my TBR. It sounds like one that I will really really love. Good to know that while it does get off to a bit of a slow start it really pays off to power through in the end. I'm so happy you are having such luck with contemp issue books, they are some of my favorite and I had no idea I liked them so much a few months ago either. I was so into paranormal books and dystopians and didn't like the drabness of contemp but then I just dove in and not I am a huge fan. Great review, Aylee!

  4. "Plus, while the journey is hard, the ending is beautiful."

    That's all I needed to know Aylee! I can deal with pain and heartbreak and angst as long as I know things will end up okay, so now I feel much more prepared to dive into this one. I was holding off because I know this is going to be a heavy and emotional story, but now I feel good about it. Thanks so much:):):)

  5. Every review I have seen of this book has been raving about how beautiful it is, I really love the emotional books and I really want to read it (I have a copy from Netgalley but haven't gotten to it yet). I'm happy to hear that you are getting into the contemporary novels, the issue genre ones are the best because they are usually very well written!

  6. I knew from the first time I laid eyes on this book that it would be too much for me to handle, and I still think so. All the things you pointed out just served to convince me further. I DO trust you and the other reviewers and I know this is a fabulous book, I'm just too much of a coward to read it because it's, as you yourself pointed out, so depressing.
    Anyway, it makes me feel better to know that the secondary characters are so well-built and that they bring the much needed lightness to the story.
    As always, a fantastic, well-articulated review, Aylee.

  7. Emotionally draining? Gosh - I had better get the tissues and chocolate ready for when I read this! Glad it was a 5 star read though :)

  8. You know, I requested a Sea of Tranquility a little while ago because I heard it was very good (I think I heard it from you, actually)
    But now you made me nervous 'cause it does sound like the type that just puts your heart through the grinder. We'll see!

    Thanks for the review.

  9. I read a review on this book somewhere, I'm not sure where, wish I could remember, but anyways, it was really good!! Then I saw you were reading it too. So, I'm happy to see you agree with the reviewer in that its a great story. And yeah? - what's up with the contemp love lately - lol - so unlike you!

  10. I don't think I've read a review of this yet. I do love a good contemporary novel, and I'm glad you loved it so much since it's NOT your genre of choice. Thanks for the warning about the beginning, though!

  11. I'm with you in being a "speculative fiction addict" and the fact that this book managed to pull a 5 star rating from you makes me want to stretch myself and give it a shot. I might find the HOPE uplifting because I deal with so many students with real life issues in middle school and I don't always get that happy, hopeful ending. So it might be cathartic to get it in a well-written contemporary novel.

    Thanks for the great review!

    Lauren @ Hughes Reviews

  12. I'm not sure how I feel about this novel. It has been getting so much positive praise so obviously it's good, but even with all the reviews I can't really figure out what it's about, other than the relationship that develops between two damaged teens. Perhaps reviews can't say too much because it would be easy to give away key aspects, or maybe it's just one of those books you need to read to understand. Regardless, I am interested in reading What Happens Next, and if you're comparing it to the Sea of Tranquility and saying they were just as moving for you, perhaps I need to reconsider reading this book.

  13. I am definitely adding this book to my TBR pile. This is actually the first time I've heard of this one, and I'm very intrigued. If you want to try another book with damaged teens, I would recommend The Sky is Everywhere. It's beautifully written and has some fantastic character development. I also want to check out What Happens Next. Excellent review Aylee!

  14. I used to love angsty novels - I was drawn to the depressing stories with messages of hope as a teenager for some reason - but eventually started going the other way and have now found a happy medium :) I think I'll give this one a try since you loved it so much, Aylee.

    Oh and if you decide to read The Sky is Everywhere based on Courtney's suggestion, let me know because maybe we could do a readalong then (obviously only if you're interested). I still haven't read that either.

  15. Is this a contemp? This looks more like a paranormal to me from the cover and synopsis. But it's hard to tell. Have you read Before I Fall - for good contemps (although it has a paranormal/speculative aspect)?

  16. I'm definitely a speculative fiction addict, too, 95% of the time. Every once in a while I go through a contemporary phase, like with John Green's books. This one calls to me because your description reminds me of The Fault In Our Stars, actually-- tragic yet a really beautiful story. I'll definitely check this one out next time I have a contemps phase. And great review! :)

  17. I haven't heard much of this novel. I absolutely need to read it. I love issues novels. I like seeing how an author tackles certain things. I am so glad you enjoyed this one and that it was hopeful. Sometimes issues novels are to heavy and leave you feeling like the world is ending.

    Thanks for the review.

  18. Fabulous review! Yet another ARC on my Kindle that I haven't read but apparently need to read - It sounds incredible!

  19. I have this on my reader and I keep hearing good things. Great review!

  20. I've heard this is a pretty slow book so I've put off picking it up so many times but then I hear about how amazing and brilliant it is so now that I know that I just need to keep trucking until 1/3 through I'm definitely going to pick this up soon! Fab review!

    Rowena Hailey (Ptarmigan Alaska)