The Sea of Tranquility
Title: The Sea of Tranquility
Author: Katja Millay
Publisher/Year: Atria, 2012
Genre: YA Contemporary
Source: Review copy from NetGalley
Nastya is a former piano prodigy who went through something tragic and now doesn’t speak. She’s been through therapy, but nothing has helped except running miles and miles every night in the sticky Florida heat. Josh is a seventeen year old boy haunted by death — everyone around him is dead. Emancipated, he spends his time crafting furniture in his garage shop and avoiding the world. Utilizing the dual narration of both Nastya and Josh, The Sea of Tranquility unfolds the story of emotional traumas, pain, and healing through unlikely friendships and second chances.
Now let me be frank from the get-go here: I like books where stuff happens. YA contemporary, as a genre, can often bore me — especially when the books surpass 300 pages — because I find them too slow and dull, often cliche and self-indulgent. But I LOVED this book. It doesn’t read like a romanic comedy. It’s the messed up story of two messed up kids. It’s messy. Dark. Unpredictable. But what it really sells is emotions. The sexual tension, the questions, the mysteries, the uncertainty, the sadness, lust, fear, surprise and even humor. And often these emotions are happening simultaneously. It got to me.
It’s also a character-driven story. And you know what? I liked every single one of the characters. The parents weren’t annoying, needy, or uninvolved. The teenagers were all multi-dimensional and real. Every character felt so real. My favorite character, in fact, was Josh’s best friend, the seemingly-douchey Drew Leighton. I don’t know that I’ve ever read a character like him before. That kid stole my heart. Though Josh was the real heart stealer in the novel. That boy can give me a bucket of pennies any time he wants. Or make a chair.
And Nastya. Our tough-yet-broken and completely mute female protagonist. At first I was worried about how I was going to read 500 pages of angsty, troubled teenage girl. It wasn’t long before Nastya grew on me, though, and I was rooting for her the whole way. From the first day in the courtyard lunch staring at Josh wondering how he got a “force field” around him, to her explanations for why she makes the decisions she makes, I found her logical and reasonable. Even if she is experiencing difficulty with her life post-trauma, she felt real instead of frustrating. And even though everyone around her has their moments of frustration with her mutism and her random behaviors, I understand why they stick around and stick by her.
FINAL GRADE: A This gets an A for everything, but especially the reading experience. It’s one of those rare books that affected every part of me while reading. My heart was doing flips and I honestly didn’t know where Millay was going with this story, but I was along for the ride from the first page. Though it is quite long and has a slow build, enough was revealed and enough happened along the way to satisfy me. I was never bored.
Assigned reading: Everyone. Fans of Speak will enjoy it — though I felt this book was even better. Plus I didn’t have to picture Kristen Stewart as the main character the whole time, so…bonus.
Recommendations: Put it in a high school library, leave it out of a middle school library. Be aware of rape, violence, sexuality, teenage drinking, and drug use.
Have you read this book? How you usually feel about YA contemporary, romance, or problem novels?