Book Review: The Sea of Tranquility by Katja Millay

16151178I 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.

Book Review:

I started reading Sea of Tranquility by Katja Millay, I believed, last month and sync read the novel with Erika and of course, as slow as I was reading the book, as busy the Royal Polar Bear was, she finished the book way weeks from now and I just finished the book today. Barbra and Dianne, friends of mine from a bookish group, convincing me to read the book. They already knew me; I love books especially in romance, those stories with the painful process of falling in love or a tragedy – either way, as long as it is sad, painful and incinerating, I will read it. One major reason why I chose to read Sea of Tranquility is that it was read and recommended by Colleen Hoover, herself.

The book started with an excerpt, an excerpt that made me read it and continue as the story flows through my eyes and keeps on taking and accepting and reading the book. Unfortunately, it took me weeks to finish the book because of school works. And the good side was that I completely absorb every painful thought and powerful lines. And the bad side? I forgot the very important part where I asked Erika to elaborate on what happened on the ending. Sea of Tranquility is a story of Nastya, a girl where Katja Millay describes as a loner, wears complete make-up, doesn’t talk, anti-social for short and same goes with Josh. Josh is an anti-social and keeps on working for professors because of craftsmanship, he loves everything that needs to be fix or something that going to build.

“I hate my left hand. I hate to look at it. I hate it when it stutters and trembles and reminds that my identity is gone. But I look at it anyway, because it also reminds me that I’m going to find the boy who took everything from me. I’m going to kill the boy who killed me, and when I kill him, I’m going to do it with my left hand.”

I cringe. Katja really has done a great job of bringing the mysteriousness of her character. At the very first chapter of the book and as I go through, I asked a lot of questions about myself. “What happened to her?”, “Is Nastya mute?”, “Why is she covering herself with a lot of make-up?”, there are a lot of questions would come up with but I never thought of what could the title mean. All I feel while reading this book are a mixture of emotions; lost, love, fear, pain, sadness, loneliness, loathing, a little bit of joy but at the end I still feel the overflowing emotions that I wanted to cry, if I’m not on the public reading the book, probably I’m crying while reading every phrase that tainted my soul.

“The adults are even worse because they love to make their dumbass comments about how well I’m doing; how well adjusted I’ve become; how well I handle everything. As if they have any clue. The only thing I’ve learned to do well is avoid, but everyone would rather believe it’s all good. That way they can crawl back under the shelter of that rock they live under. The one they think death can’t see them.”

If fictional character were real, I will be hugging both Nastya and Josh, I could feel the longing in their thoughts – especially Josh, all the people in his life is going away, dying and for the first time there is someone who sticks with him even if it was hard at first and eventually, became comforting. And for the first time, someone is backing out with his life. It was so hard for him, it was really hard – I’m trying to put myself in Josh’s place, I don’t know if I can keep on moving on with life. It feels wrong at every turn, it was like you are not supposed to love, you are meant to hope and hurt as many times you don’t expect to be hurt. Everyone from his life, withdrew, never return. It was so sad and painful at the same time. People tend to go away but what if the people who go away, don’t go away but really dies? It so suffocating that even if the last one, wanted to get out of your life – and the worst part is, she is not really dying, maybe she was dead in inside but she is still existing and wanted to disappear on his life. IT. SO. FUCKING. HURTS.

“It’s not that I wanted to be dead, I just felt like I should be. Which is why it’s hard when everyone expects you to be grateful simply because you’re not.”

There are a lot of things that happened in this book. The self-loathing is so outrageous that I need to breathe on every sentence that I was reading and the characters were dropping on me. I was drowning at the same time suffocated and empty because the words are so deep that I can feel everything. The emotions, the feelings, everything. The novel may be slow-paced but it will drive you crazy in every chapter, there is the element of romance but it was a kind of romance you wouldn’t expect. I was trying to predict and theorize while I was reading and it turns out that I was wrong. While reading the stories and reaching the point of revelations – I don’t know what to think of any more. I wanted to hate Nastya but I couldn’t do that. I wanted to hate Josh but I couldn’t do that too. I wanted to choose who is more fucked up from the two and I couldn’t choose. And I thought, is this how things going? Two broken souls crossing paths?

“…there really isn’t a way to explain how a person you’ve seen every day of your life just isn’t anymore. Someone just hit Delete and she’s gone. I had a hard time grasping that I could come home one night and find that the person who was laughing and hugging me that morning just stopped existing. I didn’t believe it was possible. I didn’t want to believe it was possible…”

And nothing will get resolved?

Crazy this book was, dark as it seems, this novel is truly an outstanding novel. I learn a lot from this book. Sometimes you can’t lift up yourself, there is someone who is meant to lift you up and give light to your darkest days. There may be a lot of challenges, self-loathing, struggles and pain but all those feelings and emotions are part of life. Maybe you died and a greater part of yourself has been taken from you but it doesn’t mean that you lost life itself, it just means that you need to hold on tightly and let the life flow in you. You may lose yourself and identity in the process– you probably don’t know yourself anymore because a part of life is so unforgettable that you just wanted to be ruin. Don’t. There are a lot of things in life to see and to appreciate, there are a lot of things that needed to be seen by your eyes and to love. You may be ruined and lost, you may be disappearing and sad, but there is one thing that you keep on doing because you love it. Hold on to that. You may lose but you were given second chances and even if there is one remaining reason that you are still existing, don’t give up because who knows, that one thing that keeps you on moving is you are also the reason why he keeps on existing.

“Maybe one day you’ll come back. Maybe you never will and that’ll suck, but you can’t keep doing this. The blame and the self-loathing and the bullshit. I can’t watch that. It makes me hate you for hating yourself. I don’t want to lose you. But I’d rather lose you if it means you’ll be happy. I think if you come back with me today, you’ll never be okay. And I’ll never be okay if you aren’t. I need to know that there’s a way for people like us to end up okay. I need to know that there even is such a thing as okay, maybe even good, and it’s out there and we just haven’t found it yet. There’s got to be a happier ending than this, here. There’s got to be a better story. Because we deserve one. You deserve one. Even if it doesn’t end with you coming back to me.”

― Katja Millay, The Sea of Tranquility


Book Depository


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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