I saw Sea of Tranquility by Katja Millay was on a number of Favorites for 2012 lists, and I grabbed it to read before the end of the year without even looking at the blurb. I began to read and immediately thought, “Shit, I’m not in the mood for another high school aged book, especially after just finishing Hopeless by Colleen Hoover, how can I read another? How can one even compare?” But by then it was already too late, Sea of Tranquility hooked me in the first few pages.
“My name is Nastya Kashnikov.
I was a piano-playing prodigy…
I was murdered two and a half years ago.
Right away, I’m like, “Huh? What happened to this girl?” This book was a bit difficult for me to read because it hit home and scared the shit out of me. You see, my 15 year old son is a guitar playing prodigy. His entire life is about playing guitar (in fact he is blowing my ears out as I type, thankfully he plays music I love, and is amazing) and he spends all of his time playing live shows since he was 10. So I kind of get it. The guitar and him are one-in-the-same. What happens when your entire life is about something you can never do again? When your lifelong dreams are crushed?
I haven’t said a word to another living person in 452 days.
Nastya hasn’t spoken to another sole in a year and a half; ever since she lost the use of her hand and couldn’t play piano. She moved in with her aunt to make a new start and go to a new high school, away from the memories of her former self, and where everyone knew her former, piano-playing persona. Because that girl was dead. Nastya reinvented herself as a russian slut, complete with a face full of makeup, tiny black clothes and spiked heels. She dresses like this to keep everyone away, to hide in plain sight.
We find out, little by little what happened to Nastya. Little hints, and clues dropped throughout. I HAD to know.
“Eventually, my body healed as much as it was going to. My mind started getting put back together, too. I think it’s just that the pieces got put back a little out of order. It seems like the more my body healed, the more fractured my mind became, and there aren’t enough wires and screws to fix the breaks in it.”
This was not a traditional romance, it’s a character driven story about survival, healing, lost dreams, and friendship. But there was romance, albeit very slow building romance, built from a strong bond of friendship between two tragic characters.
Josh Bennett lives in a bubble. A force field nobody dares cross. He sits alone at school, unapproachable. He is all about woodworking and furniture building, his true love. Everyone Josh has loved has died. At 18, he is alone in the world, with the exception of his best friend Drew and his family. Until late one night when Nastya is out for a run and gets lost. She ends up standing in Josh’s garage, watching him work. And she returns, night after night.
I wonder what it will take for her to pick up on the fact that she lives in the same world as everybody else, and in that world, people leave me the fuck alone.
But she still returns. Night after night. And sits and observes in silence. Until Josh expects her there. Until he wants her there.
“I know at that moment what he’s given me and it’s not a chair. It’s an invitation, a welcome, the knowledge that I am accepted here. He hasn’t given me a place to sit. He’s given me a place to belong.”
Slowly, they form a bond. And both of their healing begins.
“He’s kissing me. And when he does, part of me is lost. But it’s the part that’s twisted and mangled and wrong, and for just that moment, with his hands in my hair and his lips on my mouth, I can pretend that it never existed.”
“I wished that my hand would work again,” I tell him when he climbs in after me. it was my first wish and the only one that mattered.
“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.”
- Nastya’s snarky sense of humor. Her inner thoughts were hysterical! “He’s the kind of good-looking that transforms once self-respecting females into useless puddles of dumbass”
- Drew, Josh’s best friend (and his family), who drags Nastya out to parties and uses her as his shield.
- Nastya’s not caring (even before) about popularity–she had her music, now she has her pain.
- The slow build up from friendship to love.
- The amount of amazing quotes to choose from (and made it so freaking hard to pick just a few!)
- Josh calling Nastya “Sunshine”.
- The General Hospital references (I watched the show for 30 years).
- The slow reveal to the whole story had me glued to my iPad to find it all out.
- The last two words (don’t peek, it will ruin the book). OH. MY. GOD. I read the last page like 20 times.
- I didn’t have any, but some may find it a little slow.
Rating: 5 stars, 3/4 Heat
Sea of Tranquility was so well-written. It was beautiful, tragic, uplifting, funny, mysterious, devastating, breathtaking and unforgettable. In a year where so many books were similar, this one had such a unique voice. I am so glad I grabbed it before the end of the year, because it will certainly make my Best of 2012 list!
“And if my Sea of Tranquility were real, it would be this place, here, with him”
Purchase Sea of Tranquility (YA, 448 pages) at:
- My Favorite Books of 2012
- Review of Hopeless by Colleen Hoover (she refers to this book!)
- Great “New Adult” books for older teens and up