The Sea of Tranquility - review
Title: The Sea Of Tranquility
Author: Katja Millay
Publisher: Atria Books
Source: Purchased from Kindle Store
Buy it: Here
Nastya has just started school again, two years after a horrific attack that left her hand shattered and much more besides. Nastya is an elective mute following her trauma and all she wants is to be left alone, and get through high school without anyone finding out about her past.
Josh Bennett lives alone following the deaths of his parents and siblings, and cares for his elderly, ill grandfather after becoming emancipated. He glides through high school in a lonely bubble only the most popular boy in the school can seem to enter. He spends most of his time in the carpentry department, so at home there that he is almost part of the furniture himself.
Nastya and Josh's worlds are about to merge as they find solace, silence and understanding in each others company, and perhaps, maybe, second chances.
The Sea of Tranquility was one of the freshest breaths of air in my reading pile for quite a while. Recommended by Christina in this interview, I saw it in the book shop before Christmas and just had to pick it up. "Heart-breakingly beautiful" is so true.
Gorgeous writing that reflects it's characters so brilliantly introduces a narrative that is something of a gentle siren's song. Not bold or action packed, the words lure you so prettily towards the final pages you barely notice you're on the edge of falling apart, until you do. Although events are slow-building and many are simply aspects of "normal life", they have such a compelling effect. It is not often you meet characters for whom you feel elation at seeing them sit down to Sunday dinner. And, it is in the characters that the true beauty of The Sea Of Tranquility lies.
With a silent protagonist, you may wonder how well a story can be progressed. Katja Millay puts a lot of focus on describing Nastya's appearance and facial expressions, helping to convey her emotions to other characters she interacts with in the novel. And for the reader, we have Nastya's first person POV. I loved seeing how the emotions we, as the reader, knew she was feeling were transferred awkwardly to others in her physical world.
For a while in the novel, I wasn't sure whether I actually like Nastya. She seemed a bit selfish and judgmental, but these are all, of course, products of her past. Over the course of the book Nastya changes; softens, opens up and lets herself feel. It is in these moments her silence actually had it's greatest effect, as you realise just how much Nastya is holding back.
The second protagonist, Josh, was lovely, but I did find him to be a little too good to be true at times! (Honestly, the man has the patience of a Saint!) That aside, I found his interaction with Nastya tempered and endearing. They complimented each other wonderfully in joint solitude.
However, it is Josh's best friend Drew that gives this story a much needed streak of life. I think it's a shame he doesn't get his own POV later in the book... He is a complex character seemingly pulled in many directions, trying to uphold many reputations all at once; the player, the high school hero, the family guy, the best friend, the debate superstar. A lot of times, these conflicts see him crash and burn, but he jumps right up again and attacks the next challenge - his momentum something our main protagonists lack, owing to their inner turmoils.
As I mentioned before, this book creeps up on you emotionally. Tears were streaming down my face as I reached this book's conclusion - in relief, in happiness, in horror, in loss and in hope. I never knew I was so deeply invested in The Sea of Tranquility's characters until I was faced with not reading about them any more.
Beautifully written, affecting, gentle, quietly brilliant and emotional - for me, The Sea of Tranquility is just about as perfect as young adult fiction gets. I could read this books all over again right away. I missed every character as soon as the last page was turned and I'm sure I will be revisiting this book time and time again.
Emma is a designer living in Bristol, UK. A self-confessed stationery addict, book lover and TV sci-fi geek, she enjoys sketching zombie-eyed women and finding her next source of inspiration in the pages on the bookshelf.