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Reading Mutiny Challenge: The Sea of Tranquility by Katja Millay

Monday, September 16, 2013

Publisher: Atria Books
Format: Kindle e-book
Rating: 5/5

After a terrible tragedy, Nastya Kashnikov decides to move two hours away from her hometown so that she might start afresh and finish high school in peace and quiet. However, this proves more than a little difficult as her life becomes entwined with orphaned Josh Bennett and his best friend, Mr Popular, Drew Leighton. As she starts to interact with the two best friends more and more, Nastya is forced to slowly get back to reality and confront her demons so that she might one day begin to start moving forward.  

Ok, I cannot write a decent synopsis for this book without giving anything away but to be honest, all you really need to know is: this book is INCREDIBLE. Some people are born storytellers and Katja Millay is most definitely one of these people. 

At the heart of this tragedy there is a love story. In fact, it is a story that has been told for time immemorial. The story of the girl who saves the boy and the boy who saves the girl because they are both so very broken. It is a very popular YA scenario and sometimes it works and makes for a good story, oftentimes it makes for a nice (we don't like that word, do we?) but cliched story. However, in the case of The Sea of Tranquility, Katja Millay took great care and such a long time layering the characters, revealing and concealing, building and destroying, that this story transcended the usual YA norm and ended up being one of the most moving pieces of writing I've read all year. This story could have easily been Crash but it wasn't because the aim wasn't about jumping to the juicy bits and skipping the who, what, why, how. In fact, there aren't any 'juicy bits' in this book (not really anyway) even though I would argue it more what I'd expect a New Adult book should be - if we need to use that label at all. In fact, in that respect, the book is very much like Nastya itself - on the surface, yes there's swearing and sexual references, the bad girl image, but once you remove the make-up there's an extremely fragile and heartbreaking story there. 

Naturally, with such a tragic and brutal act at the heart of the story, it is quite a dark and depressing story- no happy endings here. Not really anyway but there is hope. Katja Millay really puts the reader through the ringer in order to find out what actually happened to Nastya (you have to wait until near enough the end to get the full story, so it's not one for impatient readers) and the truth is definitely not a cop out or anticlimax. What happened to Nastya, and why, is sickening and heartbreaking. However, as I said, there is hope and this is represented by the lifeline that is Josh and Drew and Drew's family. This story truly shows that no one is an island, everybody needs somebody, and friends can indeed become family. As Barbra sang, "people who need people, are the luckiest in the world"! The Leighton family are a perfect example of those good people who open their doors to all the kids in their own children's friendship groups. I always admired the parents that did this because I'm sure the children that they included, be it once in a blue moon or every Sunday, will never forget their kindness. 

As I said, this is a story about "first love, last love, only love". As with the general story, Katja Millay really took time to build this relationship between Josh and Nastya. After all, they are two people who have been dealt some bloody awful cards in life, so it couldn't be rushed. It was nice to read about a love built on friendship too. Some might argue that's not necessary but I prefer to read about these types of relationships- seems more real to me. 

I'm rambling, so a quick summary of some other things I loved about this book: 
  • Nastya's obsession with names. I am a name nerd and firmly in the camp of picking names for their meaning, then their prettiness (because that counts too - obviously). All of the name meanings of the main characters were excellent choices but I won't spoil that part for you. 
  • I can't eat ice cream anymore (stupid allergies) but I thought everyone knew Nastya's way of eating ice cream was the best way? Half melted, from the edge = ice cream heaven, no?
  • Nastya's way of dealing with her tragedy was so uncomfortable but it made a big difference to have so much of an internal monologue. So many books nowadays read like scripts, so it was a nice change. 
  • Drew Leighton for best fictional friend of the year? 
  • Alternating points of view. Ever since I read Two Way Street and the Rachel Cohn/David Levithan books all those years ago, I've always loved male/female dual narrative. 
Overall, The Sea of Tranquility is most certainly one of the best books I've read all year. I hope more people read it and I look forward to whatever is next from Katja Millay. 

Oh, and as always, I had to create a playlist:


  1. I've been meaning to pick this one up for a while now. I've heard nothing but great things about it. I'm a total name nerd, too. In the first story I wrote, nearly every name is significant somehow. As for alternating POVs: I so seldom see this done well, but when it is, it's pretty darn good. I find all too often that the voices don't sound different enough and that gets confusing. Awesome that it works well in in this book! Thanks for the great review and rec! :)

    1. I agree, sometimes the voices sound too similar (usually the guy voice sounds suspiciously girly) but it really works well here. I hope you get to read it soon!

  2. I skipped actually reading this review because I saw the 5/5 but I don't want to know anything else, since I have it waiting for me as soon as I finish my library books--you're yet another person who loved it, which makes me even more exited to get to it!

    1. I avoided Goodreads before I read it too and it definitely helped. I hope you enjoy it! Well, enjoy probably isn't the correct term given the subject matter but you know what I mean...


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