Review: The Sea of Tranquillity by Katja Millay

Image from Goodreads
Image from Goodreads

Title: The Sea of Tranquillity
Author: Katja Millay
Publisher: Atria
Publication Date: 13 Nov 2012
Source: Netgalley
Rating: 4/5

Synopsis from Goodreads

I 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.


Told in dual narrative providing a deep level of understanding to this character driven story. Essentially the Sea of Tranquility is an emotional story of 2 very broken individuals recognizing the missing part in each other and being the missing piece to fill that void.

Nastya is an elective mute; from the first page there is a lurking incident overshadowing her and directing her actions. However, the full extent of the incident is not revealed until much later in the book, puzzle pieces are randomly placed within the narrative only joining to a recognizable picture when all the pieces have been picked up.

Nastya has moved in with her aunt in order to make a fresh start and move on from whatever happened. She has a considerable amount of freedom for her age as her aunt works night. I have to say that she doesn’t abuse this freedom and from the tidbits of information provided about her family life prior to the move, this freedom is a complete contrast to how her life was before.

It is also obvious that Nastya is not her real name and she is not in the slightest bit Russian,  bringing forth  the questions as to why she would chose a Russian name. She also dresses very provocatively although she is not comfortable in her clothes, it feels more like she is using this style as a form of Armour. Her personality and the way she dresses are completely contradictory. I will say that when the full extent of the incident and chain of events is revealed these points take on a whole knew meaning and understanding. It is a very clever and powerful way to use the imagery to enhance the events and Katja Millay should be commended on this brilliant piece of writing.

Nastya’s fresh start includes a new school where she is immediately drawn to Josh, who is emotionally damaged in his own way. He has lost everyone he loves making him feel jinxed and people treat him as such so he doesn’t have close relationships with many people. He distances himself in an attempt not to get close to people and therefore get hurt. Nastya and Josh are drawn to each other, filling the void they have within themselves, as they open up to each other they are able to deal with other aspects of their lives. The way in which the plot develops gives the feel that fate/destiny has stepped in to guide Nastya to Josh.

Both Nastya and Josh have wonderful internal monologues with touches of humor and self-deprecation; endearing them so much so that I sat reading while silently praying for their ‘Happily Ever After’ all the way through. The plot flow is seamless between their narrative voices.

Drew and his family take both Josh and Nastya under their family umbrella. They are overflowing with love and are completely non-judgemental. It is a wonderful acceptance for them both. Drew is an amazing friend, although self-absorbed at the start his friendship with Nastya helps him realize things about himself that he hadn’t previously considered. She makes him realize that he can be the person he wants/deserves to be without fear of condemnation from others. He is the link between Nastya and Josh. While Josh is the ‘nice’ guy, responsible and mature beyond his years because of his situation; Drew hides behind his ‘bad boy’ facade. The metaphorical walls we build to protect ourselves can also become our own personal prisons.

The narrative highlights the way people are judged on appearance. How they think or feel isn’t taken into account. Also how first impressions can be so wrong especially when judging others on appearance alone. Also how an incident can alter your attitude to a person, even though the incident may have been beyond their control they may no longer be viewed as an individual but as a product of that incident; is something that is shown in all of the main characters to different degrees.

The character development within the story is quite simply phenomenal. Imagine having to re-evaluate your entire life after losing all your hopes and dreams due to the actions of another person. Something I can relate to and struck a chord with me personally. A wonderfully emotional story that while squeezing your heart also gives a sense of hope and shows the strength of the human spirit in more ways than one.

Author: Book Angel Emma

Book List Obsessed - Alliteration Addict - Secondary School Librarian - Mother of Girls - Zumba Freak

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