by Katja Millay
To be published by Atria Books
on June 4, 2013
Previously published by the author as an e-book in 2012.
Source: e-ARC from the publisher through NetGalley. Please see my full FTC disclosure on right sidebar.
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Summary (from Goodreads:) Full of rage and without a purpose, former pianist Nastya Kashnikov wants two things: to get through high school without anyone discovering her past and to make the boy who took everything from her pay. All 17 year-old Josh Bennett wants is to build furniture and be left alone, and everyone allows it because it’s easier to pretend he doesn’t exist. When your name is synonymous with death, everyone tends to give you space. Everyone except Nastya, a hot mess of a girl who starts showing up and won’t go away until she’s insinuated herself into every aspect of his life. The more he gets to know her, the more of a mystery she becomes. As their relationship intensifies and the unanswered questions begin to pile up, he starts to wonder if he may ever learn the secrets she’s been hiding or if he even wants to.
Note: This is a NA/YA book that includes some mature content.
My take: Sea of Tranquility is definitely one of those NA "issue books" that feature heart wrenching emotion, edgy content, and a pair of broken people who might either find love or completely self-destruct. I have mixed feelings about these kinds of books. On the positive side, they provide a deeply emotional reading experience. They often also raise awareness about important issues like rape, drug abuse, alcoholism, etc. But some of them also suffer from a serious lack of world building. All the focus is on the couple, who seem to live in a kind of timeless, placeless bubble of angst and lust. The stories often follow a familiar pattern: wide-eyed good girl meets tattooed bad boy and sparks fly. And sometimes, for me, the drama level just gets turned up too high, shifting the story from authentic to unbelievable.
Sea of Tranquility is a stand-out in the genre, though, offering enough originality of detail and authentic emotion that I really enjoyed the story. It's hard not to feel for Nastya. Without giving anything away, she's been through a lot and is just trying to hold it all together. But the character I was really moved by is Josh. He's also been through a series events less dramatic though equally heart-wrenching and - in contrast to Nastya's acting out - has a sort of resigned acceptance of his situation that I found poignant and appealingly understated. Another plus: he's not a tattooed rebel with a rap sheet. I also really liked some of the book's secondary characters, especially Drew, who could have been just an attractive jerk, but was given a great deal of backstory and depth.
But this story is mostly about Josh and Nastya. Their relationship moves slowly. Really, really, really slowly. Nastya doesn't even speak for probably the first third of the book. But given what she has gone through, that felt realistic to me and made their eventual connection that much more rewarding. Though the blurb says that Nastya "wants to make the boy who took everything from her pay," and I was kind of looking forward to reading about that, the story really didn't go in that direction. Nastya seemed to be fleeing from what happened to her -- again, completely understandable, but I'd say that plot focuses more on Nastya finally coming to terms with what she's gone through than trying to get revenge.
If you love deeply emotional, slow-burn kind of love stories, definitely try Sea of Tranquility.