Review: The Sea of Tranquility by Katja Millay

June 17, 2013 2 - 2.5 Stars, Abuse, Contemporary Romance, Disappointing, Dual POV, Horrible Heroines, Katja Millay, Male POV 6 ★★

The Sea of Tranquility by Katja Millay
Published by Atria Books on November 13, 2012
Genres: Drama
Pages: 448
Format: eARC
Source: Publisher
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.

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 your 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.

The Sea of Tranquility is a slow-building, character-driven romance about a lonely boy, an emotionally fragile girl, and the miracle of second chances.
I kept waiting and waiting to like The Sea of Tranquility.  It has one of the highest ratings on Goodreads I’ve come across, with thousands of reviews, along with an overall 5-star rating on Amazon.  But it never happened.  I slogged through because of all the praise, but I was ultimately disappointed.

The main source of my disappointment was one of the two main characters/narrators, Nastya.  Throughout the book, she references a horrible trauma without providing details.  This trauma led her to stop speaking, turn her back on her family, dress like a “whore” (her words), and generally behave in an insufferably self-pitying matter.  When the nature of the trauma is finally revealed at the very end of this too-long book, my reaction was, “That was it?”  Don’t get me wrong; it was bad.  Very bad.  But Nastya’s own narration and behavior led me to believe that she endured suffering that was beyond comprehension.  And…it just wasn’t.  I think of people like those women kidnapped and held captive for more than a decade in Ohio, or people who survive accidents with horrific physical injuries.  Short of death, what could be worse?  Nastya can’t see beyond her own trauma to appreciate everything she DOES have, and it made it impossible for me to like her or sympathize with her.

An unlikable main character might be OK if her behavior made sense.  Nastya’s lack of speech is presented as the focal point of the book and as evidence of her suffering.  But one day, she suddenly decides to start talking to a character, even as she allows everyone else to think she’s mute.  Her lack of speech seemed to me like nothing more than a means to garner attention and to punish the people who care about her.  She tells us why she stopped speaking, but it didn’t make a lot of sense.

Josh, the other narrator, suffered equally, but differently, than Nastya.  His story, even though it was overshadowed by Nastya’s, was the only thing that made this overly long story somewhat tolerable.

Note – I received an ARC from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Review posted at Goodreads.


6 Responses to “Review: The Sea of Tranquility by Katja Millay”

  1. Taylor McBroom

    This is the first review I’ve seen that’s at all negative, so I’m sorry you didn’t like it! It’s definitely one that I want to try to read, but I like knowing that if I don’t like it I’m not the only one! 🙂 Great explanation for why you weren’t a fan!

    -Taylor @ Reading is the Thing

  2. Kristen Williams

    I’ve not ever had a desire to read this one. I love the title but tend to steer clear of anything with trauma. From your review, and since we typically have similar taste in books I think I’ll leave this one off my TBR list.

  3. Lectus Read

    I loved this book! I understood from the beginning that she was that way because she couldn’t play anymore. I just wanted to know what actually happened and why. I think that if you grow up playing the piano, and then, because a stupid accident you and you can’t play anymore… well, that would be pretty traumatic. Especially that she was a teenager and had her life already planned out as a pianist.

    The only part I didn’t like was her reaction after being with Josh. I really didn’t see that stupidity necessary but… we all have different views 🙂

    Sorry you didn’t enjoy it! another one will come along that will blow your mind and I’ll be like “what? is she crazy? that book sucks!” 🙂

  4. Nicole Hewitt

    Sorry you weren’t a fan. I haven’t read this one yet, but I know how it feels when a book is rated incredibly highly by tons of people and you just feel “meh” about it. I guess we can’t all agree about everything, right?

    Nicole @ Feed Your Fiction Addiction

  5. Book Blather

    I actually really enjoyed this one, not as much as books like ‘Pushing the Limits’ but enough that I plan to replace my audiobook with a paper copy some day soon. I get the points you’re making but they didn’t affect me to the same degree I guess and to be honest I was relieved that her suffering stopped where did re her backstory. I would have liked to have seen more of Josh in the second half of the book when the focus seemed to switch almost entirely to Nastya – it was like the author was saying “look he’s fallen in love, he’s fixed!” and only Nastya could need something more to help her heal.

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