Published by Atria Books on November 13, 2012
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.
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.