Book Review: The Sea of Tranquility by Katja Millay

Synopsis: 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.

Pages: 448

Rating: 10/10

The long and short of it: Don't let the possibly misleading title put you off, because this is a stunning book about lost and broken souls relearning how to love again. A definite new favourite!
The Sea of Tranquility

It's not often you come across a book quite like TSoT. For a number of reasons. One of them being that the title itself belies what is inside. If you were looking for a scifi-y, supernatural-esque YA novel... well this is distinctly not it.

There are really many things that this book is not but one thing it is, is a book that hooks into your heartstrings and hangs around playing a melancholy but hopeful theme long after you've put it down.

TSoT is a story told from two alternating points of view: Nastya and Josh. Nastya is the new girl in school, while Josh is the brooding outsider. That description does these two characters no justice whatsoever though.

From the outset, Nastya is like a closed book despite being written in a first person voice. She is stand-offish in her own mind let alone in person. Coupled with her provocative style of dress, you'd be forgiven for giving her a wide berth if you ever saw her in the street! From the opening chapter you get thrown head first into murky waters which leave you with absolutely no bearings, although you know something bad has happened. What that bad thing is, you can only speculate as, through most of the story, Nastya only drops little hints as to what exactly brought her to be how she is now - mute.

And the fact that she is mute only becomes apparently partway into the book!

Josh, on the other hand, initially comes across as one of those people who think themselves above everybody else, who likes to exude disinterest. Cynical, loner, sullen... you know the type. It becomes obvious that Josh likes to create the illusion of that guy, while actually Josh is something quite different. Josh has an innate sweetness tempered by loss and loneliness. There were several moments where I just wanted to give Josh a bear hug.

The character development of both of these protagonists is beautifully done. Nastya's mutism giving way to speaking again, while Josh learns to trust someone else with his heart after it has been battered time and again by death. The struggle they both go through to realise that neither of them could be fixed or fix each other... character development at its finest!

I have to admit though that neither of the protagonists are my favourite. Even if Josh is rather dreamy...
oops sorry, got distracted there. Umm... anyway. My favourite character has to be Drew, Josh's best friend. Drew is a out-and-out jock with a heart made of solid gold. He flirts outrageously with Nastya, making for many humourous moments. For Josh, he is quite simply family. Nothing Josh could ever do would cause Drew to leave, and Drew's own family provides Josh with a surrogate family whether he likes it or not.

While Drew often provides the comic relief, he is a rock for both Josh and Nastya. And it is completely possible that I might love him too.

Aside from the wonderful characters, the writing in general is stunning. The dialogue is perfectly pitched, witty and snappy, or heartfelt, or heart-wrenching.
It's my fault. I never should have thought it was okay to love her.
The protagonists' voices were distinct, leaving no doubt as to who was telling the story. The slow burn of the relationship between Josh and Nastya is perfectly paced too. Nothing felt too slow or too rushed. It felt completely right that they went at the pace they went. In fact, when they did rush into things, I instantly knew it was too soon.

The story does deal with some tough stuff, but nothing ever felt heavy handed or that there should be some moral to be taken away from it. But at the same time, it is not handled in a blasé way.
They tell you it's random to make you feel blameless. But all I hear them telling me is I have no control, and if I have no control, then I'm powerless. I would have preferred being blamed.
I sometimes feel that stories that deal with the fallout of attacks can become clichéd but I can safely say that there is nothing cliché about TSoT. With TSoT, the trickle of information about the event keeps you guessing right up until it is revealed. I personally had a few different theories at various points. It felt like a murder mystery in a way. I loved that about this book!

The hype this book has been getting is fully justified. I could probably chat about it all night... but I won't. I am very excited to see more from Katja Millay.

I'd love to hear what you thought of TSoT below in the comments. It is definitely a new favourite of mine and I think I'm going to recommend it to anyone who'll listen!

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