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.Review
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. [summary from Goodreads]
This is one of those unusual circumstances where I definitely remember loving the book as I was reading it--going so far as to plan to myself that I would give it 5 stars--but, upon reflection months later, I can't seem to recall a single element of this story that had transfixed me so. Peculiar, isn't it? I didn't even remember the main characters' names, their conflict, or the plot. This put me in a bit of a difficult position. How could I possibly rate a book highly if it left so little of an impression on me? For my other 5-star books, I can quote quotes and allude to characters' quirks even outside of my reading life. Where, then, should THE SEA OF TRANQUILITY fall?
Despite not even remembering the characters' names, I think that what got to me most while reading this book was how thoroughly Millay's prose swept me up into Nastya and and Josh's love story. Millay's writing perfectly reflects the emotional responses she wishes to wring from readers: the frustratingly languid slow burn of two messed-up people learning to open themselves up to each other. In that way, then, THE SEA OF TRANQUILITY's prose is a more accurate depiction of real-life love than most love stories we read. There is a degree of, shall we say, "life editing" that goes on when writing a story. (No one wants to read about all the meals your character ate or the number of times he/she went to the bathroom, after all.) While this is a perfectly legitimate and understandable narrative practice, it makes it all too easy for us readers to (consciously) forget that storytelling is life edited down to its enticing and relevant bits.
I mean, I get it. I read stories too because I love fiction and want to escape reality. But every once in a while I love the book that makes me aware of the differences between narrating fiction and narrating life, the book that challenges pacing conventions while still triggering a positive emotional response from me. Intriguingly enough, it is this awareness that makes that particular story all the more poignant to me. This year, THE SEA OF TRANQUILITY was that book. And while I don't anticipate rereading it--some stories are like that, you know: you don't feel the necessity of reading them again--I certainly don't regret the (considerable amount of) time I spent with Nastya and Josh.
(This review would've been drastically different had I written it the day after I finished the book. Or am I trying to justify the horrendous fact that I wrote a review six months late?? Hehe.)
Cover discussion: My feelings toward this cover are mixed. It definitely lures you in with the guarantee of romance. On the other hand, beyond the romance aspect, I'm not sure it has any connection to this book in particular--like, this cover could be one for any of the many romances published every year.
Atria / Nov. 13, 2012 / Paperback (reprint) / 450pp. / $15.00
e-galley provided by the publisher and NetGalley.