It amazes me how people are so afraid of what can happen in the dark, but they don't give a second thought about their safety during the day, as if the sun offers some sort of ultimate protection from all the evil in the world. It doesn't. All it does it whisper to you, lulling you with its warmth before it shoves you facedown into the dirt. Daylight won't protect you from anything. Bad things happen all the time; they don't wait until after dinner.
I received a NetGalley of this book back in November 2012 or so, and then promptly forgot about it. More than one blogger has raved about the novel to me, however, so I recently found it on my Kindle to read it - and I'm so glad I did.
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.
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.
The first thing you need to know about this book is that instead of the characters' histories being revealed up front, pieces are parceled out throughout the story, especially info regarding the past "life" of Nastya (pronounced Nah-STEE-ya). With a name like Nastya Kashnikov, everyone assume she's Russian - but she's not, and she lives with her aunt who has a different last name from her. It's fitting that she meets and befriends Josh Bennett, as they're both outsiders who've had terrible things happen to them; they're attracted to each other almost without even realizing it. Josh wants to know more about her past but she's reluctant, and he's too polite to just demand to know.
The writing in this book was fantastic - it may be the most well-written YA book that I've read recently. From the very beginning, the opening paragraph draws you in:
I hate my left hand. I hate to look at it. I hate it when it stutters and trembles and reminds me that my identity is gone. But I look at it anyway, because it also reminds me that I'm going to find the boy who took everything from me. I'm going to kill the boy who killed me, and when I kill him, I'm going to do it with my left hand.
The chapters are written from alternating POV, one from Nastya and one from Josh, usually. In one of Nastya's chapters, the author describes what Nastya feels like when going to support group:
I got to hear about rapes and gunshot wounds and hate crimes, people who knew their attackers, people who didn't, people whose assailants were punished and those who weren't. There isn't any comfort in it. If eavesdropping on someone else's nightmares is supposed to make me feel better, I'd rather stay feeling like shit. I don't think telling them about my horror story would do any good. And besides, I'm not even supposed to have a story to tell.
So that's what it was like every week. I'd sit in a circle and a bunch of people who'd been through as much shit as I had would look at me like I snuck into the club without paying the cover. And I'd feel like screaming and telling them I had paid it the same as everyone else in the room, I just didn't feel like waving around my receipt.It's really hard to write a review of this novel without giving away some of the secrets in it that aren't revealed until the end, so I'll just stick to the basics. Josh's best friend Drew starts hitting on Nastya almost as soon as she meets him in school, but soon realizes she's better to have as a friend. Josh gradually falls in love with Nastya, and she him, even though she knows everything about his past - his mom and sister died in a car accident and his father died from a heart attack a few years after that, so he's left with his grandfather, who just got put in a home.
I liked that this book was more real than other YA novels I have read. There's more than just character stereotypes here: both Josh and Nastya are severely flawed people, although they both have reason to be, and Nastya has bigger problems than the normal female teenager "Does he like me?" mantra that is sometimes prevalent in YA books. Josh has a "friends with benefits" relationship with a college girl named Leigh, as well, who is a few years older than him, and doesn't try to hide that from Nastya, which is something that most books might have hesitated to include, though in my opinion that just makes him a teenage boy trying to feel normal again.
The Sea of Tranquility is a book that anyone would like, and that everyone should read.
4.5 stars out of 5.
*Disclosure: I received an e-copy of this book for reviewing purposes. The opinions expressed here, however, are my own.