Monday, November 18, 2013

The Sea of Tranquility (or what happens when you lose your heart while reading)

You know that all consuming feeling you get when you can't put a book down, because it's just that freakin' good? 
It's like finding a new boyfriend you're obsessed over, then discover how much you really--and I mean, really--like him. Then your feelings move into appreciation and swoon-worthy moments that turn friendship into love. And then, before you realize it, your life will never be the same. You can't remove the echoes of your memories created together. You can't mend your heart when it breaks into a thousand little pieces because the one you love is so perfectly flawed and beautiful.

That's what my experience was like while reading The Sea of Tranquility, by "new" author Katja Millay.

How can you not fall in love when she dishes out an opening like this:

"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."

Woah! Have you ever read an opening so compelling? As a writer and editor, I am blown away by the genius and craftsmanship of such an opening. It sucker punches you right in the gut and makes you ache for this girl and her yet unrevealed trauma. What happened to her? How did she die? Who did it? Why? Will she really find him and kill him? Will I want to cheer her on when she does (and with her left hand to boot)? An opening like this is gold. Pure gold.

The Sea of Tranquility is a Young Adult, coming of age, romance story that while is centered around the main character, Nastya/Emilia/Sunshine, it also delves deeply into the flaws and character analysis of friends Josh and Drew--and why they are the perfectly messed up kids they are as well. Millay spotlights the reality of how we all have things that have damaged us, and how many teenagers feel like outcasts, but why there is always a story behind them feeling that way. Each character's storyline is so unique and heartfelt and endearing, you just want to be a savior to each and every one of them, even though only they can truly save themselves. 

The summary one-liner on Amazon is spot on: "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."

Second chances. I admit that while reading the book, I was skeptical about whether Nastya would find hers. What Millay does beautifully is she weaves Nastya's story together slowly, so you can savor each raw, emotional piece, a little at a time--because it's dark, and hard to read her horror (what makes her want to kill that young boy). And it's not what you think. And that's what I loved. It's unexpected. Original. Raw. Heart-wrenching. Horrific. You have to wade through Nastya's grief, self-pity, despair, pain, rebirth, one paragraph at a time. One scene at a time. It's like watching a beautiful flower unfold petal by petal until you get to the core: the delicate, fragile heart of the flower that is its essence, its true core and character. And there is hope. Hope throughout. Even as she self destructs as you know she is bound to. You cannot carry that much hurt and horror inside, and not be self destructive.

But all that said, and though this is a dark book, it is also a beautiful book. As a lover of words, and how I'm constantly amazed at how the best authors are able to string them together in such a way that shoots right to the reader's core and pulls them in, I was floored by the brilliance and beauty that Millay brought to the game. I've highlighted over fifty passages on my Kindle of words that were so beautifully strung together, it's as if language was reinvented again.

I listed some of my favorites in my Goodreads review. But I wanted to list a few more that left me breathless here, so you can hear the poetry and raw, honest emotion captured in each of her carefully chosen words.

"I think I'll stay in pieces. I can shift them, rearrange, depending on the day, depending on what I need to be. I can change on a whim and be so many different girls and none of them has to be me."

"I don't have any special powers. I'm certain of that, because I've spent a lot of time lamenting my lack of them. I do have an uncanny capacity for bitterness and misdirected rage, but I don't think that counts. I feel a little mislead. I spent a crapload of time over the past couple years reading books and watching movies, and in all of them, when you die and they bring you back to life, supernatural abilities are just part of the deal. Sorry you didn't win the grand prize of eternal peace, but you're not walking away empty handed!"

"And maybe it's a mistake, because when I look at her now, I think, for just one second, that God doesn't hate me so much after all."

"So I sit in the dirt. Under the trees. In the place where he beat me."

The one thing that makes a reader love a book the most, above plot, above anything else, are the characters. If you can get a reader to become invested in the characters, to HAVE to know the outcome, the hook, what caused the tension point, and to see the character get some sort of win in the end--whether that's personal growth, the boy or girl, a HEA, whatever it may just have to be invested 100%. And that's what readers become when they read The Sea of Tranquility. That's because of Millay's genius ability to nail the YA audience and voice, while holding the adult readership as well, and while NOT underestimating her YA audience. She gives them a voice, a story to relate to, one that doesn't caricaturize them, or make them feel petty or trivial. One that acknowledges and validates the very real things teenagers face every day that make them grow up well before they ought to. Like Josh. And Nastya. It also reminds us of the beauty and hope in even the most damaged people. And how friendships and relationships can break even the hardest and highest walls down.

This book is going on my top 10 favorite books of all times list.--it was that good. I wish I could give some special books ten stars instead of just five. I hope you 're as moved as I was while reading The Sea of Tranquility. Just be warned, you will not be able to put it down once you start. It pulls you along in a well-paced cadence, but despite its intensity, its unique beauty and raw honesty makes it unforgettable and unable to set down. Draws you in to learn her secret, hope and pray for peace, and then flings you down the path of breaking into a million pieces with Nastya and her family when her moment comes and she has the biggest decisions in her life to face: to remain broken, and damaged, or to believe in her worth and stop feeling sorry for herself so that she can forgive a monster and let herself heal.

The Sea of Tranquility is an epic love story meets unforgettably horrific tragedy resulting in the biggest hurdles to overcome and the most satisfying novel ending of the year.

Find out more about this novel and Katja Millay at:

Goodreads | Facebook | Amazon | Twitter | Author Page


  1. I felt the same way about this book. ALL THE FEELS. So very very very good.

    1. I saw you gave it 5 stars on Goodread, too... Wasn't surprised with our similar writing/reading preferences. I can't wait to write a review of your book someday! =) How goes the writing?

    2. Slow but steady ...I think I will complete the first FULL draft this month ..YAY! :) Did you hear that Kat from our class just signed with her agent?? So crazy!

  2. OMG! That's awesome!!! Woo-hoo, KAT! Congrats on getting ready to finish your first draft. That's awesome. I got MAJORLY stalled while editing for the past 7 months. Picking it back up now. Know it needs a lot of work, but not sure how to restructure it just yet and don't want to lose all my work. Conundrum.