The Sea of Tranquility - Katja Millay You can also read this review on Flying Kick-a-pow! Reviews."If we had a telescope, I could show you the Sea of Tranquility." She points up at the sky. "See? Up there on the moon. You can't really tell from here.""Is that why you have a picture of the moon in your bedroom?" At this point I'm an expert at going along with her tangents. "You noticed that?""It was the only thing on the wall. I thought you were into astronomy.""I'm not. I keep it there to remind me that it's bullshit. I thought it sounded like this beautiful, peaceful place. Like where you'd want to go when you die. Quiet and water everywhere. A place that would swallow you up and accept you no matter what. I had this whole image of it.""Doesn't sound like a bad place to end up.""It wouldn't be, if it were real. But it's not. It's not a sea at all. It's just a big, dark shadow on the moon. The whole name is a lie. Doesn't mean anything."After a violent attack leaves her scarred and disfigured, former piano prodigy Nastya Kashnikov has two simple goals––survive through high school without anyone uncovering her past, and find the boy who destroyed her and make him suffer for it.Josh Bennett has lost his whole family and lives on his own, and the only thing he loves anymore is building furniture. But when Nastya starts showing up everywhere in his life, he starts to become curious about her … and the more their relationship intensifies, the closer Josh comes to discovering Nastya's darkest secret––a secret she is desperate to hide from everyone.I went into The Sea of Tranquility with very high expectations, considering how overwhelmingly positive the reviews of it seem to be. In fact, when I found it on Goodreads just a few weeks ago, I was shocked that I hadn't heard of it before, due to all the hype. After finishing it, I have a lot of mixed feelings. It was definitely a novel that had a lot of ups and downs for me. I would say that yes, I enjoyed it over all. But there were also numerous things that just … got under my skin a bit, and ultimately I didn't love it the way a lot of other people seem to. Let's start with the length. Apparently this book is about 380 pages long, and I think it should have been more like 280. Don't get me wrong––I love a slow-building romance and a lot of character development, and so forth. But I think even with a hundred or so pages cut out, it wouldn't have taken much away from either of those things. And why? Because a lot of it was pretty repetitive. A great deal of the narration is dedicated to internal monologues––and often, we have the protagonists just thinking the same things over and over again.Nastya: I miss being a piano prodigy. My hand is messed up. I died once. I like dressing in skimpy clothes. I'm going to go for another twenty-mile run. Mmm cookies. I can't talk to anyone. Except Josh. He's cool and stuff. Did I mention my hand is messed up and that I died once?Josh: Nastya looks like a whore but I like her anyway. She is like a ray of sunshine. I am just going to call her Sunshine all the time, even in my thoughts. La di da. My parents are dead and my life sucks. Nastya is sexy and so are chairs.It was like, they both had these thought-banks that only consisted of like five things that they just kept talking about over and over again. And a lot of that could have been cut out.I also had problems with the characters. As I just illustrated, I felt that the two protagonists both had kind of one-track minds. Also, besides the chapter headings, I had trouble distinguishing their alternating voices from each other. I'm not a huge fan of switching first-person points of view, and in the case of this book I think it could have easily just been in third person or stuck to one first-person point of view. It also bothered me that practically everyone in this book was some kind of prodigy. Nastya was a piano prodigy, Josh is a furniture-building prodigy, Clay is an art prodigy, Drew is a debate prodigy, etc. Look, I love to see authors put thought into all the characters' interests, and I liked that all the characters had their individual passions. But the fact that they were all so damn good at everything just didn't feel realistic. Couldn't at least one of them have just been mediocre at their hobby?There were also just a lot of traits/moments the characters had that made me a bit (or really) uncomfortable.First, Nastya. I had a lot of problems with her, and in the end I honestly didn't even like her that much. I wanted to sympathize with her, after the horrible things she'd been through––but a lot of things about her personality really rubbed me the wrong way.I was bothered by her choice to wear really revealing clothing all the time––not because of that in itself, but because of the reason behind it and her general attitude about it. I'm all for women wearing whatever they want and not being judged for it. But I mean, Nastya is like, "Well, everyone is going to be staring at me because of my screwed-up hand anyway, so they might as well have my boobs to look at as well!" Which leaves me a bit like, "… Huh?" I'm sorry, but if you were self-conscious about people seeing your hand, wouldn't you not try really hard to draw attention to yourself? And look, I'm not saying that a disfigured hand makes you any less beautiful. It just seemed like kind of flawed logic in accordance with her don't-look-at-me attitude. But I think what bothered me more than that is that she constantly puts herself down for the way she dresses. Like, she's constantly thinking to herself, "I look slutty, I look like a whore." And like I said, I think women should dress however they want. But on the other hand, I don't think a woman should dress in a way that makes her feel uncomfortable. And on top of that, she then acted like it was okay when guys were sleazy towards her. She'd basically be like, "Well, I dress like a slut, so I was asking for it."Ummm no. It doesn't matter what you're wearing. You don't put up with guys saying disgusting things about you. It's your life, it's your image, it's your body, and no one has a right to spread rumors about you or try to touch you without your consent. *Steps off soapbox … for now*It also concerned me that Nastya barely eats anything and has a grueling run every day, and this was passed off as being some sort of cute, quirky thing. It would be like:Josh: What have you eaten today?Nastya: Two cookies. And then I ran for three hours.Josh: Hahaha you adorable thing, you.Uhh, no. I mean, not only did Nastya's whole running thing seem really obsessive, but eating nothing but candy/cookies (which, of course, give you hardly any nutrition at all) plus over-exerting yourself every single day is super dangerous for your health. So, no. That's not cute. That is scary and a serious problem. So … Josh. He was a slightly better character for me, but I still wasn't that crazy about him. He was a nice guy most of the time, but then he just had some super asshole moments. For example, there's a point near the beginning where his friend Drew drops off a very drunk Nastya at his house. She spends all night puking her guts out, and the next day she has a mega hangover. Nice-guy Josh holds back her hair while she pukes and all that. And then the next day when she's super hungover, he's like, "Oh hey I'll get you some water." He then proceeds to pour her some vodka––yes, vodka––and hand it to her, which she promptly drinks and throws up, because––oh right, IT'S FRICKING VODKA. And then Josh is like, "Whoa that was a joke, I didn't think you'd actually drink it."Who fucking does that?! Seriously, just … WHAT? I mean, a) if he didn't think she'd fall for that "joke"––if you could even call it that––then why would he even do it in the first place, and b) why on earth would you do that to a girl who had spent all night drunk and vomiting, especially when you don't even know her that well? There was also the thing with Leigh, which I thought was pretty dumb and unnecessary. Basically, Josh is interested in Nastya, but then he has this friend named Leigh who is just his designated "fuck buddy" and they just use each other for sex all the time. And I guess I would have been a little bit more okay with this had Leigh actually seemed like a thought-out character. But as it was, she was just kind of a prop to cause unnecessary tension. I think she maybe said one thing in the entire book.Josh also ventured into "creepy overly-protective guy" mode a lot of the time. Before he and Nastya even get together, he's weirdly protective of her. Like another guy just talks to her or says something about her, and he flies into a mental rage like, "HOW DARE ANYONE BUT ME TALK TO/ABOUT HER." And even when they do get together … like, Drew and Nastya will be sitting around joking about having sex with each other (when Josh knows very well that it's all a joke and that Nastya is not interested in Drew at all) but he'll still get all furious and jealous over it. It just seemed really silly to me, and kind of a warning sign of a not-so-healthy relationship.The "Sunshine" nickname he gave to Nastya also bugged me. Pet names in general tend to annoy me because I find them kind of condescending. But it was also like, he called her Sunshine all the freaking time––even when he was just thinking. It was bad enough when every time he talked to her he ended every sentence with "Sunshine." But he'd also narrate like, "Sunshine walks into class. Sunshine sits down next to me." Just … ugh. It got kind of nauseating. And then we have Drew. At first, I didn't like him and he seemed like a typical asshole character. Then … I don't know. He gradually grew on me, maybe just because he was funny. And despite him always making sex jokes about Nastya, he actually respected her boundaries and whatnot and they could just like, talk to each other. And I thought that was cool and that he actually seemed like a pretty sweet guy. Buuut then he lost a lot of points at the very end of the book. So, he and Josh find out about the guy who beat Nastya to death (like, she literally died for a minute). And then he says:"I just don't get it. Gorgeous girl, alone, why doesn't he rape her? Why does he just beat the shit out of her and leave her there. It just doesn't make sense to me."Wait … what?So, you're telling me … you just found out your friend was brutally beaten to the point where she literally died and was scarred and disfigured for life, and your first thought is, "Hey when he was beating the absolute living shit out of her, why didn't he also rape her? I mean, she's so pretty!"I just … I don't even know what to say. But like I said, he lost a lot of points there. If it hadn't been for that one line, he would have probably been my favorite character. Anyway, I don't want to make it sound like I hated this book, because I actually enjoyed reading it most of the time. Obviously, I had some major issues with it. But it had its strengths as well.I thought it was well-written. As I said, it was often super repetitive. But the style of the writing itself was good, almost poetic. Even if nothing much was going on in the story, I was still engaged in the words themselves. There was a lot of very vivid imagery, which was especially powerful at the most significant moments of the story. I found the dialogue to be especially well-done. Sometimes it was melodramatic, but I thought most of the time it was realistic. Whenever there was dialogue, that was when I found myself the most invested in the story. The exchanges between the characters usually felt natural, and there was often a good balance between the comedy and the drama. I also was relieved that this wasn't a typical insta-love story. When I picked it up, my fear was that I was going to be reading the typical "girl meets boy" romance book, where two sad people meet each other and just get together right away and then everything is rainbows and unicorns and their lives are all better. So, I was glad that it didn't go down that route. The relationship develops very slowly, and even when Josh and Nastya are together, there is still a lot of complications and in the end it wasn't totally perfect, which felt more believable to me than with a lot of other romance books.Ultimately, things didn't turn out quite like I expected. I had no idea how the story was supposed to end. But I really loved the ending. When I got to the last couple of lines, I couldn't help but smile. And I guess it was pretty cheesy and maybe a little beyond the realm of believability, but I thought it was really sweet nonetheless. And in the end, despite a lot of the issues I had with the execution of the story, I thought it did a good job getting across its message––that even after a horrible tragedy, there are people who will help you heal, and that there are always second chances.