Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Booktalk: The Sea of Tranquility by Katja Millay

Title: The Sea of Tranquility
Author: Katja Millay
Genre: New Adult, Contemporary

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.

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.
Yiiikes, this post brings back a lot of memories! Chantelle (my former coblogger) and I first wrote it probably midway through 2013. That's pretty much two years ago! Well, in honour of Contemporary Conversations, I'm digging this post back up.

SPOILERS FOR THE SEA OF TRANQUILITY. They'll be hidden under the spoiler tag, though, so you're safe for anything that's not under the tag.

Basically, Chantelle and I will be talking about some of the discussion questions provided in the back of SoT, as well as discuss random aspects of the book. It's actually transcribed from an actual conversation that Chantelle and I had (and recorded), so that's why it reads like a conversation. The transcriber's notes are from me haha

Click me to read spoilers

Chantelle: I have to say, that first passage was epic. The one about the hand.

Nara: When I kill him, I'm going to do it with my left hand?

C: YES. SO EPIC. She sounds so completely badass, even though it's still a contemporary and so relatable.

N: Just all of those little excerpts- those were epic.Okay so what are the clues that Nastya's real name isn't Nastya? Did you pick up on them as you were reading?

C: I didn't pick it up in the beginning at all

N: I didn't either. I mean, like, I noticed the Milly thing with the dad- like what the hell? Why is Milly a nickname for Nastya? But I didn't really notice that that wasn't really her name.

C: But the second time I read it, it was SO OBVIOUS! It was just everywhere! Like, name three facts about yourself?

N: Yeah, that one! THE LIE WAS THE NAME, NOT THE MURDER THING. It's actually really clever, because you think that the one about her being murdered is the lie, but she actually thinks that's true. Also, Josh notices that Nastya doesn't seem to be the right name for her 

C: And then when her chair's perfect because instead of her name or whatever, it's got a sun there.

N: And then the only time Josh says Nastya, she was all "it doesn't seem right coming out of his mouth"

C: It was after one of their fights or something, I'm pretty sure. Okay, next question: Nastya decides to return to school. Considering how antisocial she is, why do you think she makes this choice?

N: To kind of prove to herself that she's not actually dead. To prove to herself that it's not the end?

C: In the beginning I thought it was just to kind of keep her dad happy, sort of thing. But yours is much more deep.

N: So deep and beautiful :') lol.

C: In hindsight, it seems more valid haha. But yeah, first time, definitely thought going to school because that's just what a teenager does. Even if she's antisocial, school is like a given.

N: Okay, so what do you think about her hand? In what ways did the injury affect her?

C: I guess the hand is like a physical representation of her being broken.

N: Yeah, sure. Sounds good.

C: Smashed that haha.  And also because you use your hands for everything, they're essential.

N: And  also I guess because she defined herself by her ability to play the piano. And so when she loses that ability, she's basically lost her identity.

C: But it facilitated a lot of the events with Josh, which was pretty cool. Like when she gets hit on her hand. I like how most of the times we realise she drops stuff, it's from Josh's point of view.

N: Like when she was picking up the nails, and suddenly they're all on the floor!

C: Oh my god! And when she's holding the pennies in the fountain and she nearly drops them and his hand's there!!! SO MANY METAPHORICAL RESONANCES. Oh my goodness. Sums up their relationship in a paragraph. It's like, you got her. You got her, Josh, you got her. Okay, so Nastya doesn't want to be dead, but feels like she should be? Why do you think she feels this way?

N: I guess because the Brighton Piano Girl is dead. And so she feels like she's replaced the Brighton Piano Girl and she's all like I shouldn't live, because she feels like a shadow of that girl. I think she says something like that in the book.

C: Yeah I guess because everything she's worked towards, all her dreams, all her childhood was completely dead. Everything her family knew her for, everything her whole community knew her for was gone. So she didn't really have anything to live for anymore. Do you reckon it's valid?

N: I don't know.

C: I guess if you've spent your whole life doing one thing, and then it's taken away from you...

N: You'd obviously feel really angry. And she is really angry.

C: It wasn't even her fault! The guy just mistook her for someone else.

N: I was just like, you bastard... but you know how you get to see things from his point of view as well later, I mean, he's kind of a victim as well. Ish. Like because he has a mental illness or whatever, so it's not completely his fault, I guess.

C: Oh, I don't know about that.

N: Okay, I guess it was his fault.

C: I don't know if he necessarily had a mental illness. I think they were just pleading that for the case. So you don't actually know if he has one. I guess you're slightly sympathetic towards him though, because he was in a bad place. His brother had just suicided or something. (Transcriber's note: pretty sure suicided isn't a word lol)

N: Yeah, because the Russian girl just broke up with him. By the way, do particular people actually look Russian though? Can you tell, that person looks Russian? Because I just kinda go, that person looks Eastern European.

C: Sort of. They have petite features I think....THEY'RE CARRYING VODKA. That's how you know!

N: Or a guy wearing a duster lol.

C: Leather duster and low ponytail hahaha (Transcriber's Note: For those who don't get it, this is a reference to Dimitri from Vampire Academy)

N: Alright, next question, did you ever suspect that Drew and Nastya's friendship would turn into something more? NO.


N: NO!

C: At the beginning! Because he's hot! Hot guys always become a love interest!

N: lol. I mean, after they're friends though.

C: Oh right. Then no, once Josh Bennett's properly comes into the picture, then no.

N: Yeah, I guess when Nastya first sees him in the beginning with Sarah. But that doesn't count!

C: ...

N: Okay, fine it does count. BUT ONLY FOR THAT CHAPTER. Oh yeah, and how would you describe their friendship?

C: Platonic? lol.

N: haha yeah. It's a friendship. lol.

C: Next, how do you feel about the alternating points of view?

N: One point of view would have been crap. Wait, no, it wouldn't be crap, because the writing is awesome, but it wouldn't have been as good as it was.

C: Alternating point of view ordinarily isn't what makes the book, but just...Josh's point of view is done so well!

N: Nastya's was amazing as well.

C: You can tell that they're different people from the voice, and you can just tell that they complement each other so well! They needed each other. Also #Josh. Just #Josh.

N: You know that line when he's like to Drew "because she's mine and I don't want you touching her"? I was like YES. THIS IS THE BEST.

C: *squeals* (Transcriber's note: lol) Also just that bit when she was like, "he's right, if I had gone to the shop, I would have felt abandoned and never come back". They just had the cutest relationship! They were so domestic! Work with each other, go shopping together, sleep in the same bed but not do anything. It was just AMAAZING! I just want to cry. It was the best relationship ever. It was just so cute.

N: And oh my god, this chapter: "I'm not sure how long we sit in Josh's truck, holding hands, surrounded by darkness and unspoken regrets. But it's long enough to know that there are no stories or secrets in the world worth holding onto more than his hand." Next question *reads*. ARE YOU SERIOUS? What does the future hold for Josh and Nastya? That's annoying. I'm not answering this. I don't want to ruin the perfection of that ending.

C: Okay let's move on to general talk. What did you think of Nastya?

N: She was like....really.... angtsy.

C: She was really intense. And she was really interesting in that respect.

N: And because she doesn't reveal what happened to her- that was like a driving force for the novel.

C: I love the complexity. Normally you don't read about characters who dress all slutty, but then you see it and you see how genuine she is- like the reasons between her choices. And that's pretty great. Random, but I love Drew when he's like "hey, Nastypants!" Oh man, that was the best. What do you think about her obsession with names?

N: I don't know.

C: I honestly thought it was weird. Like going through newspapers and stuff. I guess it was unique, though.

N: There's this line.
Because it's good when you find one that does mean something. Makes all the empty ones worthwhile.
C: Oh my god! That's JOSH! When Josh is actually her salvation!!!

N: Oh wow. That is clever. That is very clever.

C: All right. And Josh?

N: He's awesome.

C: Book boyfriend material. Right there. Everyone should go read it. He's amazing. HE COULD BUILD ALL YOUR SHELVES NARA. He could build all your shelves. (Transcriber's note: background info- Nara moved house recently (by recently this means recent at the time of the conversation i.e. 2013) and her dad keeps making her help him build shelves. From scratch. She definitely wishes she had a Josh Bennett)

N: I just love how he understands what Nastya needs. He never pushes her for more.

C: I love their dynamics. I love how it was slow. A lot of the things, they didn't have to say to each other. It was just in the presence of being around each other. I think they brought out the best in each other. Yeah, that's a bit cliched.... What did you think of the ending?

N: I liked it! It was coming though, and it was a bit cliched.

C: Um, I actually didn't know it was coming lol

N: Oh really? But it's obvious he's going to ask her. After all that stuff with his grandpa.

C: But second time reading, when she first enters the garage and she's like "I recognise this place", I was like WAIT A SECOND. SHE'S NOT JUST SAYING THAT! She's actually seen it before! But anyway, what did you think of the ending?

N: I think it was good to end it there. And not go on to show them married or something, that would have been freaking annoying.

C: I felt a bit depressed after finishing the book though.

N: Oh, you don't get to find out what happens to Aiden. That was a bit annoying.

C: Also, she comes back after disappearing, and she's not really better. I mean, it was a short time period so obviously she's not going to be better, but I wanted to see her better. I like knowing my characters are going to be okay.

N: But the chapter title changed to Emilia. So you know she's going to be okay.

C: Yeah, you do. But it just felt a bit incomplete.

N: It was a good ending though. If Millay had tried to show her better, I don't think it would have worked.

C: Yeah, it would have been too cliched.

N: If she had included something like "I picked up my little girl with blue eyes" or something I would have been like DIE.

C: "She made her first shelf" haha. But I didn't really feel happy after the ending.

N: I don't know if you were supposed to feel happy. I think you were supposed to feel satisfied.

C: If anyone doesn't like this book, they should leave now and never come back.

N: lol, we're just kidding. You can stay. But we will give you a stern talking to haha.

Well, if you couldn't read any of that because you haven't read the book: mate, what are you doing with your life?? Go read the book. It's amazing.