Length: 448 pages
Publisher: Atria Books
From the publisher:
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.
All Josh Bennett wants is to be left alone, and everyone allows it because they all know his story: each person he loved was taken from his life until at seventeen years old there was no one left. When your name is synonymous with death, people tend to give you your space.
Everyone except Nastya, a new girl in town who 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 a mystery 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.
Here’s what I thought:
I don’t read a lot of YA, but I’d heard good things about this one and I was impressed by the quality of the writing. It’s a dark story–not a lot of happy happy, joy joy going on here–but the characters are interesting and well-developed, and the plot moved along quickly.
When I first started the book, I couldn’t help but be reminded of another book I read earlier this year, Colleen Hoover’s Hopeless. Like the two main characters in that book, Nastya and Josh meet in a way that seems to be fated, becoming increasingly important to each other and helping one another to heal from emotional wounds.
Nastya is a mess, and I appreciated the fact that Millay doesn’t try to “cure” her through her relationship with a boy. Yes, Josh’s presence in her life is a positive one in many ways, but Nastya has to do the real work on her own. Josh, too, has issues that he has to get past before he can really let Nastya in.
The romantic element is important to the story, but it doesn’t go too far (unlike in Hopeless, which started to make me feel squicky after a while). I don’t like YA that presents characters who fall in love “for ever and ever” and only need each other to be happy, because, honestly, these kids are only eighteen! And while I understand that some people may find their true love as teenagers, I appreciate a more authetic presentation of young love. Nastya and Josh walk a fine line in this regard, but Josh’s relationship with Leigh and Nastya’s friendships with other boys at school kept the couple grounded in reality.
If I were to pinpoint any aspect of the story that didn’t feel as realistic, it would be the details about Nastya’s past that eventually emerge. I don’t want to spoil it, but sufficed to say that I didn’t think the explanation about what happened to her was particularly believable and the way that storyline is wrapped up felt a bit too convenient.
But that ending–wow. It was just perfect.
If you’re looking for a well-done contemporary YA which deals with some difficult subject matter, I would definitely recommend The Sea of Tranquility.
Thanks so much to NetGalley and Atria Books for providing me with a copy of this book.
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