The Sea of Tranquilityby Katja Millay
A School Library Journal Best Book of 2013
An ALA/YALSA Alex Award Winner
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/b>/b>/i>
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A School Library Journal Best Book of 2013
An ALA/YALSA Alex Award Winner
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.
Two and a half years after an unspeakable tragedy left her a shadow of the girl she once was, Nastya Kashnikov moves to a new town determined to keep her dark past hidden and hold everyone at a distance. But her plans only last so long before she finds herself inexplicably drawn to the one person as isolated as herself: Josh Bennett.
Josh’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. When your name is synonymous with death, everyone tends to give you your space. Everyone except Nastya who won’t go away until she’s insinuated herself into every aspect of his life. But as the undeniable pull between them intensifies, 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.
"A stunning debut. The Sea of Tranquility stole my heart, broke it, robbed me of breath, and made me ache. Read it and fall in love with Katja Millay's raw, lyrical writing."
“Equally heartbreaking and uplifting—a riveting, unforgettable read. Absolutely brilliant.”
“Everyone should read this book at some point in their lives. It was GORGEOUS and unforgettable. A must-read!!”
“I am finding it difficult to express with mere words just how much I adore this book. It touched me in a way that only a few books before it have. It left my heart aching, filled with sadness and despair, love and hope. So much hope.”
“The Sea of Tranquility reminded me that books aren't just entertaining; they're more than that. This was more than that. It caused me to feel, invaded my thoughts, my heart...it became a part of me.”
“One of the most AMAZINGLY written books I have read to date! Simply BEAUTIFUL! I was so connected to the story and it’s characters, I completely tuned out everyone and everything around me while reading. I felt like I was there and I never wanted to leave.”
“The best advice that I can give readers who are considering reading The Sea of Tranquility is BUY IT NOW! The Sea of Tranquility by Katja Millay is one of the best books of 2012. It definitely earned its spot on my MUST READS list.”
"This is the kind of story that stays with you because you can’t stop thinking about it."
"Fans of character-driven fiction will find much to admire in this deeply felt novel."
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- 5.30(w) x 8.10(h) x 1.30(d)
Read an Excerpt
The Sea of Tranquility
Fourth hour can’t come soon enough. I’m sweating already from sitting out in the sun at lunch, but there won’t be much in the way of air-conditioning in the workshop. When I walk in, I immediately feel at home, even though the space looks entirely different than it did in June. There aren’t tools and pieces of lumber on every surface. No carpet of sawdust covering the floor. No machines running. It’s the quiet that’s initially unnerving. It’s not supposed to be quiet in here, and this is the only time of year when it is.
The first couple weeks are a rehash of rules for equipment usage and safety procedures that I could recite verbatim if anybody asked. Nobody asks. Everybody knows I know them. I could teach this class if I wanted to. I throw my books down on the far corner worktable where I sit every year, at least during the time we’re expected to sit. Before I can pull the stool out from under the table, Mr. Turner calls me over.
I like Mr. Turner, but he doesn’t care whether I like him or not. He wants my respect and he has that, too. What he tells me to do, I do. He’s one of the few people who don’t mind expecting things from me. At this point, I think I’ve learned as much from Mr. Turner as I did from my dad.
Mr. Turner’s been running this program for as long as anyone can remember, years before I got here, when it wasn’t anything more than a cop-out elective. Now it’s one of the premier programs in the state. He runs it like a business wrapped around a master class in craftsmanship. In the advanced classes, our work raises the money for the materials and the equipment. We take orders and fill them, and that money gets filtered back into the program.
You don’t get into the advanced classes without going through the introductory levels first, and even that isn’t a guarantee. Mr. Turner only takes the students who live up to his expectations in terms of work ethic and ability. That’s how he keeps the upper level classes so small. You need his approval to get in, and in a school with overflowing electives around every corner, he’s still able to get away with it because he’s that good.
When I get to his desk, he asks about my summer. He’s trying to be polite but he knows me well enough that he doesn’t have to bother. I’ve been in one of his classes every year since ninth grade. He knows my shit and he knows me. All I really want to do is build stuff and be left alone and he allows me both. I answer in as few words as possible and he nods, knowing we’re done with the pretense.
“Theater department wants shelving built in their prop storage room. Can you head over there, take the measurements, plan it out, and make a list of what we need? You don’t need to be here for all this.” He picks up a stack of papers, which I assume are handouts on rules and procedures, with a measured amount of boredom and resignation. He just wants to build, too. But he also doesn’t want someone losing a finger. “Bring me what you come up with at the end of class and I’ll get you what you need. You can probably have it finished up in a week or so.”
“No problem.” I hold back a smile. The preliminary crap is the only part of this class I don’t like and I’ve just been freed from it. I get to build, even if it is just shelves. And I get to do it away from everybody else.
I scrawl my signature across the bottom of the waivers and hand them back to him. Then I grab my books in time to see a couple other kids coming in. There shouldn’t be many—probably only about a dozen or so students—in this section. I know everybody who’s come in so far, except for one person; the girl from the courtyard, the one who was watching me. She can’t possibly be in this class. She must agree, judging by the look on her face as she scans the room, taking in everything from the high ceilings down to the industrial power tools. Her eyes narrow just slightly with curiosity, but that’s all I see of her because this time she turns and catches me looking.
I watch people a lot. Normally it’s not an issue because no one really looks at me, and if they do, I’m pretty adept at looking away fast. Very fast. But damn if that girl wasn’t faster. I know she’s new here. If not, she’s made some drastic, unfortunate transformation over the summer, because I’m more than aware of most of the people on this campus, and even if I wasn’t, I’d remember the girl who comes to school looking like an undead whore. Regardless, I’m out the door about ten seconds later and I’m pretty sure they’ll have worked out her schedule before I get back.
I hole up in the theater prop room for all of fourth period, measuring and drawing up plans and material lists for the shelving they need. There’s no clock in here and I’m not ready when the bell rings. I shove the legal pad with my notes on it into my backpack and head out toward the English wing. I get to Ms. McAllister’s room and walk past everyone still milling around in the hallway, eking out every last second to socialize before the bell rings. The door is propped open, and Ms. McAllister looks up when I walk in.
“Aah, Mr. Bennett. We meet again.” I had her last year. They must have moved her up from junior to senior English.
“Polite as always. How was your summer?”
“You’re the third person who’s asked.”
“Nonanswer. Try again.”
“Still loquacious.” She smiles.
“I suppose we are both nothing if not consistent.” She stands up and turns to pick up her roster, and three stacks of papers off the top of the file cabinet behind her.
“Can you bring that desk up to the front for me?” She points at a lopsided desk in the corner of the room. I drop my things on a desk in the back and walk over to pick up the broken one to move it to the front. “Just put it there.” She motions in front of the whiteboard. “I just need something to put all of this on so I can talk.” She drops the stacks of papers onto the desk as the warning bell rings.
“You need a podium.”
“Josh, I’m lucky to have a desk with a working drawer,” she notes with forced exasperation, walking over to the open classroom door without missing a beat. “You fools better get in here before that bell rings, because I do believe in giving detention on the first day of school and I give morning detention, not afternoon.” She singsongs the last couple of words as a mass of students barrels into the room just before the tardy bell goes off.
Ms. McAllister doesn’t do bullshit. She’s not intimidated by the popular kids or the ones with the rich parents, and she doesn’t want to be your friend. Last year, she managed to convince me that there was actually something here that might be worth learning without ever once making me talk in class.
Generally, I have two types of teachers. There are the ones who ignore me completely and pretend I don’t exist and there are the ones who call me out and force attention on me because they think it’s good for me—or maybe just because it gives them some sort of control-freakish thrill to know that they can. Ms. McAllister isn’t either of those. She leaves me alone without ignoring me, so as teachers go, she’s damn near perfect.
She pulls out the doorstop just as Drew slips through the opening.
“Hey, Ms. McAllister.” He smiles and winks because he has no shame.
“Immune to your charms, Mr. Leighton.”
“Someday, we’ll recite poetry to one another.” He slides into the only empty desk, right in the front of the room.
“That we will. But the poetry unit isn’t until next semester, so you’ll have to stow your sonnets until then.” She retreats to her desk and pulls a yellow slip of paper out of the drawer and walks back to him. “Don’t be too disappointed. We do have a date tomorrow morning. Six forty-five AM. In the media center.” She winks back at him as she lays the detention slip on his desk.
Fourth hour shop class wasn’t so horrible. Mr. Turner didn’t pay much attention to me at all, which in a class of fourteen is pretty hard to do. He did check my schedule right off the bat to make sure I was in the right place and then asked me why they put me there. I shrugged. He shrugged. Then he handed it back, telling me I wouldn’t be up to speed with everyone else, but if I really wanted to stay, he could let me be an assistant or something like that. It’s obvious he doesn’t really want me participating, but I think I’ll stay. It’s a small class where I can probably be left alone, which is as much as I’m prepared to ask on day one.
I make it all the way through to fifth period before being faced with one of those inane get-to-know-you games in my suckfest of a music class—a class which I will soon be clawing my way out of by any means necessary. The teacher, Miss Jennings, a cute, twentysomething woman with a blond bob, pale skin, and hatefully perfect piano-playing hands, makes us sit in a circle. An elementary school, duck-duck-goose-style circle. This affords each of us the best possible vantage point for studying, and subsequently, dissecting one another. Oh, and getting to know each other, of course. That too.
As get-to-know you games go, this isn’t the worst I’ve endured. Everyone has to say three things about themselves and one of those things has to be a lie. Then the class tries to figure out which one is the lie. It’s kind of sad that I’m not actually going to take part in the game, because if I was going to play, it would be fairly awesome. I’m pretty sure I would hand over large quantities of cash to listen to my classmates and the adorable blond pixie teacher debate the possible veracity of each of my responses:
My name is Nastya Kashnikov.
I was a piano-playing prodigy who doesn’t belong anywhere near an Intro to Music class.
I was murdered two and a half years ago.
Instead, when they get to me, I sit stone-faced and silent. Ms. Jennings looks at me expectantly. Check your roster. She’s still looking at me. I’m looking at her. We have a weird staring thing going on between us. Check your roster. I know they told you. I’m trying to will her telepathically now, but I am sadly lacking in the superpower department.
“Would you like to share three things about yourself?” she asks as if I am simply a moron with no clue what’s going on around me.
I finally throw her a bone and shake my head as slightly as I can. No.
“Come on. Don’t be shy. Everyone’s done it so far. It’s easy. You don’t have to reveal your darkest secrets or anything,” she says lightly.
That’s a good thing, because my darkest secrets would probably give her nightmares.
“Can you at least tell everyone your name?” she finally asks, obviously not one to engage in a battle of wills. Her patience is running low and she’s covering.
Again, I shake my head. I have not broken eye contact with her, and I think it’s starting to freak her out a little bit. I kind of feel sorry for her, but she should have read her paperwork before class. All the other teachers did.
“O-kaaay.” She drags the word out and her tone changes. She’s really starting to get annoyed now, but then, so am I. I check out the dark brown roots coming through in her hair because it gives me something to focus on while her head is down, scanning what I assume is the class roster on a clipboard in front of her. “We’ll use process of elimination. You must be”—she pauses, her smile wavers just a little, and I know this is where it clicks because she’s all sorts of aware when she looks back up at me and says—“I am so sorry. You must be Nastya.”
This time I nod.
“You don’t talk.”
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Meet the Author
Katja Millay grew up in Florida and graduated with a degree in film & television production from Tisch School of the Arts at New York University. She has worked as a television producer, and a film studies and screenwriting teacher. Currently she resides in Florida with her family. The Sea of Tranquility is her first book.
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