Hi! My name is Anna, "You'd really like me if you got to know me. I've known me for years and I love me."
Word count: about 130 000
Rating: One sentence I didn’t like
For the first time in my life have I stumbled upon a book which I loved LITERALLY from the first to the last sentence. It’s not even an exaggeration, makes me feel guilty about giving other works of fiction *****.
I've even read the acknowledgements. Normally I just skim them, but in that case I decided to take a look and... ended up reading the whole thing. THAT's how good the book was.
First things first. What that book is NOT:
- Fast paced action
- Typical romance (if you’re looking for cheesiness or explicit sex scenes; instant love; fate/magic connecting characters; swoony love-dovey action– go somewhere else)
- Perfect fairytale (the way the story unfolds is not a splitting vision of perfection where everybody shits rainbows at the end and is liable to bursting into song at any moment)
- Simplicity (black and white morality; or people that have ONE personality trait that is blown out of proportion so much, they seem demented, the same point isn’t hammered in over and over again)
I’m not even sure if calling that book a ‘romance’ is appropriate, despite the fact that it is the only book I’ve EVER read that made me think ‘yes, that is what love looks like, how it comes to be, how it plays out in the real life’. If I had to describe that book with one word, it would be REAL; well, real (story and people) & balanced (writing); everything from characters, their emotions, decisions, and actions to the world surrounding them was crushingly believable. I wasn’t bored for one minute, but some people say it’s slow (just a fair warning).
Despite being a book about teenagers (yes, for real) in high school (sound promising *sarcasm*) it’s brilliant and didn’t make me want to kill or maim strangers on the streets (Yes, I am a violent person. I’ve planned more murders than ate cookies, but everyone needs a hobby and knitting only takes you so far). If someone told me yesterday I’m going to be impressed with a romance between highschoolers (that’s what it is in a nutshell) I would laugh like a crazed hyena. Me? The lover of gore and kick-ass action that never cans her sarcasm (remember kids, always use fresh). YES! And I don’t even feel like defending my feelings (you can publicly admit to liking a high school romance, but people tend to laugh and throw things). Fuck off! I REGRET NOTHING.
*It’s not a book for everyone. If you love books like Beautiful Disaster or 50 Shades of WTF aka Gray do yourself and the world a favor, and step away from it. I don’t expect everyone to love ‘The Sea of Tranquility’, but if you don’t at least appreciate it I might snap, come to your house, kick you in the shin, and eat all your chocolate. Just saying.
The book is written from two POV’s, and for once it contributes to the quality of the story. The relationship between MC’s builds up slowly and is not immediately headed in the direction of a romance. For me the way things play out is absolutely believable. It made me squeal in delight. Finally! At the beginning I was so suspicious of how nice it was I poked the story with a stick and kept on saying ‘you’re so lifelike’.
The title rocks! It has a meaning and is relevant to the story. Finally a title that I will remember in two days time. Sometimes people ask me ‘what are you reading?’ and I honestly have no fucking idea, because the title is so bland.
The Characters: I love them all. Everyone matters. Secondary characters aren’t half-assed excuses of human beings. You don’t like everyone, just like in life, but there are none of the cartoony villains or goofy clowns or cardboard best friends that are there just to feel up space. No exaggerated, loud teenagers that make you want to gauge your eyes out.
I didn’t just accept protagonists, I genuinely liked them. They had the aura of authenticity, enough distinct characteristics to make them more than a fake, overused mould. There was balance. MC’s were neither perfect, shiny and full of virtues like Greek gods (not that Greek gods are full of virtues, but you get the idea) or a completely useless emo whiny mess. At no point in the story I felt fed up with them or disappointed. Yes, they made mistakes, but the way they whole thing played out was splendid.
I’ve read a complaint that everyone is perfect and talented in that book. The complaint irritated me to no end. Some people have passions, and if you do something a lot, you get good at it. It’s that simple. I’m sorry if YOU spend your life in front of a TV and have no real skills apart from producing saliva and turning oxygen in carbon dioxide. I would like to point out, that not everybody was perfect; rather the focus of a book was on interesting people. They do exist. If you want to read about someone with no life and no personality go pick up Twilight. Besides, they were by no means ‘absurdly excellent’, they had passions, interests, likes and dislikes + little quirks that made them real.
All characters have depth, there’s more to them than meets the eye, and it’s not done in a pretentious way (‘look, how deep and dark my secret’s are!’). They have faults (rather than being faulty) and redeeming qualities. There are reasons behind their attitudes/actions, yes, sometimes petty reasons, but that is how people are (I’m talking about all characters, including the background ones, which, for once I actually remember and even can name!)
Descriptions of beauty – not overdone, come on. You have a girl that runs like a maniac and a boy that does a lot of physical work every day. They can have good bodies, right? And focus of the story wasn’t event on the looks, damn it! If those 3 mentionings of someone having good looks bothered you a) your nitpicking b) you should hate EVERY romance ever written.
The Story: To be honest there isn’t much of an exciting action, no mystery to solve, no villains to kill, no mortal enemies to obliterate… It’s a people oriented story about dealing with yourself. The problem with tragic, traumatic experiences is that everyone reacts differently. There is no one proper scenario. Here we have a good portrayal of such situation and its consequences without overly dramatic exaggerations.
There is a humour in that book, mainly in the thoughts of a female protagonist. Some of her lines had me laugh out loud. It helps to balance the story out. She is sarcastic (and I speak 3 languages: English, sexual innuendos and sarcasm; so the book had spoken to me on all kinds of levels)
That story was perpetually interesting. It just gave you enough to constantly hold your attention.
*That book pulled one good on me. There was something about Nastya that I didn’t realize until 20 or 30 pages into the book. It tested how observant I am. Turns out I’m not. It’s obvious once you see it, but easy to miss for a while. I was very impressed. And will not spoil what it was. ^^
The Writing: is really good. Everything nicely balanced. I loved it. It's not very poetic, you won't be blown away with every passage. It's just solid.
Little hints – that’s all the author gives us. Little hints about what happened to Nastya that make you insanely curious, and you try to piece the story together, but never succeed. They come just often enough. For a loooong time, until practically the end of the book, you don’t have the full picture of what happened. You learn more, but still can’t quite put your finger on things. Brilliant!
The story (hint’s and all) is steadily progressing. No walking in circles, every hint, every conversation, every inner monologue and every event move it along.
No repetitiveness – we are told everything once. The author didn’t feel the need to describe how people look on every other page. Even the way Nastya dresses gets described once, and later is mentioned in the passing without unnecessary details. No repetitive phrases. No same inner monolog happening over and over and over again.
Focus isn’t on the ‘hotness’ of the characters. There is a very limited amount of drooling over how gorgeous they are.
Only things that are relevant are included. We aren’t forced to repeatedly read about trivia of every day, or even more prominent events. Someone goes to a party but it’s not relevant? Doesn’t get included. Fuck yeah! Every scene serves a purpose.
The behavior of characters was realistic and believable.
The internal monologue/dialogue is interesting, relevant and varies in nature. Sometimes introduces us to surroundings, sometimes to the past and sometimes is introspective….
That book made a few nice points.
The hurt doesn’t just go away with hot sex. Things once broken can’t be easily fixed. So often in books characters have a falling out, do something stupid and it practically doesn’t affect them (they dramatically whine and wail for a moment, but then it’s more than fixed, it’s ERASED with sex. And people aren’t like that. Shit stays with you. It festers. There is no going back to the way things were.)
He doesn’t feel strong enough to save her (lacks confidence to do it). A natural reaction to facing a ‘fucked up’ . Love isn’t a magical ‘fix all’ button, it doesn’t make the problems go away. And Josh (male MC) had the most realistic reaction to learning unpleasant things about his love. ‘Can I deal with it?’ That shit affects both sides, and in most books it never gets mentioned. Being with someone self destructive isn’t easy, healthy, or pleasant in a long run. Fixing people is hard, love is not enough to do the trick, it can help, but it want be instant. It’s a legitimate way of thinking. Can you rally save someone? Isn’t it a terrifyingly big task? An enormous responsibility? Saving each other is presented as a pretentiously tall order that needs a serious consideration.
The book asks tricky questions about nature of love. What is love? Can you keep secrets and claim to be in love? If someone doesn’t share do you truly know them, how real can your feelings for each other be? What makes love real?
Things aren’t black and white. The ‘evil’ guy is not really ‘evil’. His actions are, but you can’t separate facts from the context and get the truth. I call it a ‘Criminal Minds’ syndrome (you know , the TV series) I like how complex things are. I like how difficult it is for an MC to deal with that realization.
*Was her clothing the best option? Objectively: no; but it is more than plausible. The kind of logic we are presented with I’m pretty accustomed to. She rebels, she stands out, her appearance combined with actions is a clear signal - ‘go away and stay there’. If she wore no makeup and some inconspicuous clothing she probably would’ve been approached by people trying to make acquaintance multiple times. That placid look screams ‘approachable’ while what she did screams ‘obnoxious, bitchy and confident – stay the fuck away’.
Below there are two quotes that nicely illustrate how down to earth was Josh (WARNING! Even though they don’t contain spoilers per se, some may not want to read the emotional bits beforehand, ergo, the warning):
I tell myself to shut up and keep her. Grab her and kiss her and tell her everything will be okay because I’ll make it okay, good, even… , I still want her to choose to come with me. To say fuck sanity and healing and closure. To say that I am the only thing she needs to be well and whole and alive. But we both know that’s not true.
“The blame and the self-loathing and the bullshit. I can’t watch that. It makes me hate you for hating yourself. I don’t want to lose you. But I’d rather lose you if it means you’ll be happy. I think if you come back with me today you’ll never be okay. And I’ll never be okay if you aren’t I need to know that there’s a way for people like us to end up ok. I need to know that there even is such a thing as okay, or maybe not just okay, maybe even good, and it’s out there and we just haven’t found it yet. There’s got to be a happier ending that this, here. There’s got to be a better story. Even if it doesn’t end with you coming back to me”
Would I recommend this book? Certainly not to everyone, I’m not that naive. But I was amazed. That is one book in which I believe characters love each other rather than simply being blinded by lust/magically connected. Love is not exaggerated. Book had its sweet moments. The ending made me go all soft and mushy without being overly cheesy. Simply lovely.
I loved every aspect of that book. Unfortunately I'm not that gifted, there will be no witty, clever yet enormously appropriate punch line to that review. Which makes me feel bad, for I really wanted to convey how much I enjoyed the whole ride. Sorry about that, one of my many shortcomings, but don't let that stop you from sinking your claws/teeth/fins/spikes/bunny ears/funny wax cones (worn on the top of a wig, real fashion in ancient Egypt, didn't want to exclude anyone) and inflated unicorn horns in it!
APOLOGY: It pains me, but I haven't yet sorted out my relationship with the/a definite article. Or any article for that matter. I will edit the review over time, but it will probably never be 100% grammatically correct.