The Sea of Tranquility: A Novel by Katja MillayThe Sea of Tranquility: A Novel by Katja Millay

The Sea of Tranquility: A Novel

byKatja Millay

Paperback | June 4, 2013

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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.
Title:The Sea of Tranquility: A NovelFormat:PaperbackDimensions:448 pages, 8.25 × 5.31 × 1.3 inPublished:June 4, 2013Publisher:Atria BooksLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:1476730946

ISBN - 13:9781476730943

Reviews

Rated 5 out of 5 by from Sea of Tranquility This book made me feel. I haven't enjoyed a book this much in a very long time.
Date published: 2017-07-31
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Its good I actually never planned on reading this until the other day Aesta's book blog put up an intriguing quote from it on their Facebook page and it drew me in so I gave it a shot. I liked that it was such a deep and meaningful story. It's not a romance about two broken people. It's a love story about two people who need each other. I didn't like the narration that much, especially the first half. I understand wanting to leave readers in the dark about her past, but it got very frustrating when a lot of lines didn't make any sense at all to me. The truth took so long to come out.
Date published: 2017-04-05
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Breathtaking Sad and sweet and powerful. At first it feels like it might be just like every other contemporary YA but then you realize it's so much more. #plumreview
Date published: 2017-03-14
Rated 5 out of 5 by from AHHHH I first read this book in eBook form. I loved it so much that I went out and bought a physical copy. It's heartbreaking and beautiful and something that you have to read. #plumreview
Date published: 2017-03-13
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Love it! When I first opened this book I thought it had the makings of every other YA book out at the time but as I read on I was pleasantly surprised by the character arcs. This is very heavy and sad at times. It can be tough to read but totally worth it. #plumreview
Date published: 2017-03-04
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Take a deep breath and feel the beauty of this story! New adults with some deep meaning to them are my remedy. The Sea of Tranquility and its beautiful cover (that I had not really noticed until I picked it up) has been on my eye for ages, ages since before it was released and after. The romance is deep, meaningful, and the whole subject matter is different than anything else I have read in a long time. I cannot get this out of my head, to be purely honest. It has truly been a while since a book has touched me like this had. There is more to this story than readers know. Katja Millay starts us off with us getting to know Nastya, who is torn apart by some tragic event that she keeps mentioning. Readers get to figure out that she is continuously trying to overcome her demons and something that has traumatized her. We honestly did not figure this out until the very end when Josh gets to know her really well and all is revealed. This all turned out to have so much meaning to it after all! *smiles* The Sea of Tranquility features subjects that are rough—not wanting to be mentioned greatly about in YA fiction especially. This could be classified as both YA or new adult, depending on the reader's take. There is a mature subject matter, especially when Nastya gets her flashbacks. No twelve year old would be ready to read about what the young girl had dealt with in the past. Josh, a lovely, lovely fictional boyfriend for Nastya and I, was able to get it out of her. This seemed to be like a mystery in itself, actually. Though you may be asking, you should definitely not turn to the last page and discover the truth. Millay adds so much detail and beauty to the story that you could just not turn back and forget about this. The drawbacks after looking back is the boringness. Things were wild, going well, and the romance was taking such a dramatic turn, and then everything fell apart at some times. It was honestly going back and forth repeatedly. I kept feeling like the story was not going anywhere, though the emotions were real. Heartfelt. Precious. Those are two words that could perfectly describe the tone of this novel. And I totally get why people are going crazy. Written with a YA flair to it, taking place in a high school from a perspective of a girl who is very insecure and sensitive with her own feelings after bearing such horrendous things in the past, we love it. I loved it. I feel that this is a much-needed story to be stuck on everyone's shelves. Just look at the daring title. TRANQUILITY? That word just makes me feel calm all the same from when I read it. This is a complete match made in heaven for readers who enjoy teenage angst and stories about girls who self-pity and need help. Angst is the biggest thing that I witnessed in this story, and I do like some of it to make me enjoy it more. Katja Millay created some of the most beautiful characters that I have ever read about, and the two of them—Josh and Nastya I mean—just click, like two puzzle pieces that are meant to be. I would not have this book change into something any other way. It was pretty hectic with drama, if you ask me.
Date published: 2017-01-21
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Strangely poignant I don't normally go for books like these - emotionally unstable girl meets emotionally unstable boy and they make emotionally unstable decisions together, against a backdrop of raunchy high school hookups and parties - but this one came highly recommended, and so I gave it a shot. I'm glad I did, because it had a lot of heart, including some great family relationships, characters who stepped out of their cliche cardboard cutouts and surprised me, and a deep emotional power that drew me in. It was also really well written, with careful, subtle foreshadowing that constantly surprised and intrigued me, authentic dual voices for the two different perspectives, and an honest quality that wrung out emotions without resorting to over-flowery prose or figurative language. Basically, it was really well done, and surprisingly tender, and I'm glad I read it. THAT SAID. There was a lot of problematic elements here, including the fact that it was really, really long without much justification for being really, really long. There were some times logic didn't really come into play, and some issues that were dealt with in a way that, if not unrealistic, were at least extremely uncomfortable. (Like her selective silence. It came off as angsty and immature sometimes, and, while I don't want to judge a reaction to trauma like that, it was uncomfortable at least.) There weren't a lot of good guy characters (ones who weren't sex-driven or violent) outside of her immediate circle of friends, and a notable lack of supportive female characters (which means no girl friends, but also means some seriously negligent mothers and aunts.) If I wanted to, I could think of a lot more that put me off about it, especially after reading and agreeing with some of the one and two star reviews, but I'm going to give some credit to my initial gut/emotional reaction and go with three stars.
Date published: 2017-01-03
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Love it! I absolutely loved this book. I couldn't put it down. I have recommended it to many people (teenagers and adults) and many loved it as much as I did.
Date published: 2016-11-18
Rated 3 out of 5 by from 3 stars I guess it was ok but to my liking i didnt hate it but i didnt love it either so i gues the only solutions were i didnt like it {2stars}, i liked it {4stars} or it wsas ok {3stars} and i honestly believe that it was ok so i gave it a 3 star rating;)
Date published: 2015-10-01
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Amazing! LOVE it! This book will draw you in from the beginning and won't let you go until the final page. Simply amazing.
Date published: 2014-11-18
Rated 3 out of 5 by from The Sea of Tranquility Hum, I was a bit disappointed with this book, I found it ran on it bit to long, Emilia character frustrated me to no end, with how she treated her family to her self loathing, just frustrating and it lacked the emotion I was hoping to feel.
Date published: 2014-11-11
Rated 5 out of 5 by from brilliant absolutely one of my favourite books of all time. beautifully written. beautiful story. i recommend this book to absolutely everyone i ever meet.
Date published: 2014-07-17
Rated 5 out of 5 by from The Sea of Tranquility This book tells the tale of a sad story all the way around. Nastya is devastated by something tragic in her past, but has no outlet to deal with it. Quite simply..she doesn't know how. No one in her life can step into her shoes and know what she feels. She does what she can to try and survive it but it's to the detriment of those around her. Josh has his own share of hardship and adversity. He has withdrawn from society in a way, but manages his loneliness and sadness in a more constructive way. I actually like how Nastya and Josh play off each other, they seem tuned into one another..even in silence. Even though both have different heartaches they are a pair, almost two sides of the same coin. They are both tragic, lonely and sad with their despondency wrapped around them like a shadow. They are also both aching for happiness, love and lightheartedness to ease themselves from the burden of despair that is their life. They exist, but they don't live. They don't exactly save each other, but they manage to help each other. Their relationship is not perfect, not in a conventional sense, but it works for them. I really liked how this was written. It gave me a glimpse into how someone might feel after something so devastating happened. No one really knows how they would react in the same situation. It gives the readers a sense of second chances, that they are possible. That in a not so perfect world we are all a little lost, but that we can also be found. Kudos to the author, it's one of my Favorites for the year.
Date published: 2014-01-28
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Great Love the story line
Date published: 2013-11-15
Rated 5 out of 5 by from The Sea of Tranquility - A Novel Read it! You will feel every emotion!
Date published: 2013-11-09
Rated 5 out of 5 by from touching, emotional and heart-wrenching I'm in shock. There is literally not enough words in the english dictionary to describe what i'm feeling right now, but i'll try. First off, The Sea Of Tranquility is about an emotionally fragile girl and a boy who is just trying to survive life. When their paths cross and somehow stay connected, it'll change everything they thought they knew about love, life, and what living really means. Nastya moves to a new town, trying to become a new person altogether, but theres no way that she'll let herself forget the night that changed her life - the night that ended in the old Nastya dying. Josh is just trying to get through life, knowing that everyone he has ever loved has been taken away from him. When Nastya meets Josh, something changes within them both. Its small, but Nastya pursues it. What neither of them are prepared for is the connection they both seem to have, and when Josh thinks he knows that he feels strongly about Nastya, Nastya knows he really doesn't know anything about her at all. If there is one thing I will say about The Sea Of Tranquility, its's that Millay utterly pours every emotion into her writing, making my heart break, warm, and shatter all over again. Its such an emotional and fragile journey that Josh and Nastya go through, and i have to say that this isn't a love story, its so much more. Its real and its about dealing with crap and how dealing with crap isn't always easy. Its about how maybe you can't be saved, and maybe you won't be okay, but you have to accept that. Its a story about finding out who you really are, and about who makes you, you. Its beautifully written and brilliant, all around. The characters are all great, and yes, Nastya and Josh are fantastic, but some of the minor characters really make the book. Clay adds so much more dimention, and Drew is just amazing, standing by both Josh and Naysta while trying to handle his own crap, acting like a jerk who uses girls but he's actually such a good guy. I love it. And none of the characters are your stereotypical characters, even though i just kinda described Drew as one, but he really isn't. Nastya and Josh are both so different from any other characters, and i love it, i love them, and what they go through is so scarring it tears me to pieces. You can really feel every emotion in this book, every thought and feeling is projected through the pages so brilliantly. I'll admit, sometimes Josh needs to check his attitude, but he is SUCH an amazing guy, a great character, a great person altogether, that i forgive him. Also, I'd want more of Josh's... Recovery, lets say, to be part of the ending. It seems to focused on Nastya towards the end i think it becomes unbalenced a bit. But, lets face it, nothing can make me feel anything less then love for this book. Its a journey i want to relive again and again, although its horrible at times its so impacting and intense. Don't hesitate to read this, because The Sea Of Tranquility is touching, relatiable, and so, so brilliant.
Date published: 2013-10-17
Rated 5 out of 5 by from The Sea of Tranquility - A Novel I bought this book while on vacation and i read it in two days. I could not put this book down. It kept me guessing and i felt all of the emotions of tbe characters. Nothing has compared to it since and i read alot!!!
Date published: 2013-10-04
Rated 5 out of 5 by from OMG!!! Great book.... I am really upset that it is over. I have had a lump in my throat for the last 20 chapters and finally the tear has released. Loved this book.
Date published: 2013-09-13
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Definitely a favourite! Thank you to Simon and Schuster Canada for providing me a copy of this book for review! The Sea of Tranquility is one of those books where everyone is raving about it and I’m that person who’s all, “Come on — it can’t be THAT good.” I am always, always, always concerned that when people love a book or say that it’s one of the better ones in its genre that I will ultimately hate it. Must be my thing. At any rate, this was one of those books that I completely took my time reading. From the first pages, I was completely in love with it. There was no insta-love, there was no typical bad boy-damaged girl pairing — instead, it was just a really well written and engaging book. Right from the start, I loved the characters and the dual narrative. It was interesting to really get into the heads of Nastya and Josh and see what they both thought of each other. And really, we spend a LOT of time in Nastya’s head because of one thing — she doesn’t speak. Normally, this is a HUGE deterrent for me in a book. I’m all about the dialogue, so when there’s a character whose chapters revolve around their thoughts, rather than their interactions with others, I get antsy. But this was really well done. There was still so much mystery around what really happened to Nastya’s character that I was willing to put in the time to really get to know her character before she let me know the whole story. Some people might think that the book was too long, but I like to think that we were just waiting until Nastya could trust us. I know I said before that this wasn’t a bad boy-damaged girl kind of book, but really both character had their damages. It’s not a light read. In fact, there are some passages that were horrible to read. Balanced out with that, there’s friendship, love, loyalty — so many things that make this such a wonderful read. In the end, I’m glad that I took my time reading it because it really made me appreciate the characters and what they were going through. I would definitely recommend this book if you’re a fan of the new adult genre, or if you just like books that make you laugh, make you cry, and make you swoon all in one breath. It was a joy to read and I only hope that future offerings from Katja Millay will be just as good. Highly recommended!
Date published: 2013-08-17
Rated 5 out of 5 by from A Must Read! One word: AMAZING!! This book has to be one of the best books I have ever read!! The Sea of Tranquility was mind-blowing and I felt like re-reading it over again and again. Katja Millay is one talented writer because this book was phenomenal, and is definitely a must read! I read this during the holidays and I could not put it down, because I had to know what was going to happen! I feel like a reread already! As a good way to begin this review I am going to tell you to pick this book up immediately and to never put it down because as characters and plot goes it was very well done. When I heard about this book I did not expect to love it as much as I did. But I was wrong and I fell in love with the book. It was honest, intriguing, and the characters will have you crying! It was a little hard to get through the beginning but it was worth it due to the immense plot and understanding of Nastya and Josh. The Sea of Tranquility is a story that is full of emotion, love and forgiveness. As the plot deepens you see that Nastya and Josh grow together in order to move on from their past. Told in two different perspectives of Nastya Kashnikov and Josh Bennett we get to learn about their story and Nastya is one tough character who has gone through a lot. You feel for them throughout the entire novel. What I loved most about them is that some people have gone through different ways to succeed and fall in love. Katja Millay makes you feel connected with her characters as each goes through different stages of their lives. The relationship between Nastya and Josh started of rough as you get to see Nastya's dark stage as she wants to hide away from the past as she says that she is broken, as well as not speaking to any of her family members for 2 years. Josh opens up about his past at the same time Nastya also is confronting herself as well. This was no insta-love at all, it was a growing relationship starting off as friends developed later as they got to know each other, finding they are alike in certain ways. It was character driven and insanely addictive to read! As you can see in this review, I have fallen in love with Katja Millay debut novel, The Sea of Tranquility because it was written beautifully at the same time was full of self redeeming characters who get through pain. This has definitely become one of my favorite all time books. Your emotions will run high but you will be thinking about this book for days after you read it! I am looking forward to many more works by Katja Millay because this book was perfect and its what every book should be! I would recommend this book to anyone looking for a passionate novel.
Date published: 2013-07-07
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Powerful & Riveting! Story Description: Atria Books|June 4, 2013|Trade Paperback|ISBN: 978-1-4767-3094-3 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 you 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. My Review: The Sea of Tranquility was a riveting, intense, powerful, and well-written story. Nastya Kashnikov was once a beautiful piano player until an unspeakable crime happened to her and changed her forever. She became very withdrawn, quiet, and extremely fragile. She dressed in black and far out clothing and kept to herself at school knowing that she was talked about. She had her parent’s home where the crime had taken place and moved to another town to live with her aunt to give her time to think and sort out her life. She liked living with her aunt as she worked nights and Nastya attended school during the day so they were like ships passing in the night which gave Nastya time alone to herself. Nastya loved to run, and run she did for miles and miles and miles. She could think clearly and clear her head when she ran. One night while running she passed by Josh Bennett’s home and his garage door was open and he was inside working. Nastya knew of Josh from school. She decided to stop and entered the garage but didn’t say anything. Josh just let her be and allowed her to stay and watch while he built the furniture he was making. Josh lived alone now as every single person in his family had passed away. His mother, his father, and his grandparents. He had tons of money but no one knew that about him. He attended school then came home and built beautiful pieces of furniture in his garage. Josh was as lonely as Nastya was fragile. Nastya began to make visiting Josh in his garage a nightly thing and little by little they became friends and began to talk, however Nastya never revealed to Josh what had happened to her but he knew “something” terrible had occurred but never asked her about it. He figured if she wanted him to know she’d tell him and he himself wasn’t sure he even wanted to know. The story centers on their relationship and how each of them comes to some realizations that yet again changes them both. It was the most powerful story I’ve read in a long time and would highly recommend it to anyone. I would also recommend it for book clubs as there are a lot of topics that could be discussed from this novel. I’m keeping this one in my permanent collection. I won’t forget The Sea of Tranquility for a long time.
Date published: 2013-06-24
Rated 5 out of 5 by from the Sea of Tranquility just finished reading the Sea of Tranqquility by Katja Millay. I read a lot so when i have finished one book i go on with another one. In this case i won't, i can't. It is just like sitting in a concert hall, listening to earh shattering beutiful music and when the music stops no one applauses. Just silence. I'm silent for a while. And my silence is the highest praise i can offer ms. Millay.
Date published: 2013-05-26
Rated 5 out of 5 by from My god. I loved this book. It was just amazing, I loved everyone in it and it ended perfectly. I love the feeling after you finish a good fucking read. Well done!!!
Date published: 2013-03-28
Rated 3 out of 5 by from Good but not great like expected In general this was good book, but it was a little too depressing for me. It's frustrating rollercoaster ride because I couldn't connect with the protagonist. She did things that I couldn understand why the hell she would do it. But all in all it really is a goodread and you'll definitely get sucked into the story and your never going to be able to forget this book.
Date published: 2013-03-27
Rated 5 out of 5 by from The Sea of Tranquility Another book that leaves you longing for just one more chapter--fantastic!
Date published: 2013-01-04
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Wonderful! All Nastya wants is to start over in a new place where no one knows her story. All Josh wants is to be left alone and not have deal with all the people who know his story. And though they won’t openly admit it, they both really want life to not hurt quite so much. Sensing a common ground, the pair are drawn to each other and a slowly develop a fragile bond while building a friendship that may just give them what they really need. I don’t know how to put into words how wonderful this book is. It’s a slow building, extremely emotional and heart wrenching story that exposes the raw and agonizing aspects of two teenager’s horrific secrets. The character development in The Sea of Tranquility is superb! As their secrets and innermost thoughts are gradually revealed, Nastya and Josh become so real that I felt like they were people who existed in my life. Even the secondary characters were perfectly written, each one unique and essential to the story. And while this may be listed as a YA romance, it’s not a story about teenagers (even though it is) or romance, but a story about loss, overcoming tragedy and the strength of the human soul. Verdict: The Sea of Tranquility is a beautifully written emotional journey that I never wanted to end. I will read whatever this debut author writes next!
Date published: 2012-12-13
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Fantasic read! I truly loved this book... I did not want it to ever end while at the same time I wanted to know the lead charaters full story. I would highly recommend this wonderful book!
Date published: 2012-11-26

Read from the Book

The Sea of Tranquility Chapter 3 Josh 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. “Yes, ma’am.” “Polite as always. How was your summer?” “You’re the third person who’s asked.” “Nonanswer. Try again.” “Hot.” “Still loquacious.” She smiles. “Still ironic.” “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. Nastya 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. Discuss. 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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