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Weekly Reviews: Self-Publishing Phenomenons

It is my great pleasure to write about The Sea of Tranquility today. I can’t remember the last time I enjoyed a book quite so much. I read it at the same time as a few other books because I wanted it to last. Each time I checked something while writing the review I got caught up all over again in Nastya and Josh and their relationship, and found myself re-reading whole chapters.

The Sea of Tranquility has been available as an ebook since November 2012. But only yesterday Atria, an imprint of Simon & Schuster, released the book in paperback. Even before this print release it had over 13,000 ratings on Goodreads. This is a hugely popular book and it started with the click of a button. Check out Katja Millay’s Facebook page — it’s amazing to read the progression of events. At the very bottom there’s a link to Amazon and a simple post, “It’s live!”

I had the good fortune to interview the author about her novel. The full interview will be published on June 19th in the SLJ Teen Newsletter; however, I will share a bit here. A teaser, if you will.

Your novel appeals equally to teen and adult readers. Why do you think that is? To what do you credit its crossover appeal? 

I’ve been so thrilled with how the book seems to have taken hold with both teen and adult audiences.  I think the crossover appeal can somewhat be credited to the universal themes at work in the book.  While the characters may be teenagers, they’re dealing with situations and life events that often come later.  There’s also the exploration of the concept of identity and figuring out who we are.  I think that’s something that many of us, even as adults, still struggle with.

In addition, in its simplest form, it’s a love story; it’s a story of acceptance and growing up.  At its core, the story is one of friendship & family, faith & fate, choices & chance and I believe those things transcend age barriers.

Apparently we are not the first to see its crossover appeal. Books-a-Million has chosen The Sea of Tranquility as its Teen Book Club selection for September.

Wool has a similar publication history. Hugh Howey self-published his “post-apocalyptic-survival-thriller” as a series of Kindle books on Amazon. Simon & Schuster published an omnibus of these novels, simply titled Wool, in March. This is the book which we review below. By the way, you thought 13,000 ratings on Goodreads was a lot? Try over 20K. And Amazon reviews are off the charts.

All of this makes me wonder — at which point we will add self-published ebooks to the titles we accept for review on AB4T? SLJ has started accepting E-originals for review. Library Journal began reviewing romance E-originals back in 2011 and has been expanding ever since. Amy Cheney (an AB4T reviewer who writes the YA Underground column for SLJ),  has been finding these books for her audience for a couple years now.

And when will it be the case that a book doesn’t need to be published in print to reach a wider audience? We’re not quite there yet. Both of these books stand to gain many new readers as a result of being picked up by the smart folks at Simon & Schuster.

* MILLAY, Katja. The Sea of Tranquility. 448p. Atria. 2013. pap. $15. ISBN 978-1476730943. LC 2013012207.  The Sea of Tranquility

Adult/High School–“I live in a world without magic or miracles. A place where people die and music disintegrates and things suck.” Nastya was a piano prodigy until the day her hand was destroyed. She hasn’t spoken in more than a year, and she isn’t planning to anytime soon. Hoping to start over, Nastya moves in with her aunt in Florida. The first day of senior year she arrives at her new school in her shortest black skirt, her highest heels, and piles of makeup, hoping to scare everyone off and hide the worst of her scars. She spends her evenings running to exhaust herself enough for sleep. Josh has lost his mother, father, and sister. Now that his grandfather has been moved to hospice, he’s living alone in his family’s house. At school, it’s as if a force field surrounds him. No one approaches him, except for his friend Drew who, in a wonderful way, just never took the hint. Nastya is out for a run one night and is drawn to the garage where Josh is making a coffee table. She returns again and again. Alternating first-person narratives allow Millay to delve into the minds of both of her main characters, and she keeps readers on the edge of their seats. Will Nastya find her voice? Will she trust Josh enough to share what happened to her? What did happen, exactly? As they grow closer, they learn that accepting the intimacy of being loved requires healing and acceptance. Populated with perfectly realized teen characters–not a stereotype in sight–this is the ideal crossover novel.–Angela Carstensen, Convent of the Sacred Heart, New York City 

HOWEY, Hugh. Wool. 508p. S & S. Mar. 2013. Tr $26. ISBN 9781476735115; pap. $15. ISBN 978-1476733951. LC 2013000363.  Wool

Adult/High School–The catastrophe that devastated Earth long ago forced survivors to dwell beneath its toxic surface in a single silo that descends 144 stories. A class system has evolved to maintain order within the silo: at the top level Information Technology maintains control of operations. Below them are segregated levels of Supply, Farming, and Mechanical. The only ones who have ever been out of the silo are the Cleaners charged with polishing the lens through which residents can view their ruined surroundings.  Though fitted with protective suits, none of the Cleaners ever returns from their chore. Each of them dies in a mysterious display of ecstasy when they finish their task. That is, until Juliette, a mechanic, not only refuses to clean the lens, but grimly walks away over the hillside horizon. There, instead of a livable environment, she finds another silo, littered with bodies. Within she discovers a single survivor and evidence that, amazingly, even more silos exist. Inspired by Juliette’s escape, the lower levels of the silo rebel and try to overthrow IT. With her hazmat suit ruined, Juliette is stranded and desperate and struggles to return home to ensure her people’s success. Readers looking for sci-fi details about the silo’s origin and operation might be disappointed by Howey’s focus on action and relationships, but as a post-apocalyptic-survival-thriller, Wool is a page-turning rip-roar sure to please any teen looking for five hundred pages of escape this summer.–John Sexton, Greenburgh Public Library, NY 

Angela Carstensen About Angela Carstensen

Angela Carstensen is Head Librarian and an Upper School Librarian at Convent of the Sacred Heart in New York City. Angela served on the Alex Awards committee for four years, chairing the 2008 committee, and chaired the first YALSA Award for Excellence in Nonfiction for Young Adult committee in 2009. Recently, she edited Outstanding Books for the College Bound: Titles and Programs for a New Generation (ALA Editions, 2011). Contact her via Twitter @AngeReads.


  1. […] see the SLJ starred review of The Sea of Tranquility, published on the Adult Books 4 Teens blog. […]