Wednesday, March 25, 2015

ARC Review: Carry the Ocean by Heidi Cullinan


High school graduate Jeremey Samson is looking forward to burying his head under the covers and sleeping until it’s time to leave for college. Then a tornado named Emmet Washington enters his life. The double major in math and computer science is handsome, forward, wicked smart, interested in dating Jeremey—and he’s autistic.

But Jeremey doesn’t judge him for that. He’s too busy judging himself, as are his parents, who don’t believe in things like clinical depression. When his untreated illness reaches a critical breaking point, Emmet is the white knight who rescues him and brings him along as a roommate to The Roosevelt, a quirky new assisted living facility nearby.

As Jeremey finds his feet at The Roosevelt, Emmet slowly begins to believe he can be loved for the man he is behind the autism. But before he can trust enough to fall head over heels, he must trust his own conviction that friendship is a healing force, and love can overcome any obstacle.

Warning: Contains characters obsessed with trains and counting, positive representations of autism and mental illness, a very dark moment, and Elwood Blues.

Dani's rating:

Billions & billions of stars


- Watch Carly's Cafe.

- Stream The Blues Brothers (1980) movie with Dan Akroyd and John Belushi (available on Amazon and Comcast On Demand, but not on Netflix). This is Emmet's favorite movie, and we have to support Emmet.

- Stock up on tissues (the soft kind). And wine.

- Set aside several hours to read. Do NOT pass Go; do not collect $200. Give your partner/dog/kid/mother the Big Mean Stink Eye if they interrupt. This is a HOLY experience and should be treated as thus.

~ “No one is normal. Normal is a lie.” ~

Told in Emmet and Jeremey's alternating, distinct, first-person POVs, Carry the Ocean is Heidi Cullinan’s most poignant book. It is evocative and REAL and brilliant.


I am normal. I belong. I have a friend who can kick ass from a wheelchair. I live independently and get good grades. I'm an excellent lover. Like I said. I'm awesome. I'm Emmet David Washington. Train Man. The best autistic Blues Brother on the block.


This year I learned I'm good at feelings. Emmet calls these our superpowers--his are listening and seeing and math and remembering. Mine is feelings. I can tell what everyone is feeling all the time, and I almost feel it with them. So I have to be careful, because if there are too many feelings around me at once, I get overwhelmed . . . There is nothing wrong with me and who I am, but I do have depression and anxiety, and they're both pretty severe . . . They're real things. They're invisible to everyone but me . . . I have to fight every day, and some days I can't win.

Jeremey’s parents want to shove him into a box. They force him into loud places and yell at him in the aisle of  Target until he panics and melts. They won’t let him get help and pretend everything is fine. Until it isn’t. Until Jeremey can’t do it anymore.

Emmet has an incredibly supportive family. They let him be who he is, his own man, not a sheep.

“I’m too different, Mom. I don’t want to be so different.”

“Everyone’s different. Some people are more able to shove their differences into the dark, to blend in and be sheep, but that isn’t always a good thing.”

“I’d rather be a sheep than be alone.”

“But that’s the big secret. The sheep are more alone than everyone.”

Emmet and Jeremey stole my heart. Cullinan does such an amazing amount of research for her books. She seeps them in pop culture, in music, in sights and sounds.

Emmet also researches everything, but he really gets into researching sex. From the first awkward kiss to tentative (and NOT so tentative) sexual exploration, the boys are in it as one.

I asked Jeremey if he wanted to try anal sex, and he said yes. I wasn't surprised. Jeremey always said yes to anything about sex . . . We'd ordered a dildo from a reputable online sex store, and he said it felt great. I tried it too, but I don't care for things in my butt. Jeremey does, which is good. I wanted to be in him that way.

Of course the sex store was reputable! Emmet wouldn't have it any other way.

Emmet and Jeremey are determined to build a life together. Neither is quite ready to live in the college dorms (what with the chaos and obnoxious frat boys), and despite his parents’ pressure, Jeremey doesn’t want to go to college. So with Emmet’s parents' support, they decide to move into their own flat at a new independent-living facility called the Roosevelt, built by a man for his quadriplegic son David.

I ADORED David almost as much as I adored Emmet and Jeremey. Emmet is initially jealous of David. When Jeremey becomes David's assistant, Emmet worries David will take Jeremey away from him.

"He doesn't have autism. His spine is broken, but his brain is fine."

"So is yours."

[Emmet] shut his eyes and put his hand over his heart . . .

"I love you, Emmet. I'll love you always. I'll love you always best."

Emmet is one of the few people who SEES David as a man, not a crippled being in a wheelchair. Emmet, Jeremey, and David eventually become the best of friends, three men against the average bullies of the world.

Emmet and Jeremey, at times overwhelmed by eye contact and noise, often talk by sign or text, even when they're right next to each other; this was so damn adorable, my heart melted. EVERY. SINGLE. TIME.

Heidi Cullinan is a master. The prose here is flawless. Jeremey and Emmet are each given a VOICE to write their own story: a story about diverging from the mean and discovering a place where you belong; a story about finding the person who understands you, accepts you, COMPLETES you.

And helps you conquer the greeting card section at Target!

Emmet and Jeremey may be "different," but they are perfect. They are more caring and tolerant of each other and more respectful of their relationship, the necessary ups and downs and compromises, than most of us on the mean.

Carry the Ocean is so much more than an M/M romance.

Everything is right in this book. EVERYTHING.


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An ARC of this book was provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review. 

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