07 April 2015

Carry the Ocean (The Roosevelt #1) by Heidi Cullinan

Normal is just a setting on the dryer.

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.
I LOVED THIS BOOK!!! Totally and completely, one hundred percent, loved this book. As someone who works with persons with autism, I was taken aback with how well Ms. Cullinan portrayed Emmet, especially how well his actions and thought processes reflected what we know and what we believe we know about autism. That she included other characters with autism to illustrate the similarities and individuality of the spectrum was brilliant. As if that were not enough, Jeremy struggling through life with major depressive disorder and clinical anxiety while dealing with parents who seem to think that he can just “snap out it” elevated the complexity of Carry the Ocean. And while each of these characters’ story is compelling on its own, it is how their relationship develops over time and how they become one another’s anchor in the world that truly made Carry the Ocean an inspiring read for me.

As the book is told from both Emmet and Jeremy’s points of view, the reader gets to see firsthand how their disorders affect them and the lives they lead. I connected with both characters almost immediately and was sucked into their stories completely. I found myself rocking with Emmet when he was upset and wanting to crawl under the covers with Jeremy when his depression bottomed out. Because of this connection, I found myself cheering for them when their friendship began to evolve in the way that Emmet had hoped. It is why I was so appalled by Jeremy’s mother’s reaction when she caught them cuddling and practically accused Emmet of taking advantage of Jeremy. It is also why it broke my heart when Emmet’s mother tried to discourage his relationship with Jeremy. While I understood her maternal drive to protect Emmet from heartbreak, I hated that in doing so she was sending seriously mixed messages to Emmet. I’m not sure which I enjoyed most: move-in day to The Roosevelt, the Blues Brothers’ dance through Target, Jeremy finding his purpose in life, Emmet and David becoming friends, or one of the many other achievements the characters made in the book. I think it would be easier to point out what I didn’t like about the book and that was Jeremy’s parents’ reaction to Emmet but mainly because of the realism of it.

Carry the Ocean was such a beautifully moving tale and I feel woefully inadequate in my ability to express must how much I enjoyed reading Emmet and Jeremy’s story. I suppose the fact that it led me to start my Top Ten list for 2015 is rather telling. This book was a wonderful look at the human condition that shed light on several disorders that are near and dear to me on both a professional and personal level. That it is the first installment in The Roosevelt series and said series will obviously be focused on the residents of The Roosevelt gives me hope for many more inspiring stories to come. With just one book, Ms. Cullinan has made a fan of me and I look forward to checking out her other books while I await my next visit to The Roosevelt.


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