Title: Carry the Ocean (The Roosevelt #1)
Author: Heidi Cullinan
Publisher: Self Published
Release Date: April 7, 2015
Genre(s): M/M Contemporary
Page Count: 268 pages
Reviewed by: Belen
Heat Level: 2 flames out of 5
Rating: 5+ stars out of 5
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.
Emmet David Washington is nineteen, a genius, a sophomore at Iowa State University studying computer science and applied physics, is good with computers and anything to do with math, loves puzzles and The Blues Brothers, is gay, and has autism spectrum disorder (ASD). It’s not even close to the most important thing about him. He functions well (most of the time) and has tons of help and support from his wonderful family.
Frankly, I’m awesome, and anybody who doesn’t agree should get out of my way.
Jeremey Samson is eighteen, just graduated from high school, and suffers (and he does suffer) from major depressive disorder and clinical anxiety, having major panic attacks when overwhelmed in public, and does not have the support of a wonderful family. His mother and father are, in my opinion, terrible people who constantly try to bully and shove Jeremey into a cookie cutter image of what a “normal” kid should be.
“No one is normal. Normal is a lie.”
The story starts from Emmet’s POV, after Emmet sees Jeremey and knows Jeremey is meant to be his boyfriend (and because EMMET IS AWESOME, he makes it happen), then continues perfectly in alternating POV’s.
Emmet was beautifully described, represented and fleshed out as a character…all bold colors and vibrancy. In sharp contrast, Jeremey, just as beautifully described and represented as a character, often times felt sepia toned, washed out, with only short bursts of brightness and color, that would often quickly fade away again.
Emmet: Autism is like an ocean for me. Little things are overwhelming. Senses, touches. Everyone else can read faces, but I can’t. Everyone else knows how to look people in the eye, but I can’t. Only autistic people have to have special classes and facial recognition charts to understand what people mean and say. When you’re autistic, everyone acts as if you’re not a real human. I’m angry at my family because they said I was a real human, but when I say I’m your boyfriend, they say I can’t be. So they lied. I’m not a real human.
The anger filled me up, but I told it no, I wanted to keep talking to Jeremey, not be angry.
That’s my ocean. I have to pretend as best I can to be like people on the mean so people don’t call me a robot. I’m not a robot. I’m real and I have feelings the same as everyone else. And I want a boyfriend. Except my ocean doesn’t make me want to be dead. It makes me want to fight. I want you to fight too, Jeremey. I want us to carry our oceans together.
Heidi Cullinan does a masterful job in bringing these characters, and the others in the story (the families, the other residents at The Roosevelt), to life. The story is inspiring, heartbreaking, uplifting, sad, happy, funny, and then happy again. It was an ebb and flow of emotional tides that left me wanting more, but made me so happy I was left with a hard-won and wonderful HEA.
Friendship is a healing force, and love can overcome any obstacle.