Bright Blue Moment
My Year in Books: The 2020 Edition

Book Review: The House in the Cerulean Sea by T. J. Klune

We are who we are not because of our birthright, but because of what we choose to do in this life. It cannot be boiled down to black and whit. Not when there is so much in between. You cannot say something is moral or immoral without understanding the nuances behind it.

House in the ceruliean seaThe House in the Cerulean Sea tells the story of Linus Baker, who is a caseworker for DICOMY: the Department in Charge of Magical Youth. He visits orphanages, where said “magical youth” live, to make sure the children are being taken care of properly, and he sits and a tiny desk with hundreds of other caseworkers, doing paperwork. At work, he is a consummate rule follower, never deviating from the RULES AND REGULATIONS. After work he goes home to his small house on Hermes Way to make dinner, maybe listen to some records, and hang out with his grumpy cat.

One day he is called away from his tiny desk by Extremely Upper Management and is given a special case. He is to travel to an island that houses a very unusual orphanage. Instead of a few days, he is to stay there for a month. And he is definitely not supposed to deviate from the RULES AND REGULATIONS. In fact, it is his very dedication to them that earned him this opportunity.

And thus does Linus begin to actually experience the world, by way of a handful of magical children. Talia is a gnome child who grows a beautiful garden on the island, never letting her long beard get in the way. Phee is a sprite who is learning how to make trees grow and forests flourish. Theodore is a wyvern who loves collecting shiny things, especially buttons. Chauncey is a blob with tentacles, origin unknown, who wants to grow up to be a bellhop. Sal is kind of like a werewolf, only he transforms into a little dog and only when he is afraid (and he is afraid often). And Lucy is the son of the devil and thus possibly the antichrist. Plus there is Arthur Parnassus, who runs this orphanage, and Zoe, the adult sprite who the island belongs to.

This is a story of love, acceptance of differences, figuring out your place in the world, being brave, standing up to racist assholes, and change and possibility and breaking rules. Everyone I know who’s read it has loved it. Adored it. Swooned over it.

Dare I confess?

I didn’t love it.

Don’t get me wrong. I didn’t hate it. And it did a remarkable thing for me: it made me laugh. Don’t get all jealous of this amazing personality trait of mine, but not many things are funny to me, even the things that everyone thinks are funny. I am totally a stick in the mud. So for a book to make me laugh out loud…that is rare and sweet and precious to me.

I’ve taken a few days to write this review because I wasn’t really sure if I could explain why I didn’t love it. After thinking, I have come upon this realization. It has everything to do with my stick-in-the-mudness. It has everything to do with “it’s not you, it’s not me.” The book is perfectly lovely and sweet and well-written and funny and insightful.

I just don’t really love whimsy. And it is definitely whimsical. And magical. I’m glad I read it, but my dry-and-bitter heart might just not be the audience for it.

Have you read this one? Did you love it?


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