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Book Review: “The House in the Cerulean Sea” by TJ Klune

What I like most about The House in the Cerulean Sea is that I would let my thirteen-year-old daughter read it. Sure, it has quite a bit of macabre content, but if you take it in stride, TJ Klune’s fantasy novel is a thought-provoking read with an overall theme of inclusivity.

This book illustrates the day-to-day life of a queer man whose life is just fine. He has a day job at the Department In Charge of Magical Youth (DICOMY) and then goes home to his small apartment where he is greeted by his indifferent feline companion, but not before being assailed by a nosey neighbor (she really needs a hobby), and he frequently listens to big-band music on his record player when he gets home from work. That’s his life. Let’s admit it, Linus Baker is a boring guy who lives in a tiny bubble. His life is mundane and monotonous. That is, until he is tasked with a month-long assignment hundreds of miles from his home in the city.

His anxiety gets the best of him quite a few—several—times after he steps out of his comfort zone, but Linus Baker’s character sees much growth throughout this LGTBQ+-friendly novel. His standoffish cat even begins to warm up to him, but not before she befriends one of the children at the “orphanage” where Linus’ assignment takes him. A tall, shy boy ends up being my favorite character, and it appears Linus’ cat feels the same way. There are many other characters in this book, but I won’t spoil the fun in finding out who and what they are.

Okay, maybe I will just a little...

Though Linus is elated to see the ocean for the first time, he remains wary. He’s on an island tucked away from the rest of the world, far from all that’s familiar and tasked with a mission. You see, Linus is a case worker at DICOMY, and it is his job to remain impartial while observing magical youth at each orphanage he visits. Typically, his visits are short, but this place is different. The executive personnel at DICOMY task him with staying on the island for one month in order to fully assess the situation at this unique orphanage, where the children are quite different than the others Linus has encountered on previous assignments. He gets more than he bargained for after spending an extended amount of time at the house that overlooks a cerulean sea, whose fantastical, magical inhabitants have more depth than meets the eye.

There are some exceptional one-liners in this book that inspired me to take pause, and then I would read them again. “Hate is loud, but I think you'll learn it's because it's only a few people shouting, desperate to be heard. You might not ever be able to change their minds, but so long as you remember you're not alone, you will overcome.” Considering all that is happening in our world today, this quote in particular gave me pause. What an inspirational message.

There are so many other quotes from The House in the Cerulean Sea that I’d like to share here, but I will leave you with only two more, and maybe they’ll encourage you to give this book a go. It may just change the way you see the world and its inhabitants.

“Sometimes our prejudices color our thoughts when we least expect them to. If we can recognize that, and learn from it, we can become better people.”

“Just because you don’t experience prejudice in your everyday doesn’t stop it from existing for the rest of us.”

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