Audiobook Review: 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.

Listening Length: 9 hours and 6 minutes
Narrator: Iggy Toma

Reviewer: R *A Reader Obsessed*

Phenomenal in its scope, this was at times heartbreaking and difficult to read, while at the same time, inspiring and uplifting. Cullinan definitely knows how to bring tough topics to the fore and make them relatable - giving them a life of their own, a voice to be heard, and a right to be seen.

Emmet is different to say the least. His autism renders him a mathematical savant but at the same time, he doesn’t quite process nor communicate as most people do, and thus he’s often mislabeled some very ugly things. One day, Emmet spies Jeremey from afar, and though he knows he has the cards stacked way against him, he bravely introduces himself, wanting to at least be friends with the handsome guy.

Jeremey may look and act “right” on the outside, but on the inside he’s a roiling mess of paralyzingly anxiety and indecision. Simple, everyday tasks seem insurmountable, and guilt and worry drag him down into hopelessness, as he feels all he does is disappoint everyone in his life. When a strange, off putting guy says hello, Jeremey never imagines that it would turn his world upside down in all the best ways.

This was a great friends to lovers story as these two carve out - painful step by painful step - a safe place where they can be themselves and not always have to toe the line of normal. The struggle is definitely real, and I ached for both Emmet and Jeremey. Emmet knows his autism makes him special in so many ways, but it also inhibits him too, and it was a wonder to see how he adapted so he could have meaningful relationships and a rightful autonomy. Fortuitously, it’s those very differences that make Emmet perfect for Jeremey. His literal mindedness allows for no artifice, and Jeremey doesn’t have to worry about wading through a myriad of social expectations. Emmet tells it like it is, whether it’s nice or not. However, Jeremy is severely limited by his anxiety and depression, and he must learn acceptance of his disorder so he can develop healthy ways to cope instead of being conquered by such. Both these guys have to work at it and they work at it hard, always each other’s champion, always each other’s fail safe.

So yes, this was a double win regarding the story and the audio. Iggy Toma brings to life Cullinan’s characters in such an amazing way, distinctly showing their differences and giving them heartfelt impact. By written word and by narration, both bring to the fore a better understanding of most likely little known disorders. Despite the challenges associated with them, the message that everyone deserves love and acceptance was wonderful. Just a great story all around! Rooting for the underdog never felt so good!

Thank you to the author/publisher for the audio in exchange for an honest review.

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