My rating: 5 of 5 stars
I confess I was nervous to read this book. One main character has depression and anxiety while the other is autistic? It seems like a lot for any author to pull off realistically. I have experience with some of these issues and am not sure I could put it down on paper with authenticity. Apparently I needn’t have worried – Cullinan clearly not only did her homework, but actually got into the minds of and fully understands her main characters, leading to a story that’s so real it sometimes hurts – but only in a good way. For that’s the magic of Carry The Ocean – despite its serious and often heavy subject matter, it never fails to be uplifting, positive, and inspiring. Emmet and Jeremey shoot for happiness on their own terms – and they achieve it.
I once heard it said that the most loving words you can say to a person are “let me help”. Carry The Ocean is 268 pages of “let me help” and it’s absolutely breathtaking. I picked it up saying to myself that I would read a few pages and read the entire book in two intense sessions where I laughed, cried, and empathized with the main characters. There are pieces of me on every page, in Emmet and in Jeremey. I know how it is to feel a meltdown coming on when routine and order are disrupted. I know how it feels to be overwhelmed in stores, endure panic attacks, and to believe that objects actually have feelings. I know how it feels to think/obsess about suicide, just to “know where the door is”. I know how the mind plays tricks and tells me I’m worthless and everything is my fault. But I also know how it is to find someone who loves the things I find weird and unlovable about myself. I know how amazing it is to earn the respect of peers knowing how hard I had to climb to get where I am today. Knowing that I am quite possibly happier now than many people “on the mean” as Emmet puts it, despite my bad days.
Some of the passages in this book hit me as being so true it was like someone had put words to things I’d been feeling for years but have never been able to articulate properly. I broke down crying because for the first time in forever I felt like somebody else actually knew what it was like to be me. This book got me. I never expected to find that in an M/M romance novel, when the books I’ve read in this genre lately feel bland. I’d all but given up on contemporary romance, fearing all the best books had been written already or that contemporary romance just wasn’t for me. Apparently I was just waiting for this one to come along.
I think Carry The Ocean has earned a place not just on best books I’ve read this year, or best M/M romance books, but on my all-time favorite book list. I can think of only two other M/M books I’d put there off the top of my head – Skybound by Aleksandr Voinov and Changing Worlds by Cari Z. If there’s a sequel I want to be first in line. Do yourself a favor and read this – you won’t regret it.