Carry the Ocean by Heidi Cullinan #Review

Posted April 21, 2015 by Sophia Rose in Reviews / 19 Comments

I received this book for free from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Carry the Ocean by Heidi Cullinan #Review
Carry the Ocean

One StarOne StarOne StarOne StarOne Star

Series: #1 The Roosevelt
Genres: Contemporary Romance, M/M Romance, New Adult Romance
Published by Samhain Publishing
Released on April 7, 2015
Pages: 268
Format: eARC
Source: NetGalley

Get it at: add to goodreads

I saw an early review on this book and the reader’s descriptions absolutely captivated me so I knew I had to pick this one up and read it. The author is already an established favorite plus this was the beginning of a new series so win all around.

I’ve always had a huge admiration for people who face disabilities because, seriously, life is hard without them so that just makes them have to work even harder and do that much more for their achievements. And when they do, they’re extra strong having gone through those fires on top of the average person’s struggles. When I saw this was a love story between a young man with autism and a young man with severe depression and anxiety, I just had to read such a heartwarming, triumphant tale of romance.

I don’t like to hate myself, and hating my autism is hating myself, but right then I was so angry, I wanted to be a different person.

Loc 543 Emmet from Carry the Ocean


“I’m too different, mom. I don’t want to be so different.”

“Everyone’s different. Some people are more able to shove their differences into the dark, to blend in and be sheep, but that isn’t always a good thing.”

“I’d rather be a sheep than be alone…”

Loc 791 Emmet from Carry the Ocean


“My emotions feel loud and big. Its hard for me to keep hold of them. They weigh me down. Make me heavy and tired and overwhelmed. Sometimes I feel like everyone else is carrying a bucket of water, but I’m trying to carry an ocean. Its very hard. Sometimes I would rather not carry my ocean, if it meant I couldn’t be alive.

Loc 1242 Jeremey from Carry the Ocean

The story begins with Emmet Washington moving to a new town with his family, settling in and then crushing on the boy who lives in the house behind his. Emmet is a brilliant man- a genius actually, but he is autistic and that means he struggles with social skills making it nearly impossible to make friends or tell a guy he likes him and wants to date. But Emmet is not easily deterred. He teaches himself how to make conversation, recognize facial and body cues, and his wonderful family is behind him all the way supporting his needs and working with him. At the block party, he takes up his courage and asks Jeremey if they can be friends hoping to work him around to something more.

Jeremey started having troubles with depression and having panic attacks in high school that only got worse the harder his parents rode him to be normal. He was screaming inside. He had to graduate from home school, he couldn’t go into public and he certainly couldn’t cope with strong emotional scenes without panicking and curling into a ball on the ground. Into his dreary world, barges Emmett. Emmet gets him and after a bit of time and education, Jeremey gets Emmett. They have a blissful summer of friendship together before the fear of college and his parents finding out that he and Emmet are now becoming more than friends.

Emmet is sent reeling when Jeremey’s parents discover their relationship and so do his own. Jeremey is lost to him until they find a way to communicate through texts as the storm of their parents’ reaction rage around them. It is Jeremey’s drastic actions that finally get everyone’s attention and things change from there. Emmet is determined that he and Jeremey will move out of their parent’s homes into their own place and live independently. Both young men work hard for it even as they work hard to prove that they are ready to be together in a relationship.

“Nice place you got here.” She grinned and chuckled as she pointed at the rocker by the window. “There it is, my boy Emmet’s chair. But where he at?”

I glanced at the counter, where the offending appliance loomed. “There was…an issue. With toast.”

Tammy rolled her eyes knowingly, not unkindly but as if she knew all about devil toasters, the bastards. “I got this, sweetheart, don’t worry.” She sashayed to the door of Emmet’s room and knocked five times. “Emmet, honey, it’s Tammy. I want to hear all about this toaster.”

Loc 2596 Jeremey and Tammy from Carry the Ocean


To be with Jeremey meant managing my autism, my octopus and my feelings. I would be a great deal of work, all the time, more intense than the most complicated math problem in the world. Except this was so much more wonderful than any math problem could be.

Loc 1008 Emmet from Carry the Ocean

There is nothing typical about this story and many times I caught my breath on a deeply poignant moment or insightful piece that opened my eyes just a bit more toward this small community of people living amongst us. This is an amazing journey both separately and together for Jeremey and Emmett. The story is told first person alternating between the two guys as narrators. Both have separate personality and individual tales. I can’t praise the author enough for how accurate and real it felt to be inside Jeremey and Emmett’s heads. I’ve taught children with autism as well as worked with people with moderate mental health issues and it all rang very true. Wish I would have had some of this insight years ago when I was struggling to understand.

The romance in this one is sweet and tender and tentative, but passionate too. It develops in baby steps, but the pacing is just right for Emmett and Jeremey. They had to figure out how to express their feelings and wishes, accommodate individual needs (i.e. Emmet doesn’t like to be touched; Jeremey needs to be touched), and then prove to their parents that they understood what it was to have and be in a relationship. Can you imagine being a nineteen year old college student and having to prove that you know how to date and understand that type of relationship? Emmet is brilliant and his parents encourage him and love him as he is, but even they have reservations about him understanding love and handling having/being a boyfriend. The two face people who see them as freaks separately, but particularly when they are together.

Emmet is Jeremey’s rock and he is the catalyst for making things happen for both of them. Emmet helps Jeremey out of the dark corners of his mind and teaches him to cope, modify and embrace his differences. Jeremey is Emmet’s treasure. His love and acceptance of Emmet is a validation in so many ways that Emmett’s big dreams for his unusual life can come true-boyfriend, independent living, and a job. As with everything else for them, love does not simplify and it’s even harder, but the usual bumps in the relationship of sharing a new home, jealousy, new neighbors, and communication are there. I smiled as I read their first attempt at kissing. It was an adorable moment.

Starting was tricky. In my head I wanted us to melt together, to move gracefully into each other’s spaces, but my body doesn’t work that way. It’s clumsy. It doesn’t listen to me. I’m better than I used to be-I’ve done all kinds of therapy, but I still move differently. Add that Jeremey’s body is hesitant, and it meant our kiss was more of a thump.

Loc. 1040 Emmet from Carry the Ocean

On a side note, there are some interesting extras in the story. Blues Brothers fans will have a particularly good time. Emmet is a huge fan. Huge! But there is more. Music plays a strong role so there are enough song references to fill a playlist. And Emmet shows the internet is a powerful tool for learning what he needs to know, but also what others in his life need to know. One of these online tools that he shares with Jeremey is the You Tube clip of Carley’s Cafe to give him a point of reference for what autism is like (and it’s really on there by the way). Here’s the link:

The romance was a triumphant one that was just part of this wonderful story of two guys finding their way. I learned so much more than I thought I knew and would recommend this for anyone, but especially professionals and family members who cares to understand this population of folk right in their own community because of the impact of this story that shares how it feels, how it looks and what its like from the inside. The age of the guys would make this an M/M New Adult, but I think adult fiction and Contemporary Romance lover would enjoy it too. Can’t wait for the next installment of the series.

My thanks to Net Galley for the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.


This is the second story I’ve read where both main characters are people with disabilities and they both happen to be m/m contemporary romance. They were fantastic. I was wondering if there are any others out there that people could recommend and not just m/m, but any type of couple (or more). Have you read a good romance involving characters with disabilities?

Romance Roundabout #163 NA

New to Me #72 series

Cliché Klatch #66 ‘Always know where I stand’

Books N Tunes #28 Blues Brothers’ Everybody Needs Somebody to Love

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I was born and raised near Sacramento, CA. I have read since I was four years old and developed tastes that run the gamut of literature. I went away to college and have a degree in education, a certificate in family history research, and a certificate in social work. I worked for a non-profit agency with low income families for 20 years which included being responsible for the children’s library and promoting/teaching adult literacy. I have lived in Southeast Michigan for the last 18 years and I am currently a book addicted homemaker with a cat and husband who keep me grounded. Recently, I made it a challenge to review each book that I have read as a favor to author friends who said reviews are important. I have done reviews for Good Reads, Amazon, eBay, and Smashwords, but mostly at Goodreads and Amazon.

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  • Wonderful review!! This sounds just amazing. I haven’t read too many books with the main character having disabilities like this. But having you read the madness of lord Ian Mackenzie by Jennifer Ashley? The main character has a form of autism…it’s a favorite of mine

    • Not yet, Renee! I didn’t realize that was about a guy with a disability. Thank you!

  • I’ve actually seen a ton of reviews on this book. It sounds like a powerful one that should inspire people to love themselves and accept other people. Fabulous review:)

    • Oh this is definitely a hard hitter, Lanie. I know I will re-read it and I can’t wait for the rest of the series.

      • Glad you enjoyed it so much, I’ll be interested in seeing what you think of the rest!

  • Wow Sophia. That does sound amazing. I was going to mention Ian but see that Renee already did. He had what I’d guess is what we call aspergers. That’s the only one that popped right into my head. I’ve read a couple with dyslexia which was interesting to read and see how they dealt with it. Either hiding or using tricks they’d learned. Oh oh. Then the Cara McKenna where he had OCD so badly with cleaning. I love when authors work things like that into their books.

    • I love it too, Anna. I loved that one by Cara McKenna too. I feel like the characters are so much more heroic and awesome b/c they have that bit extra they need to conquer and accept. If you think of a title for the dyslexia one, I would love to know.

      • Oh yes. It makes them feel so real too that they aren’t “perfect” and have things they have to work through. I’ve read a couple dyslexia ones. Judi Fennel did one with a hero that had it. But that’s not the one I read most recently. I’m going to have to go through my notes. It was the heroine with it I believe. Gah that always drives me nuts when I just can’t remember.

        • The Judi Fennell is a good start. No rush on that other one, but yeah, I hate it when I can’t remember a book and its right there dancing out of reach teasing me.

  • This sounds like a deep emotional story. I really like reading books with characters who have different disabilities because we shouldn’t be hiding that facet of life. I have 2 personality disorders so I like seeing it being talked about.

    • Agreed, Mary! This book is like an endorsement for living your life and not getting hung up on what is normal. It was fantastic. I can’t wait for book two because I think each romance will tackle a different set of people with unique abilities and disabilities.

  • It looks like a wonderful book, but one I couldn’t read these days… I do appreciate that authors speak about those kind of problems, though. And yay for the Blues Brothers !!

    • Yeah, I imagine we all have topics or settings that are just too big a reminder of the real world. It was great to see how the author portrayed these characters and raised awareness.

  • Lindy Gomez

    What a beautiful review Sophia. My daughter has Autism and I wonder and worry about her feeling lonely, different, and hope she will one day be able to have a great love. I love that this story raises awareness, and is part of a love story. I don’t see many love stories where one of the main character’s have Autism. The quotes you posted brought tears to my eyes. Thanks for bringing this book to my attention. Without your review, I would have never heard about it.

    Lindy@ A Bookish Escape

    • Ahhhh, Lindy! Now you brought a little emotional gulp to me for your words. 😉 This is a unique story and will feature folks with disabilities for the whole series b/c The Roosevelt is a complex of apartments for people with disabilities to live independently. If it means anything, one of my former students kept up with me and he shared his high school graduation announcement and told me that he took his girlfriend to prom. This was huge b/c social development was a rough ride for him. I wish the same achievements for your girl too.

  • I love when authors deal with real life issues and do it well. Those quotes were amazing and the story sounds amazing too. I haven’t come across any stories that had couples with disabilities of late but if I do, I will be sure to recommend it. Wonderful review Sophia

    • This book was very amazing, Sharonda. I had so many quotes highlighted that I probably could have quoted 25% of the story. 😉 And yes, please do send any reckies my way if you come across more. I have a soft spot for these romances.

      • I <3 ur reviews Sophia…they make me want to just pick a book up…but then myw wallet be looking at me all crazy, lols! and you got it on the rec's 😀

        • Oh the wallet…yeah! I’ve been better about that in the last few years, but still not as good as I want to be.