house in the cerulean sea book coverAuthor: TJ Klune

I am fully aware that YA magical fiction is not everyone’s cup of tea. But perhaps sometimes we don’t know our cup of tea until we drink it. Or in this case, read it. For I fully believe that The House in the Cerulean Sea rises above genres and age groups to sit firmly in humanity’s happy place.

The House in the Cerulean Sea opens with an introduction to Linus Baker. Linus works at the Department in Charge of Magical Youth, or DICOMY. He is a caseworker, traveling from orphanage to orphanage, assessing that the needs of these special children are being met.

Or so he has convinced himself. He has also convinced himself that single-minded devotion to one’s work leads to a satisfactory life. He lives in a small house in a rainy city with few acquaintances and a cat. He loves music and takes his job very seriously.

It is his steadfast dedication to following each and every rule to the letter that lands him with an assignment to Marsyas orphanage. He is tasked by Extremely Upper Management to spend a month at the far-flung house filled with very…unusual charges. He is to make his normal thorough, objective, dispassionate assessment.

Things do not go the way he expects. Or the way we expect. What is happening at Marsyas that has Extremely Upper Management so alarmed? Who are these children, and who is caring for them?

The House in the Cerulean Sea presents Linus and the reader with the challenge of seeing life through the eyes of people very different from everyone else. We meet a startling variety of magical children and their caregivers, delighting in every introduction.

TJ Klune packs every one of his characters with humanity and vulnerability. Each is so very alone in the world, yearning for connection and not dissuaded by fearful strangers. It is only Linus they fear, for he is part of a system that can break their fragile world.

As Linus investigates, the house opens its doors and pours its exuberant light on this sad, hopeless man and on the reader as well. We’re all enveloped in the triumphs and struggles taking place within, cherishing the unfolding of each enchanting detail.

Watching Linus begin to question his unwavering dedication to the status quo while joining the residents of this isolated paradise in their daily routine is an absolutely joyful experience. The story is neither complicated nor abstract, it’s just filled with appreciation for the beauty that exists if only we are brave enough to open our eyes and look.

I savored every page of The House in the Cerulean Sea, wishing it would never end but never questioning that Klune would treat his characters with care. It is a book filled with bright tenderness and gentle lessons that everyone needs to hear once in a while.

No matter what you usually read, I highly recommend you take a break and indulge in The House in the Cerulean Sea. It’s a fanciful breath of sunny sea air to take you away from our cloudy, complicated world. We all need a little bit of that now and then.


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Sue Millinocket
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