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The Roosevelt #1

Carry the Ocean

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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.

268 pages, ebook

First published April 7, 2015

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About the author

Heidi Cullinan

45 books2,777 followers
Author of over thirty novels, Midwest-native Heidi Cullinan writes positive-outcome romances for LGBT characters struggling against insurmountable odds because they believe there’s no such thing as too much happy ever after. Heidi’s books have been recommended by Library Journal, USA Today, RT Magazine, and Publishers Weekly. When Heidi isn’t writing, they enjoy gaming, reading manga, manhua, and danmei, playing with cats, and watching too much anime.

Heidi goes by Jun when being spoken to in person or online, and Jun’s pronouns are they/them.

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 1,054 reviews
March 2, 2023
Billions & billions of stars


- Watch Carly's Cafe .

- Stream The Blues Brothers (1980) movie with Dan Akroyd and John Belushi (available on Amazon and Comcast On Demand, but not on Netflix). This is Emmet's favorite movie, and we have to support Emmet.

- Stock up on tissues (the soft kind). And wine.

- Set aside several hours to read. Do NOT pass Go; do not collect $200. Give your partner/dog/kid/mother the Big Mean Stink Eye if they interrupt. This is a HOLY experience and should be treated as thus.

~ “No one is normal. Normal is a lie.” ~

Told in Emmet and Jeremey's alternating, distinct, first-person POVs, Carry the Ocean is Heidi Cullinan’s most poignant book. It is evocative and REAL and brilliant.


I am normal. I belong. I have a friend who can kick ass from a wheelchair. I live independently and get good grades. I'm an excellent lover. Like I said. I'm awesome. I'm Emmet David Washington. Train Man. The best autistic Blues Brother on the block.


This year I learned I'm good at feelings. Emmet calls these our superpowers--his are listening and seeing and math and remembering. Mine is feelings. I can tell what everyone is feeling all the time, and I almost feel it with them. So I have to be careful, because if there are too many feelings around me at once, I get overwhelmed . . . There is nothing wrong with me and who I am, but I do have depression and anxiety, and they're both pretty severe . . . They're real things. They're invisible to everyone but me . . . I have to fight every day, and some days I can't win.

Jeremey’s parents want to shove him into a box. They force him into loud places and yell at him in the aisle of Target until he panics and melts. They won’t let him get help and pretend everything is fine. Until it isn’t. Until Jeremey can’t do it anymore.

Emmet has an incredibly supportive family. They let him be who he is, his own man, not a sheep.

“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.”

“But that’s the big secret. The sheep are more alone than everyone.”

Emmet and Jeremey stole my heart. Cullinan does such an amazing amount of research for her books. She seeps them in pop culture, in music, in sights and sounds.

Emmet also researches everything, but he really gets into researching sex. From the first awkward kiss to tentative (and NOT so tentative) sexual exploration, the boys are in it as one.

I asked Jeremey if he wanted to try anal sex, and he said yes. I wasn't surprised. Jeremey always said yes to anything about sex . . . We'd ordered a dildo from a reputable online sex store, and he said it felt great. I tried it too, but I don't care for things in my butt. Jeremey does, which is good. I wanted to be in him that way.

Of course the sex store was reputable! Emmet wouldn't have it any other way.

Emmet and Jeremey are determined to build a life together. Neither is quite ready to live in the college dorms (what with the chaos and obnoxious frat boys), and despite his parents’ pressure, Jeremey doesn’t want to go to college. So with Emmet’s parents' support, they decide to move into their own flat at a new independent-living facility called the Roosevelt, built by a man for his quadriplegic son David.

I ADORED David almost as much as I adored Emmet and Jeremey. Emmet is initially jealous of David. When Jeremey becomes David's assistant, Emmet worries David will take Jeremey away from him.

"He doesn't have autism. His spine is broken, but his brain is fine."

"So is yours."

[Emmet] shut his eyes and put his hand over his heart . . .

"I love you, Emmet. I'll love you always. I'll love you always best."

Emmet is one of the few people who SEES David as a man, not a crippled being in a wheelchair. Emmet, Jeremey, and David eventually become the best of friends, three men against the average bullies of the world.

Emmet and Jeremey, at times overwhelmed by eye contact and noise, often talk by sign or text, even when they're right next to each other; this was so damn adorable, my heart melted. EVERY. SINGLE. TIME.

Heidi Cullinan is a master. The prose here is flawless. Jeremey and Emmet are each given a VOICE to write their own story: a story about diverging from the mean and discovering a place where you belong; a story about finding the person who understands you, accepts you, COMPLETES you.

And helps you conquer the greeting card section at Target!

Emmet and Jeremey may be "different," but they are perfect. They are more caring and tolerant of each other and more respectful of their relationship, the necessary ups and downs and compromises, than most of us on the mean.

Carry the Ocean is so much more than an M/M romance.

Everything is right in this book. EVERYTHING.

Profile Image for Heather K (dentist in my spare time).
3,861 reviews5,640 followers
March 30, 2015
Are you ready to read Heidi Cullinan's best work to date? Are you ready to read something so special that you will have to devour it in one sitting? Are you ready to read something so captivating that it will broaden your scope of what M/M can be?

This is my 11th book by Heidi, and it's the first one that I've given 5 stars. That should tell you something.

I have a thing for atypical MCs. Give me a well-written book with a main character that is left from center, and I'm all in. I've read many books with characters that have all sorts of disabilities, ranging from blindness/deafness (I Can See For Miles) to below average intelligence (Muscling Through), to physical differences (All Strings Attached) and beyond. Some of my absolute favorite books have MCs that are different in some way (Forget Me Not, Truth in the Dark, The Mating of Michael).

Carry the Ocean ranks up there with my all-time favorite books.

With not just one, but two MCs that are off the mean (a term I learned from this book), the story had the potential to be disasterish. It could have been uncomfortable, felt forced, or been too dark for me to enjoy. Instead, Heidi struck the perfect balance between serious and light, respectful and fun, truthful and relatable. It was everything I wanted and more.

I started this book at 10 pm, and I didn't put it down until 1:30 am. I was completely captivated by Jeremey (extra e) and Emmet. I loved the alternating POV and how it gave me great insight to each of them and their particular struggles. I felt CONNECTED to them, and I felt like a part of their relationship.

These boys do not have it easy. I would caution readers who struggle with their own issues, either with depression or anxiety or an autism spectrum disorder, to think carefully before starting this book. It is intense, and might strike some readers close to home. But everything that these boys are fighting for, a taste of an independent life and a happily ever after for people who don't necessarily expect to get those things, makes the journey SO worth it. Even through the serious and scary moments, this book made me feel hopeful.

I loved this book simply for the romance, but also for the insight it gave me into the lives of those who struggle every day with things that I take for granted. It was a wonderful, special reading experience, and I think something Heidi Cullinan will be remember for.

**Copy provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review**

Profile Image for elena ❀.
259 reviews2,879 followers
July 4, 2021
To those of us living with mental health challenges, we know it simply means your demons never take a day off.

I had my first depressive episode at the age of 11. Who would have thought that an eleven-year-old child would be experiencing suicidal thoughts? I was supposed to be carefree, living life like there's no tomorrow and worrying about what food the cafeteria would be serving us, whether it be cheese sticks or cheeseburgers. Yet there I was, feeling like a burden, wondering what I did wrong to feel so small, invalid, and worthless. Those thoughts never grew out on me, and I still walk around wondering what I can do to fix how I feel, tape people's pieces back together, and make sure everyone's happy. Twenty-year-old me is not so much different than eleven-year-old me. We're still people-pleasers, putting other people before us, wondering if we're a burden to others, bottling emotions up, and crying ourselves to sleep for the brokenness we feel.

Twenty-year-old me isn't stronger than eleven-year-old me. She's just keeping up and continuing to move forward.

Twenty-year-old me still cries at the smallest things, constantly feels left out, wonders what I can do to make people happy, ignores her own mental health for the sanity of others, and pressures herself to do better. Eleven-year-old me would be proud of how far I have come. She's thriving in her own world, but she's still worried for the future.

Eleven-year-old me cut herself for the first time. Seventeen-year-old me had her first suicide attempt. Twenty-year-old me is always thinking about when the past will repeat itself.

Even just last night, I had a breakdown where I felt unseen and ignored by my own family. That breakdown even made me reflect on some of the people in my life and how I'd love to disappear from their lives because of how much energy they take away from me.

There are too many dark moments that happen to us that cannot be repeated in a specific number of characters left. However, there are enough reflections to be made.

“I only wanted you to be happy.”

Isn't that what we all want? So why is it that we allow people to dictate our happiness? Why do some people feel like they have the right to judge us for the joy we feel, ruining our moments daily and therefore making us feel bad about ourselves? Why do people tell us they want us to be happy yet distract us from reaching that point?

Carry the Ocean felt like a letter to my past self, but also the present version of me. It follows high school graduate Jeremey Samson and Emmett Washington, who are judged for what they have but not for who they are. Jeremey has major depressive disorder and clinical anxiety, while Emmett has autism. However, the two see beyond this and see them for who they are, two boys who end up falling in love with each other as they continue fighting the obstacles presented in their everyday life.

TW: depression, panic attacks, the use of the r-word, suicide thoughts, and a suicide attempt.

Carry the Ocean has got to be one of the most emotional books I've ever read. I lost count of how many times tears fell down my cheeks, how many times I felt myself sniffle and tightly shut my eyes. Every emotion was felt deep down. It didn't take long for me to realize this would be a comfort read, all while also being one of the most emotionally devastating and relatable books I've come across finishing. I have to give my many thanks to Heidi Cullinan for writing what I wish other authors would write, a positive representation of different mental illnesses, especially depression, anxiety, and autism.

While I cannot in any way, shape, or form relate to the autism representation, I could see myself through Jeremey's eyes. I want to note that even if you can't relate, I still think the representation of depression and anxiety was really well done. It's an emotional one with some dark moments, one specifically which shows the reality of what ignorance can lead to. It felt like I was reading about myself sometimes, but I had the honor of witnessing Jeremey's life. Before he was diagnosed, Jeremey is aware of his depression and anxiety, but it isn't something he can show, not to his parents and people around him. As a result, he feels isolated, closed off, small, vulnerable, and alone. His parents don't believe in what he has, and they only want what's best for him. They ignore his panic attacks, making them come off as embarrassing and even humiliating. They feel ashamed for the fact that they have a son who can't walk through the aisles of a store like Target without starting to breathe heavily and break down.

My parents have constantly told me that they only want happiness for me. Jeremey’s mother told him this when he confronted her, and it only made me dislike her more, and Jeremey’s forgiveness felt too real, which only angered me more. My applause to Heidi. If Jeremey’s mom actually wanted him to be happy, why did she always invalidate his feelings?

When Jeremey said:
“But I also wanted to tell you what I’ve learned in the last year. Since the day I had to leave school. Would you care to hear what I’ve learned? What I’ve done at The Roosevelt?” My mom crossed her arms over her body and glanced at my dad, still frowning.

His mother answered:
“I suppose.”

When Jeremey told her everything, she said:
“I only wanted you to be happy,” she said again. Her face was twisted up in misery. Her mascara ran down her cheeks, until she wiped at it with a tissue and made streaks. “You’re always so withdrawn, and I knew how you felt, because I felt that way too at your age. I didn’t want you to be sad. I wanted better for you.” She blew her nose, and my dad put an arm around her shoulders, drawing her close. She put her forehead on his cheek, crying harder. “I didn’t want that for you. I didn’t want that for my baby.”

And the award for most unsupportive mother goes to . . . Gabrielle Stanson.

This was possibly the only time I felt zero emotion.

Reading about Jeremey's parents hit too close to home. I don't think some people realize how lucky they are to have parents who have always supported you no matter what, through thick and thin (literally), whether that be your mental health, what future career you want to pursue, your romantic and sexual life, who you hang out with, what you do outside of your home, your academic life, and many more. While I'm thankful for my parents and their support and the fact that they have never pressured me to do anything, it's been a stressful, emotional, and devastating ride when it comes to my mental health. It's still in progress, developing here and there while also taking a different route and starting over. It's a constant work in progress, and it seems like it isn't getting any easier to talk about. Depression and anxiety, especially, have got to be two of the most conflicting and complex topics I have had with relatives.

I can't tell you how many times I have told people "I have dealt with depression" and them answering, "You have depression? You haven't even had kids yet!" or "You don't even know what it's like to suffer. Why would you have depression?" and it's hard getting them to believe that depression isn't something that you can get only through suffering (like poverty), giving birth, or trauma. I can't tell you how many times I have heard the line, "I've suffered so much, yet I've never thought about ending my life!" At this point, I've concluded that it isn't something I can safely talk about with my parents or other relatives. Even some of my friends don't understand sometimes, so it isn't about whether someone is traditional or not. Some people are just ignorant, others genuinely do not care, and others are just confused.

My state, New Mexico, is one of the top 5 states in the United States with the most suicide rates. While data and rates change annually, in 2018, New Mexico was the highest in the nation. I told my dad this one day, and it was something he shrugged off, ignored, and called bullshit on. Jeremey's parents, especially his mother, reminded me about my parents and how common this unsupportive system is with children of immigrants, especially first-generation immigrants from Asian, Black, and Latino communities. It's so difficult talking about so much, but mental health is a priority for us and not them. It's as if they don't believe we can experience different emotions because we have everything we need. Jeremey's mother wanted to fix him, and oh how close this hit. It makes Jeremey feel like he needed to be fixed like he wasn't human and didn't have permission to feel the way he did. He felt unnormal, felt stupid, wrong, and worthless.

Jeremey is none of this. He is strong, beautiful, caring, and fighting for a better life. Jeremey's emotions and feelings are felt through every page. His perspective felt stronger for me, much more emotional, and overall all the sadder, but it reminded me of why I need to continue fighting and looking forward to the next day. As my friend reminded me: There's always tomorrow. Heidi Cullinan introduced Jeremey to a new family and new friends, but she still didn't take away his mental illness, but instead she showed how everything is possible for him through baby steps, one foot after another, one day after another. While Jeremey felt love and care through people like Emmett, he continued being Jeremey Sanson, a high school graduate who doesn't want to go to college, wants to get a job, wants to drive, feels really sad and down daily, and cares for the people he comes to love. I gotta say that I loved reading about Jeremey's confrontation with his parents. It showed how much freedom he felt afterward, although it also hurt him.

His determination to go to the store without feeling overwhelmed and anxious was admiring and heartbreaking to read about. First, his parents scolded him because of his panic attacks, but he found strength with social workers, David and Emmett. It was beautiful in every way. He found a new family in the people around him who supported him through every step. It reminded me of the type of people we all need in our lives but are sometimes too scared to welcome in because of how scared we are of them letting go of us.

Heidi Cullinan makes sure to show this, and it's one of the things I truly appreciated about this. She starts by telling us there is positive representation, and it's entirely true. There are no stereotypes and hidden myths about mental health, but everything felt real and accurate. Her dark moment has got to be one of the darkest moments I've read about, mostly because of how I felt it happening not only to Jeremey but also to me. Battling his depression alone, Jeremey gets to the point of giving up, but there is more than that.

Jeremey has a suicide attempt, and while it was his first attempt, it wasn't the first time he thought about it, and it wasn't the last time he thought about it either. He felt hopeless at that point, and it broke me. It broke me because of the hypocrisy I saw through his parents. It broke me because he didn't have a door waiting for him to open. It broke me because Jeremey felt unloved, felt like he didn't deserve the love people were willing to give him. It broke me because Jeremey felt left behind and couldn't catch up to other's steps. It broke me because Jeremey felt broken to where he no longer wanted to continue fighting to survive.

However, with the darkness aside, Jeremey love through different people, like Emmett, who became his boyfriend; David, who became his friend; and Dr. North, who became his doctor and therapist. This still didn't leave his darkness behind, and I gotta say, it was rewarding. I love when books about mental health, especially mental illnesses like depression and anxiety, don't get left behind like they were unimportant to the characters. While love and friendship are possible to help people, it does not mean it cures them. There were still moments where Jeremey and Emmett were dating, but Jeremey still felt too low to get up and move around.

“That’s the big thing I learned this year: it’s okay to go slow. That everybody else’s pace and definition of success isn’t mine. What is easy for other people isn’t necessarily so for me. Though some things are easy for me and hard for other people. This year I learned I’m good at feelings.

Similarly, Emmett is defined for his autism by many people, except the people at The Roosevelt, his parents, and Jeremey. Like Jeremey, Emmett wants to be normal, but he's also set his mind to a normal belief, yet there is no such thing. Just as Jeremey is Jeremey, Emmett is Emmett. Emmett is intelligent, loves to code, cannot cook, cannot read emotion, and is obsessed with watching trains. He loves The Blues Brothers, can quote everything from the movie, and loves to solve for X. Emmett is also loving and caring. He feels emotions very strongly and wishes he could take people's pain away. He doesn't make eye contact when talking to people, he hums and rocks, and he claps and flaps when he's nervous. But people don't see him as Emmett Washington. They see him as a freak, an autistic boy who is mentally disabled, and think of him as emotionless, someone who can't touch people.

The stereotypes of autism generalize it, making it seem like autistic people are emotionless robots and can't do anything with their lives. Constantly defined as special needs people or people who need help make them seem like they can never be independent and have their own life. Autistic people are seen as freaks, yet I'm sure many of us have heard about how autistic people are more likely able to solve puzzles, work well with numbers, code, programming, and more. It's not just a stereotype, but a fact. This is something seen in Emmett, and he knows it. He can memorize a manual with one go, memorize all the quotes of his favorite movie, remember where someone put an object (unless they moved it without him knowing), know random facts about random things, and spend countless hours programming codes or solving math equations.

Emmett is human, just like anyone else. Like Jeremey, he wants to be normal, but Emmett is perfect the way he is. Everybody is a unique individual, and his experience shows how, although he thinks and acts differently than others, he is still a human being. Emmett was thoughtful and kind, and he tried his best to make others comfortable by stepping out of his comfort zone and ignoring his needs. Every time, my heart broke for him.

That’s my ocean. I have to pretend as best I can to be like people on the mean so people don’t call me a robot. I’m not a robot. I’m real and I have feelings the same as everyone else. And I want a boyfriend. Except my ocean doesn’t make me want to be dead. It makes me want to fight. I want you to fight too, Jeremey. I want us to carry our oceans together.

Starting this, at first, felt strange because of how it was written. It’s written in dual POV, and while Jeremey’s chapters felt to the traditional format I’ve been accustomed to, Emmett’s felt more like diary entries. But, after understanding, I loved how Heidi made it that way because it connected to Emmett’s autism. I loved getting this perspective because it showed how the brains of autistic people are wired differently and how they don’t communicate the same as non-autistic people.

With that being said, while I enjoyed almost everything about this, the only quibble I can point out is the romance. In my opinion, it felt too quick. I feel as if the chemistry between Jeremey and Emmett needed some development and progress. It was already 20% when they both admitted they liked each other, which made me a little upset because of how little their interactions felt. Although I grew accustomed to their relationship and pace, I still wish they would have stayed as friends much longer and worked their way up. Even though I’m aware a lot of time passed in the book, the book’s overall pace still felt off, which ruined the relationship aspect for me a little bit. Nonetheless, I still found them to be really cute together. There’s no explicit sex, which I am not complaining about because it allowed me to understand more of their romantic relationship than their sexual. Adding on to that, their sexual interactions sometimes felt awkwardly hilarious, just because of how new everything was for the both of them, but also because of Emmett’s bluntness and openness. This in no way was bad. I ended up learning a little bit about how common it is for people to think autistic people are sexless when that is not real. Just because someone has autism does not mean they don’t have sex or like it. It also doesn’t mean they don’t experience sexual intercourse, one way or another, watch porn, or masturbate. However, I connected some of this article with Emmett.

The article mentions how it’s common for autistic people to struggle with communication, which happened to Emmett. He also doesn’t like light touches and instead prefers hard ones. He doesn’t cope well with loud noises or intense emotions, which make him feel overwhelmed and stimulated, which leads to confusion and lack of concentration. Emmett is also very straightforward and honest about his thoughts, which he voices out loud all the time. I briefly knew about this, but after looking up articles and learning about how common it is for people to assume autistic people are emotionless and sexless, Emmett’s sexual intercourse brought new knowledge.

In conclusion, Carry the Ocean will remain as one of the most powerful books I’ve read. Full of emotion everywhere, it provided new knowledge, awareness, and even resources. Still, it gave me new and old reminders, reminders I wish I could tell eleven-year-old me who started wishing she could disappear from the world, from everyone, at such a young age because she felt like such a failure.

And to my dear self: Twenty-year-old me is stronger than eleven-year-old me. The fact that I am still alive, standing, and fighting to move forward shows and proves this.
Profile Image for Baba  .
859 reviews3,837 followers
March 5, 2015
4 stars. Rating clarification see below. Full review posted March 5, 2015

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Rating clarification
5 stars for Emmet because, frankly, you can't not love the super-duper awesome Train Man and Blues Brothers impersonator Emmet David Washington.
4 stars for the writing.
2 stars for Jeremey with an extra 'e'. I'm sorry to say that I could not warm up to him.
Average rating: 3.66666667. I gave the book a straight 4-star rating…because…Train Man Emmet, right?

Emmet David Washington is nineteen. He’s studying computer science and applied physics at Iowa State University and he has autism spectrum disorder. Emmet loves trains, pizza, the sound of rain and the Blues Brothers. In Carry the Ocean, Emmet tells us his story; how he met Jeremey and fell in love with him. Carry the Ocean is told in alternating POVs and as much as it is Emmet's story, it is also Jeremey's.

The best summary I can give is to say I’m more sensitive than most people, and I don’t mean feelings getting hurt. My kind of sensitivity is if my socks have a seam on the inside of the toe it feels as if someone is scraping a trowel across my brain. A fan blowing on me can feel like ten million ants are crawling all over my skin.(…)

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I’ve read the website But You Don’t Look Sick seven times, but I still don’t understand why the friend is crying over silverware. Althea says it’s because my brain doesn’t get metaphors, which are representative stories to explain something instead of giving a literal answer. My brain is about as literal as brains get.

Emmet made me smile all the time. He's open, simple, sincere, candid and sweet. He’s not good with people, he doesn’t understand subtleties either, i.e. vocal inflections or any other visual and/or facial cues for comprehension. That’s just impossible for Emmet. But what he is makes him as rich and deep and sweet as any other so-called "normal" individual.

First of all, to be my boyfriend, he would have to be gay too. Data is unclear, but it’s estimated two to five percent of American men are homosexual. In standard circumstances, reciprocated attraction isn’t measurable as a potential percentage, but I didn’t need a case study to know autism wouldn’t help even if I beat the rest of the odds.

I feel bad for admitting that I didn't like him. He suffers from major depressive disorder and clinical anxiety.
So, while Emmet lightened the story with his special personality, all of Jeremey’s problems put an oppressive and somber damper on Carry the Ocean. Also, I think having to deal with a main protagonist who is on the autistic spectrum provided so much “meat” already, that his counterpart’s issues weighed too much and made for a very exhausting read. Jeremey, The Worrier, is surrounded with all kinds of issues. Constant negative thoughts stuck to him like super glue and depression and panic attacks were his permanent companion. As it was, I just couldn't deal with his crying jags and helplessness.

I need to go make some phone calls. Can I have a hug, jujube?”
I am not a fruit from China, which is what a jujube is, and I was too angry for hugs. But can I have a hug, jujube is my mom’s code for when she needs a hug. She’s a mom with lots of superpowers, but she says they’re powered by hugs.

We’re all different but at the same time we’re all the same. We want the same (or similar) things. A chance to be happy and accepted for who and what we are. We all seek respect, approval, friendship and love. That’s what this story is all about. Moreover, it’s about first love between two young and disabled people, superpowers and an impressive brain octopus which helped to explain Emmet’s personality. Even though the story is told in dual POVs, my heart solely beat for Emmet. I wanted his voice and thoughts; I was in his head--he clearly made the story for me.

Carry the Ocean was my third book by Heidi Cullinan and certainly one that will stick with me like super glue.

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Recommended read.

Expected publication: April 7th 2015

All quotes are taken from the pre-published copy and may be altered or omitted in the final copy

**ARC courtesy of Samhain Publishing via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review**

Profile Image for ✦❋Arianna✦❋.
790 reviews2,504 followers
April 9, 2015


“Everyone is different. Nothing in the world is the same as anything else, so how can anyone be normal?”

This book like its two main characters was pure and simple special. It was emotional, at times intense and one of the best YA I’ve read so far. This book is not only for those who love M/M or for those who enjoy reading about first love. No! This book is for everyone who wants to read about something REAL. But “Carry the Ocean” is so much more than that. It’s more than realistic fiction. It’s an eye opening, informative read who will touch your heart and it will make you root not only for these two amazing characters, but for anyone who suffers from any kind of mental disorder. “Carry the Ocean” is a beautifully written story about love, friendship, acceptance and so much more. It’s a story that made me smile, but it’s also a story that moved me and made me sad; it’s a story written in dual POV (1st person) that will make you reflect.

Emmet is nineteen years old. He’s a sophomore at Iowa State University and he studies computer science and applied physics. He enjoys puzzles and The Blue Brothers. He’s good at computers and anything to do with math. He loves pizza, trains and the sound of rain and he’s gay. He also has autism spectrum disorder. He knows he’s 'different' and he believes he’s not 'normal' because people treat him differently. As soon as they see him or hear him speak all they seem to care about is his disorder.

“It’s like Elwood Blues says: everybody needs somebody to love. I’m an everybody. I get a somebody.”

He can’t maintain eye contact, he hums, he rocks and he counts to calm himself. He remembers almost everything he reads and sees. He has 'autism superpowers', like he calls them, but he’s a lonely boy. He doesn’t have any friends or a boyfriend, but he’s very interesting in dating Jeremey, a boy from across the train tracks. He wants to introduce himself, but he’s too shy, having a hard time interacting with others.

Jeremey "with extra ‘e’ in his name" is eighteen and suffers from major depressive disorder and clinical anxiety. His parents pretend everything is just fine, so he doesn’t get any help. He’s quiet, gentle, lonely and he wants to have friends. In Emmet, Jeremey finds a great friend, finds someone who understands him, finds someone who accepts him and loves him for who he really is.

“Nobody is normal. Life is hard for everybody, sometimes.”
“Yes, but not everyone understands like you do, Emmet.”

“Nobody ever asked me what it’s like to have depression. Not Bart, not the school guidance counselor, not our doctor, not my parents. Everyone treated me like a freak and wrote me off.”

“Carry the Ocean” was a wonderful reading experience. Like I mentioned it was different from any YA I’ve read so far. And it really was! It's a heartbreaking read and it’s told with tenderness in such a way that will make the reader empathize with these characters.

The two main characters, Emmet and Jeremey are fantastic, complex and so endearing. I absolutely loved Emmet. He is simply awesome. No, scratch that. He is amazing. For who he is and for all he accomplished. He knows all about his disorder and the fact he is limited by it to do everything he wants and he realizes people are different, that some are mean and not so accepting as his family. He is sweet, kind, honest, direct, intense and so smart. I loved his personality, his strength and his determination. I lost count how many times he made me smile. The way he is with Jeremey warmed my heart. He’s caring as he can be, but he’s accepting and protective and I loved him to pieces.

“When you have an invisible disease, your sickness isn’t your biggest problem. What you end up battling more than anything else, every single day, is other people.”

My heart broke for poor Jeremey. He was so alone and I just wanted to give him a hug. Unlike Emmet’s POV, his POV is more on the darker/somber side. It was sad and it was depressing. However, it felt real. He believes he’s not strong enough for the world, that he is stupid and broken, but Emmet will help him realize (more or less) that he’s not broken, just different, that it’s ok to be this way.

“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.”

Emmet and Jeremey were perfect together as friends and as a couple. They work hard to be together and in the end they are stronger than many. They were real, they were believable and maybe even relatable as well. I loved how they are with each other. They were sweet and caring and at times even tender. The slow build relationship was perfectly done and perfect for them. Even this aspect of the story felt real to me. I liked the fact that they want to become independent, even if they knew it’s risky.

Until reading this novel I didn’t know a whole lot about autism or about major depressive disorder. It was interesting to read about them, but at times it was gut-wrenching. I hated Jeremey’s parents with all of my being and I cringed every time they opened their mouth. I’m aware of the fact there are people exactly like them in RL – mean, stupid and ignorant and that society will always judge and condemned those who are different, but every time I come across such characters I get angry and frustrated. While I disliked Jeremey’s parents, I totally liked Emmet’s. They are loving, caring, supportive and most of all accepting. They are exactly how any parent should be with his child/children.

All in all, “Carry the Ocean” was a wonderful realistic fiction, written very well with two exceptional, admirable main characters, solid plot and great message.

“I am normal. I belong. I have a friend who can kick ass from a wheelchair. I live independently and get good grades. I’m an excellent lover. Like I said. I’m awesome. I’m Emmet David Washington. Train Man. The best autistic Blues Brother on the block.”
Profile Image for Nick Pageant.
Author 6 books879 followers
April 9, 2015
There aren't enough stars in the sky or on Goodreads for this wonderful book! I'm bowled over and I'm crying nothing but happy tears.

I've got nothing, people, nothing at all. I'm just buzzing and walking on the clouds. I want everyone to read this book!

Dani wrote a great review if you need details.

Also, I have to admit that I was entertained by a quadriplegic getting punched in the face - that's good writing!
Profile Image for Kaje Harper.
Author 75 books2,514 followers
April 11, 2015
This book exemplifies one of the things I love most about the M/M genre - the fact that "love is love" encourages us to expand our main characters to include such a wide range of people, many of whom are far from the perfect, gorgeous, alpha-male romance hero. But all of whom deserve a happy ending and can be a joy to watch getting there.

In this book, Jeremy is autistic, and Emmet has clinical anxiety and major depression, and each is a rounded individual with dignity and worth and insight, capable of love. And they are given a relationship - not perfect, not unrealistic, but made real and valuable by the way these two guys fit together. Wonderful.

The author does a great job making the struggles of each character fit their issues, and yet feel individual. I know and love people on the autism spectrum, and people with clinical anxiety and with depression. These two guys were not identical to those I love, but they felt completely real. Their issues and problems felt authentic. There were moments that rang so true they hurt.

The book has a good balance between the tough parts of living with a significant psychological issue and the potential for joy and a full life that can coexist with those challenges. If anything, this book errs a little on the positive side - some of the setbacks are told but not shown (like the difficulty when a familiar store suddenly becomes more crowded due to a holiday - for someone with anxiety that can change the "two steps forward and one back" of progress to "six steps back" and a start over.) I actually wanted to see a bit more of that realism, rather than just hear it in passing. But the way it is written does keep the book moving forward with a touch of romantic optimism, and keeps it from being too emotionally heavy. I'd love to see life do this for the people I care about, and the general feel is one of hope. We all need hope.

This book joins my favorite M/M with challenged heroes - for realistic depression and love you might also enjoy Vivaldi in the Dark and Glitterland, for autism spectrum, The Persistence of Memory and especially the second book, Forget Me Not. I am so vicariously proud of our genre for embracing stories of guys like this, and expanding the universality of love to a celebration of every guy who reaches for a relationship from a place of challenge and realism.

Profile Image for JAN.
1,138 reviews755 followers
May 30, 2022
Just corrected something, pointed out by friend Darien. I was meant to do it a long time ago but forgot. 😢

What just happened here? I can’t wrap my head around the fact that the author gave us not ONE but TWO very distinct POVs representing Autism and Depression with a mind-blowing result.

Dear author,

Thank you so much for this gift! Hats off for all research I believe you have done.
Thank you also for giving us hope, and showing that people with a neurological disorder can also be happy.
We could see it’s not easy but with family support, love and medical help it can be achieved.

What a bunch of unique, captivating, lovable and precious characters you have created!
I won’t forget this story any time soon!
Profile Image for Shile (Hazard's Version) on-hiatus.
1,093 reviews798 followers
March 17, 2019
“Remember having a panic attack isn’t a failure, and not having one isn’t a success. Success is not letting the attacks run your life”

5+++stars for the Audiobook

5+++++ stars for the story

-Iggy Toma narrated the hell out of this book and gave each character a distinct voice.

-The story is still great as the first time i read it.

- The writing is steller.

-Jeremey's parents are awful and people who think depression is something that you can just snap out of and that it is a weakness, should just shut the hell up.

Depression is having a crowd of dementors live in your head twenty-four/seven.

- Everyone deserves Emmet's parents.

I really am Super Emmet, and like the comic book Superman, I have a powerful secret weapon. My mom.

- Emmet and Jeremey's relationship was so well done and got me invested in them

I kissed him on the mouth. “‘It’s a hundred and six miles to Chicago, we’ve got a full tank of gas, half a pack of cigarettes, it’s dark, and we’re wearing sunglasses.’”

Jeremey tweaked my nose. “Hit it.”


Highly Recommended!

Original Review

5 stars

What a great read, beautifully written. It educated me on the difficulties of living with Depression & Social anxiety, and Autism.

I enjoyed every second of it.

Emmet the tornado stole my heart. Jeremey was hard but he slowly warmed his way into my heart.
Profile Image for P .
687 reviews320 followers
April 8, 2017
“Sometimes I feel like everyone else is carrying a bucket of water but I’m trying to carry an ocean. It's very hard. Sometimes I would rather not carry my ocean, even if it meant I couldn’t be alive.”

The second book of this series will be out this month, so I want to recap Carry the Ocean as if I read it for the first time. This book was exceptional, unexpectedly awesome in spite of that typical start. A story about two neighbours falling in love and conquering their lives isn't something new for me, but the author managed to pull out some emotional parts, and she did it very well. I'd fallen in love with Emmet since the first time I saw him, he's such a fantastic kid, and his love was very interesting I wanted to hugged him so bad when he makes a move on Jeremy.

“Depression is having a crowd of dementors live in your head twenty-four/seven.”

Jeremy, on the other hand, is not an unlikable protagonist for me. His insecure manners annoyed me sometimes but when the two being together, the chemistry was just right there and my heart couldn't even stop beating loudly.

I loved the novel with something more than just love, drama, and twist. Thus Carry the Ocean was just a right choice for me, and to be honest, I can tell you that this is the best of M/M romance I've ever read. The ending was perfect and I can't wait to see more about the other characters who are mentioned in this book. I'd love to see Emmet and Jeremy, too, for the story of their lives just start and there's much more to come.

“Remember having a panic attack isn’t a failure, and not having one isn’t a success. Success is not letting the attacks run your life”

I still remember that I had been a victim of depression once. It's the worst experience of my life for everything was just wrong and I couldn't stop crying all day. And reading this book made me feel like being in the darkest pit of my mind wasn't the end of the world, especially if you can crawl out and look back to what you've done, that's what really matters.

Profile Image for Ingie.
1,344 reviews169 followers
April 13, 2017
Written April 29, 2015

4.8 Huge Stars - Fantastic, Amazing, Wonderful - A new YA favorite of mine

Yay, at last did I join a Monday-buddyread with —always Monday buddyreading— Barbara, Isabel and Eva. I'm so glad I joined them for this book. I'm grateful to be true. - THANKS Ladies!

Carry the Ocean is maybe this springs "talked" about new 'boys loves boys' book. Rightly!! It is the book every friend here recommends and seems to love. ~ So do I now, and I'm "silly smiling and happy-dancing" once again:

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I don't understand why or when I got that dumb idea that I don't like YA romances. I do. I usually fell head over heels for adorable tender young love and superübercute young guys. The few times I actually read a YA (or a teen) romance I more or less always end up loving them (like this one, Superhero or Catch My Breath) so very very much.


The blurb:
"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."
‘My brain, my body, my everything wanted to be Jeremey’s boyfriend.’

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These two meet and there are some kind of magic...
Carry the Ocean is about to accept that there isn't any normal, we must live with what we have - our selfs.

These 'boys' are quite young (19 and 18) and life is certainly not that easy. Both Jeremey and Emmet have some heavy stuff (to live life problems) to deal with. Quite tough inabilities and difficulties with adulthood. Parents problems and 'sickness'. Add to that to be young and be in love for the first time, be a 'good' boyfriend and new responsibilities to another dear person. There are desire, sex and strong emotions like jealousy, a lot of fears and sometimes poor self-acceptance.., yes pretty much everything you can imagine. Young people's problems and some extra.
”I’m not interesting. I…don’t have many friends.” ~
“Me either.” He turned his face so he almost looked at me, and he held out his hand. “What do you think? Should we give friendship with each other a whirl?”
I stared at his hand, unsure of what to do with it. Confused, flattered, terrified, and above all hypnotized, I put my hand in his. When he squeezed my fingers, a thrill raced through me.’


My heart & soul melted after two pages..
To be honest it has been hard to concentrate at work, on 'real life', or anything else than this addictive book. Emmet and Jeremey's story devoured me fully. I've been laughing, crying, chuckling and sobbing. I've told my friends about the storyline. I've thought about it a lot. To be autistic. ~ Is this story believable or is it just a nice dream? Partly, or? It must be a "it-can-happens-in-RL" topic. I belive in grand fabulous love, epic romance stories and I'll never stop to do that. ~ Cross my fingers hard and hope.
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Every tiny detail and nuance of this heartbreakingly touching, and so well told, story just made me love these characters even more. Maybe not a genuine romance but a cute cozy youth story filled with (first) love. Love can't be sweeter.

Looking forward next installment and love couple in this new The Roosevelt series. Heidi Cullinan surely know how to get your full attention.
”A quad, an autistic and a depressive walk into a bar. We’re the opening line of a joke.”


If you want to know more or want to read a "real" review, check for my friends. It's bedtime, I'm emotionally exhausted, and I only want to add: Don't miss this gem.

Highly earnestly recommended.

I LIKE - another awesome amazing YA read

Songs that will remind me...
~ ”We were the Blues Brothers. We were the cool kids” ~
‘Everybody Needs Somebody’: http://youtu.be/EHV0zs0kVGg
‘Happy’: http://youtu.be/ZbZSe6N_BXs
Profile Image for * A Reader Obsessed *.
2,139 reviews434 followers
May 23, 2020
5 Hearts!!

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 of how 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 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 portray and present a better understanding of probably 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 a honest review
Profile Image for * Meli Mel *.
856 reviews653 followers
May 1, 2015

♥♥♥ 5 STARS ♥♥♥

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'There is no normal, not really. Not a right and a wrong way to be. But there is belonging.'

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Ahh...this story!! I loved it so freaking much!! I honestly don't even know how to write a review for this because I know whatever I say won't do this story justice.

This story is about a young man named Emmet Washington. He is a very intelligent nineteen year old, who is studying at Iowa State University and very awesome. Oh, and he also is autistic. Emmet, with the help of his parents and his therapist, has learned how to keep calm at all times. Things that he struggles to understand, he finds modifications to make things easier for him. While Emmet has figured out how to deal with most things in his life, he still struggles with his social skills because of how people look at him when he rocks and hums. But, there is one person he is determined to meet, and that is his neighbor Jeremey. Emmet has a big crush on him and finally introduces himself to him at a neighborhood party.

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"That's another something I learned this year: how to be a boyfriend. How to listen to someone else, what they need, how to give it to them. What I need. How to love them...How to make a life with someone. How to help someone else through struggles, and let them help me with mine...There's nothing wrong with me and who I am, but I do have depression and anxiety, and they're both pretty severe...They're real things. They're invisible to everyone but me..."

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Jeremey may look like a healthy normal eighteen year old on the outside, but he is anything but on the inside. Jeremey suffers from depression and clinical anxiety. Unlike Emmett, Jeremey doesn't receive any support from his family. His parents insist that his sad behaviour will pass and that he must act "normal". The pressure of being told to be normal and go to college becomes too much for him. But, when Emmet enters his life something changes for Jeremey as they become best friends. Emmet helps him feel a little bit lighter and not so alone. Emmet and Emmet's parents become the support system that Jeremey so desperately needed.

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"I love you, Emmet. I'll love you always. I'll love you always best."

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This book was so stunning, thought-provoking, emotional, and heart-warming. The characters were so genuine and pure. It was such a unique experience that I am so glad I got to read it. I can't tell you enough how I really appreciated all the research done by the author in order to make these characters as realistic as possible. I loved both of these characters a lot, but there was something so very special about Emmet. He stole my heart by how he loved Jeremey so completely and unconditionally. I hurt for Jeremey and how his parents disregarded his condition. I was so happy that he had Emmet in his life. I even really loved David, who was quadriplegic and became a friend to them both. It was absolutely so endearing watching Emmet and Jeremy fall in love. That innocence they both shared in how they explored all aspects of their relationship melted my heart.

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'I belong. I have a friend who can kick ass from a wheelchair. I live independently and get good grades. I'm an excellent lover. Like I said. I'm awesome. I'm Emmet David Washington. Train Man. The best autistic Blues Brother on the block.'

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The author did a wonderful job in how she wrote this story. It really hit me in the feels. I was a tearful mess at times. I learned so much about the conditions both the characters had. And it broke my heart with how insensitive some ignorant people can be to people that are just a bit different. It unfortunately happens a lot in real life because they forget that they are people with thoughts and feelings just like them. I applaud the author for bringing this subject to light and doing it in such a beautiful way. I loved the characters, the story, and the wonderful message this book conveyed. This book is definitely one I would HIGHLY recommend to everyone. You just have to experience this beautiful story for yourself.

Profile Image for ☆ Todd.
1,350 reviews1,482 followers
May 30, 2016

Okay, so this time around, I'm "that guy" , so please hold off the flaming torches and pitch forks until the end. Thanks!

I really *liked* this book. Quite a lot, actually.


By the last page, I was fucking EXHAUSTED.

During the first part of the book, we got some serious insight into what it was like for Emmet to live day to day with his autism. It was very enlightening and I'm a bit ashamed to admit that I laughed as often and as hard as I actually did.

During the same part of the book, we meet Emmet's love interest, Jeremey, who suffers from severe depression and intense anxiety. I truly enjoyed learning more about his trials as well.

Watching them fumble around one another was completely endearing and I fell in love with them both.


During the middle of the story, when Jeremey is in the hospital, then the halfway house, it was as if his lethargy began rubbing off on me and those pages just made me want to lie down and take a nap. I think I actually did at one point.

The story was still very good, so please don't get me wrong. These chapters were completely essential to the story, they just made my attention wander.


Once Emmet and Jeremey were officially forging their lives together during the last part of the book, at The Roosevelt, I had made my way out of the quicksand and was all in again.

Besides some mental fatigue on my part, here are a few things that I truly *LOVED* about this read:

- Superpowers

- Foam hammers

- Emmet's blurting and his sex talk with his mom.

- “Target practice”

- Emmet's parents. No. Words.

- David, the quadriplegic asshole housemate. Again... No. Words. But times 2:
“So we can be friends now. Unless you’re a jerk.”

“Please be my friend, even if I’m a jerk. Hit me. That will always get my attention.”

“I can’t hit you. Hitting is wrong.”
I hummed and flapped. “I could make a sign and teach you. A sign that means, David, you’re a jerk and need to stop right now.”

“They have one of those already. It’s called your middle finger.”

The middle finger is a rude gesture, and I’m not supposed to do it. But I decided that for David, a rude gesture was probably exactly what I needed. “Okay.”
- The awkward as fuck 'sexy' scenes:
I asked Jeremey if he wanted to try anal sex, and he said yes. I wasn’t surprised. Jeremey always said yes to anything about sex. He wasn’t nervous about anal penetration now. We’d ordered a dildo from a reputable online sex store, and he said it felt great. I tried it too, but I don’t care for things in my butt. Jeremey does, which is good. I wanted to be in him that way.
- Emmet's well-deserved self-confidence:
I am normal. I belong. I have a friend who can kick ass from a wheelchair. I live independently and get good grades. I’m an excellent lover. Like I said. I’m awesome. I’m Emmet David Washington. Train Man. The best autistic Blues Brother on the block.
Yes, Emmet. You truly are awesome.

4 *balloon-balloon-quicksand-balloon* stars for this gratifyingly-unique read.
Profile Image for Catherine.
1,572 reviews232 followers
April 8, 2015
When I was in teachers college, the instructor of my Introduction to Special Education course arranged for a guest speaker to come into our class for a presentation. This woman was the mother of not one, but two children with autism spectrum disorder. I remember that this mother gave a very informative and moving presentation, but the nugget that I'll always carry with me from that day was this: her children have autism; they are not autistic.

To anyone else, this might seem like a case of semantics, but to her, this was everything. Her children were not defined by their disorder. Yes, it was a part of who they were, but not all of it. Not by a long shot.

That's really what this story was about - two wonderfully complex characters, one of whom just happens to have autism, the other clinical depression. It's about how they meet, how they fall in love, and how they see, interpret, and interact with the world. And it's really something special.

Profile Image for *J* Too Many Books Too Little Time.
1,921 reviews3,444 followers
December 26, 2016
4.5 Stars!

Lots of great reviews for this one.

I was hesitant to read this one because of it's heavier theme. This one definitely wasn't my "preferred" type of read.

I spent the first half for sure just heart-broken over Jeremey and Emmet. And then I became more hopeful. And then I was just so damn happy for them.

Fantastic writing. Two root-worthy main characters. Lots of tears. But some laughs and smiles too.

Highly recommend.
Profile Image for Martin.
746 reviews410 followers
April 2, 2017
I absolutely loved this story about Emmet who wants nothing more than a real-life boyfriend. Emmet is 19 and a physics student, but what prevents him from participating in the dating pool of teenaged gay men is his autism. He has troubles controlling his emotions sometimes and needs clear rules and schedules to feel confident and comfortable. He hates when people call him the R word. For him, his autism isn't an obstacle, but a fact of life that he learned to deal with. Still it makes dating hard and finding a steady boyfriend almost impossible.

However, the handsome sad boy from the house across from Emmet's quickly befriends him and shares Emmet's feelings. Unfortunately Jeremey has to deal with a darkness that influences his life much more than Emmet's autism ever did.

This was an excellent tale of love and acceptance. Emmet and Jeremey were the perfect couple, understanding and tolerating each other's problems. Growing up is never easy, but gaining independence for someone who simply cannot do certain things because his brain works differently must be the ultimate challenge.

Still, Emmet and Jeremey managed life together in a way that none of them could have on their own - which is what every relationship is eventually about.

5 stars for the message that everybody deserves to be loved and everybody has lots to offer to a boyfriend, not just appearances!
Profile Image for Susan.
2,195 reviews397 followers
April 18, 2017
Re-read March 19 2016

Still so good.

Wow. This was awesome!

I especially LOVED how it was emphasized over and over again that there is no normal. That is so true! What is normal? No such thing exists. Everyone is different, some just more than others.


Emmet, autistic. Jeremey, depressed. And they were so good for each other.

Emmet is autistic, he is also brilliant. When he sees his new neighbors he just knows he has to get to know Jeremey. Jeremey, who looks so sad all the time. They immediately hit it off and it is not long before they are best friends. Jeremey has no trouble with Emmet and his autism and Emmet doesn’t understand why people would have a problem with Jeremey and his depression and anxiety. It is just a part of who they are.


Of course their road is not without trouble, and especially Jeremey’s parents are trying everything in their power to sabotage the relationship. But Emmet and Jeremey are so right for each other, there is no one that can stop them from being together.


I have to admit there was a point halfway in the book where I wasn't sure Jeremey would ever be okay. But just when I was starting to drown in the depression that was Jeremey, David happened. Wonderful, wonderful David. David is paralyzed after a car accident and can only move his head and his left arm a little. He was just what Emmet and Jeremey needed. Something to spice things up a bit. I loved how their friendship developed after the rocky start.

And the Blues brothers dancing scene in Target, wow, just wow. Emmet, Jeremey, David, they were awesome! I loved it.

This is one of those books that will stay with me for a long time.

Like I said. I’m awesome. I’m Emmet David Washington. Train Man. The best autistic Blues Brother on the block.
Profile Image for Line.
1,082 reviews173 followers
February 4, 2019
Why have I not read this before now?

Normally I don't watch TV, but I ended up binge-watching Atypical and The End of the F**king World and then I NEEDED more.
Sometimes I get too caught up in the "perfect" romances (because I love reading about happy endings and people being fucking nice to each other; I need that a lot, with the world as it is right now), but I also think that's why these two shows caught my attention, because they are so off beat and sort of crazy, but they made me laugh, they made me hope and more importantly: they made me THINK!

I hunted around, and this one is almost the ONLY MM-book, with an autistic MC, that my google skills could find. But my dog, did it grab me by my (imaginary) balls!

I am speechless, this book was everything, and it gave me so. Much. HOPE.
Just... Read this! This is unlike any other romance out there, and Emmet and Jeremey made me laugh, even when they made me cry. And most importantly they reminded me that romance and life and laughter and security should be for ALL!
Profile Image for .Lili. .
1,169 reviews260 followers
April 11, 2015
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Let me begin by saying that there is nothing that I can write that would do justice to this book. This book is up there as an all time favorite- best of the best- unforgettable. This was as perfection. In this book we have two main characters who are dealing with heavy struggles in their lives. Emmet, has autism spectrum disorder, and Jeremey, has depression and anxiety. Subject matter...it's heavy and at times difficult to read. There was some ugly crying for me in this book. It was so heartbreaking.

The thing is though- through the heartbreak Heidi Cullinan managed to also add lightness, caring, and love. This wasn't an angsty read that was all gloom and doom- there was so much hope throughout the story.

What I loved:
*It was told from an alternating POV.
*There was an undertone of innocence.
*Emmet. He made my heart melt.
*Jeremey. I just wanted to love him and protect him.
*The Washington's. Wish that every child had parents like them.
*Dr. North
*David! Heidi, please hurry with his book!
*I love the uplifting feeling in the story even at the darkest of times. I knew that both the boys would be there for each other no matter the obstacle.
*The romance. Talk about that feeling of warmth and happiness.
*Triumph. Not only did I cry tears of heartbreak- but there were also tears of joy.

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I believe that EVERYONE should read this book. I, for one plan to have my daughters read it when they are age appropriate. As someone who fights depression and anxiety- I can't thank Heidi Cullinan enough for writing this book. There aren't enough stars to rate this one.

Profile Image for ♡ c a l ♡.
499 reviews113 followers
July 11, 2021
one of the best books that i have ever read. i wish i could say more than that. this story broke me first then mended me.
Profile Image for BWT.
2,153 reviews218 followers
February 2, 2019
Updated 06/01/2017 for Audiobook narrated by Iggy Toma.

I was really impressed with Iggy Toma's performance. I thought he did a good job portraying Emmet's ("almost robotic") and Jeremey's (sometimes anxious) particular tones of voice.

I loved the audio. Sure, it's definitely an extension of the love I feel for this story (which topped my faves of 2015 and remains one of my favorites of all time), but I think even if you hadn't read the story and only listened this still completely works.

I was a little worried because there is a lot of texting in the story, but Toma handles it all organically and brilliantly.

This is a terrific love story about finding acceptance in (sometimes) the most unlikely places. I love this story even more with the narration.

If you were on the fence about it? Don't be! Absolutely recommended!

Audio review has been cross-posted at Gay Book Reviews.


Emmet David Washington is nineteen, a genius, a sophomore at Iowa State University studying computer science and applied physics, is good with computers and anything to do with math, loves puzzles and The Blues Brothers, is gay, and has autism spectrum disorder (ASD). It’s not even close to the most important thing about him. He functions well (most of the time) and has tons of help and support from his wonderful family.

Frankly, I’m awesome, and anybody who doesn’t agree should get out of my way.

Jeremey Samson is eighteen, just graduated from high school, and suffers (and he does suffer) from major depressive disorder and clinical anxiety, having major panic attacks when overwhelmed in public, and does not have the support of a wonderful family. His mother and father are, in my opinion, terrible people who constantly try to bully and shove Jeremey into a cookie cutter image of what a “normal” kid should be.

"No one is normal. Normal is a lie."

The story starts from Emmet’s POV, after Emmet sees Jeremey and knows Jeremey is meant to be his boyfriend (and because EMMET IS AWESOME, he makes it happen), then continues perfectly in alternating POV’s.

Emmet was beautifully described, represented and fleshed out as a character…all bold colors and vibrancy. In sharp contrast, Jeremey, just as beautifully described and represented as a character, often times felt sepia toned, washed out, with only short bursts of brightness and color, that would often quickly fade away again.

Heidi Cullinan does a masterful job in bringing these characters, and the others in the story (the families, the other residents at The Roosevelt), to life. The story is inspiring, heartbreaking, uplifting, sad, happy, funny, and then happy again. It was an ebb and flow of emotional tides that left me wanting more, but made me so happy I was left with a hard-won and wonderful HEA.

Friendship is a healing force, and love can overcome any obstacle.


This review has been cross-posted at Gay Book Reviews.
Profile Image for Trisha Harrington.
Author 2 books124 followers
April 25, 2015
This is not my first book by Heidi Cullinan. I love Dance With Me and it's easily one of my favorite books. But this one is hands down my favorite of hers to date. I'm not sure I can properly describe how much I love this book, these characters and this story. It's amazing. Beautiful. Emotional. It made me feel.

Jeremey broke my heart. He suffered so much. His parents didn't understand, they didn't want to understand either. They wanted him to be "normal". They wanted the perfect son. The son they could put in a box. And he tries. He tries to be what they want him to be. He does his best to get up every day and to do what they want him to do. Until he's no longer able to do that.

sometimes I feel like everyone else is carrying a bucket of water but I'm trying to carry an ocean.

Emmet has a supportive family behind him. They love him, support him and truly want the best for him. Sure, they don't always agree. But I never doubted how much they loved him. I had a soft spot for his dad. He was awesome. An amazing dad. His mom was great, too. She struggled for a while. But I know she only wanted the best for Emmet. Emmet is awesome in his own right. He's so lovable, as is Jeremey, and I fell for him straight away.

I'm an everybody. I get a somebody.

The relationship between these boys is heartbreaking and painful at times, but it's also beautiful. They are amazing together. And even though they have their issues, they work through everything. They communicate (most of the time) and nothing can stop their love. What helps you love them even more is getting both POVs. I loved seeing each MC through the others eyes. It was beautiful and it made my heart melt time and time again.

"I love you, Emmet. I'll love you always. I'll love you always best."

I cannot recommend this book enough. There are so many things I love about it. It's perfect. Simply perfect. I'm really glad I read it because I do not regret it one bit.
Profile Image for Mirjana **DTR - Down to Read**.
1,390 reviews652 followers
November 14, 2016

***5 Stars***

Easily one of my FAVORITE reads of the year!

If I can urge you to read any book this year, this would be it.

I don't know how to adequately write a review that could even touch on the blinding beauty that is this hopeful and thought provoking book.

Everybody needs somebody to love. I'm an everybody. I get a somebody.

This book deals with autism, severe depression and social anxiety in very real and honest ways. It could have been preachy, but it 100% is not. Heidi Cullinan handled Emmet, Jeremey, their journey, their love and their every day reality with respect, care and brutal honesty.

As you can see, the topics and themes are serious and heavy, but the book doesn't feel that way. Not at all. It's hopeful, it's inspiring, it's funny and it's just downright sweet.

Now, if you'll excuse me, I'm off to go and watch The Blues Brothers* for the first time and see if there's any way that I can learn to be as cool as Elwood Blues.

*Yes, you read that right. I was born and raised in Chicago and have never seen The Blues Brothers. I wear my shame like a second skin.
Profile Image for Nazanin.
1,075 reviews611 followers
December 9, 2018
4.5 Stars

There is no normal, not really. Not a right and a wrong way to be. But there is belonging.

This story is the journey of two people who are dealing with serious issues, Emmet who has autism spectrum disorder and Jeremey (yes with an extra e) who has major depress disorder. One needs order and rules and don’t know emotions, the other one reads emotions, has anxiety and can be overwhelmed by life so easily. The story talks about the hard life of them and the difficulty of their lives. The demons they’re dealing with, the dark moments of their lives and their everyday fight to win BUT it also talks about hope, inspiration, love and how that love makes their life easier, of course with the right help! And that help can be the partner/parents/doctor/friends! Told in dual POV, 1st person. It’s the first installment in "The Roosevelt" series and it’s not cliffy. It’s SO well-written with awesome characters, a great story-line and a bit angsty! And such a BEAUTIFUL cover!! Overall, loved it and hope you enjoy it as well!
Profile Image for Tina.
1,658 reviews1 follower
April 23, 2015

I am normal. I belong. I have a friend who can kick ass from a wheelchair. I live independently and get good grades. I’m an excellent lover. Like I said. I’m awesome. I’m Emmet David Washington. Train Man. The best autistic Blues Brother on the block.

This was mind-blowing, tender, poignant, gut-wrenching beautiful, heart-breaking, emotionally satisfying,… I could go on and on until I’ll run out of adjectives.
“It’s like Elwood Blues says: everybody needs somebody to love. I’m an everybody. I get a somebody.”

My reading-relationship with Heidi Cullinan’s books isn’t an easy one. I’m not a big fan of most of her previous books… but this one was pure awesomeness. I’m so glad I took the chance to read Carry The Ocean.

Emmet is simply stunning, I was tempted to highlight every single quote! :)
I shouldn’t have worried so much about it. Frankly, I’m awesome, and anybody who doesn’t agree should get out of my way.

After reading Emmet and Jeremey's awesome story I can’t even imagine a world without those two. Emmet, Train Man and best autistic Blues Brother on the block, and Jeremey, with an extra e. The one Emmet has given a heartbeat pattern on his iPhone because Jeremey makes Emmet’s heartbeat go funny…
“I love you, Emmet. I’ll love you always. I’ll love you always best.”

Love those two with all my heart…

Emmet’s parents, I don’t have any words… can parents be THAT awesome? Love them.
((Marietta)) Can I have a hug, jujube?”
I am not a fruit from China, which is what a jujube is, and I was too angry for hugs. But can I have a hug, jujube is my mom’s code for when she needs a hug. She’s a mom with lots of superpowers, but she says they’re powered by hugs.

Can’t wait for the sequel. It’s David’s story… who can kick ass from a wheelchair. :)
Normal is just a setting on the dryer.
I hear ya, Emmet. :)
Profile Image for Macky.
1,833 reviews233 followers
March 25, 2015
Everybody, needs somebody/everybody needs somebody to love” The Blues Brothers.

Reading this amazing book I was always just a sniff away from a good cry. How I actually managed to see what I was reading I don't know, because for pretty much the entirety of the book my vision was blurred with tears constantly welling in my eyes, but as much as I was teetering on the edge, I also found myself grinning like a fool; delighting in the eccentricity and magnetism of 'Train Man' Emmet David Washington.

"My name is Emmet David Washington. I'm nineteen years old, and I'm a sophomore at Iowa State University studying computer science and applied physics. I got a perfect score on my ACT. I'm five feet nine inches tall with dark hair and blue-grey eyes. I enjoy puzzles and The Blues Brothers. I'm good at computers and anything to do with math. I remember almost anything I read and see. I'm gay. I love trains, pizza and the sound of rain.

I also have autism spectrum disorder."

It's pretty obvious from the moment you meet him that this is going to be an emotionally uplifting story. He's an amazing, lovable character, meeting life head on despite the idiosyncrasies of his autism; the ones that tend to make some people nervous and wary of him. He rocks, hums and flaps his hands when he's upset or nervous, can't maintain eye contact, doesn't always like being touched, uses both language and visual signs when it's hard for him to vocalise his feelings, counts to calm himself and is sensitive to the general noises, smells and everyday life experiences that most of us take for granted. His world is 'loud' but not in the sense we know. He's also painfully honest, literal to the point of bluntness and off the scale smart. But he can also recite the whole of The Blues Brothers movie from memory, do the iconic Palace Hotel Ballroom dance that Jake and Elwood does at the end of the film ( I LOVE that scene), make beautiful animated patterns from computer codes and read or see anything that's in his peripheral vision. Emmet is a force to be reckoned with. An ingenuous genius with autism superpowers ...and I adored him!

Jeremey is the quiet, sad looking boy from across the train tracks, who has caught Emmets fascination and interest. He wants to get to know him desperately, but more than that he has a major crush on the gentle boy with the extra 'e' in his name and wants him to be his boyfriend. When the opportunity finally comes around for them to meet face to face it's the beginning of a momentous life changing journey for both of them and a very special reading experience for anyone who has the pleasure to add this to their library. It had me emoting all over the place.. I swear to god I'm filling up now, just thinking about the two of them as I'm writing this review!...

For rest of review follow Link: http://bit.ly/1GRC5GY


Profile Image for BevS.
2,724 reviews2 followers
July 2, 2017
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Has gone straight onto my Awesome Audio Narration bookshelf, I think it's the best thing Iggy's done [that I've listened to]....other than Nowhere Ranch and the Love Lessons series. His interpretation of Emmet was spot on....slightly stilted, quirky and with underlying humour. Jeremey was also wonderful, softly spoken, tremulous at times when he got really nervous. David was exactly right....well, let's cut to the chase shall we?? Just everything about it was magnificent. An outstanding audio book for my #1 book of 2015!! Congrats to all concerned.

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