Book Review: The House in the Cerulean Sea by T.J. Klune
The House in the Cerulean Sea – T.J. Klune
Reviewed by Kamryn Kronschnabel
Looking for a magical escape from reality? Ready to meet your new favorite comfort read? Multiple librarians at Charles City Public Library have read T.J. Klune’s recently released book The House in the Cerulean Sea for our Whenever, Wherever YA Want Online Book Club – and we can’t recommend it enough!
For the past 17 years, Linus Baker has been content with his career as a case worker for the Department in Charge of Magical Youths (referred to throughout the book as DICOMY). He may not receive much positive attention from his supervisors for his work, but he keeps his reports on the orphanages completely objective and does a thorough job with his short visits. His house in the city is small, his cat is grumpy, and the bus is usually late, but he’s unbothered and used to all of it.
Linus’s life, however, is flipped upside-down when his consistent reports catch the eye of DICOMY’s Extremely Upper Management. His objectivity and detail lead Extremely Upper Management to give him a highly classified assignment: visit an orphanage off the coast for four weeks to investigate its unusually powerful (and potentially dangerous) magical orphans. His life suddenly becomes a whirlwind as he’s uprooted from his comfortable urban existence and transplanted onto an island with the six extraordinary children and their equally extraordinary caretaker, Arthur. Assaulted by the quirks of these curious orphans, surrounded by magic, drawn to Arthur, and duty-bound to stay for the month, it seems that anything can happen to Linus at this house in the cerulean sea.
Reminiscent of Terry Pratchett’s style, a book this easily written is hard to come by. On one hand, the mysteries of the island and its inhabitants are so gentle and eustressful compared to other fantasies that reading it feels like a vacation; on the other hand, this book is such a pleasure that it doesn’t need tension to keep readers spellbound. The story and characters are so delightful it can be absurdly difficult to put down; it’s like a lovely hug of a story that we know we could leave for reality, but not one that we want to.
That said, part of its charm is the way it intentionally and carefully handles difficult and terrible subjects. Prejudice, abuse, loss, and abandonment come into focus at various times as the story takes its course, but themes like self-love, acceptance, and found family help to balance the heavier moments. The characters teach one another, learn, and sometimes relearn throughout that it’s okay to feel small and need love when things are too much to handle; it’s the combination of all these elements that make Klune’s beautiful book an unforgettable one.
Reading The House in the Cerulean Sea was, for us, comparable to watching a favorite Pixar movie – vivid, joyous, sweet, heartbreaking, and able to make you laugh even while you cry. It’s not too late to check out a book club copy for our Whenever, Wherever YA Want Online Book Club, or you can borrow it from our main collection. Stop in or call 641-257-6319 to reserve a copy today!