Analysis, process, Reading, Reviews

Book Review: The House in the Cerulean Sea

Hey, it’s another book review, this time with %350 more of what everyone really wants: doggy on screen.

“It’s the little things, I expect. Little treasures we find without knowing their origin. And they come when we least expect them. It’s beautiful, when you think about it.”

The House in the Cerulean Sea by T.J. Klune

Part 1: who’s going to love this book

“Wholesome” is really the only word needed to describe The House in the Cerulean Sea. If you’re looking for something warm and snuggly, a book filled with bright colors that feel like a hug, then this is for you. If you’re looking for an easy, pleasant read. If you’re looking for positive gay representation and optimism about the future, then you’re going to love The House in the Cerulean Sea.

Part 2: who’s going to hate it

If the passage at the start made you throw up in your mouth a little then this book is not for you.

If you know the word “grimdark” or can only enjoy things ironically, then this book is not for you.

Part 3: what I thought of it

I enjoyed The House in the Cerulean Sea. It’s not my standard fare. I do prefer something more in the center of the spectrum between Warhammer 40K and Care Bears, but I liked it.

The main character has layers, the plot is well developed, if a little bit predictable.

I was a little surprised that this book isn’t marketed as “Young adult,” but I suppose it’s disqualified since its protagonist is over forty, nevermind that it’s extremely wholesome, uses simple language, and is full of secondary characters who are children.

Meanwhile Six of Crows is labeled as Young Adult even though one of the heroes literally gouges a man’s eye out.

But genre labels are stupid and meaningless so let’s get into…

Part 4: what writers can learn from it

There were a lot of points where I easily identified story beats straight out of ‘Save the Cat‘ in the plot of Cerulean Sea.

If you struggle with plotting and wonder how the professionals do it, then you’ll benefit from reading and re-reading this book alongside a guide to plot and structure such as Save the Cat. Heroes Journey-type stuff from Joseph Campbell would also fit well.

It’s easy to knock on the walls of House in the Cerulean Sea and identify where the studs are located. You can sort of hear ‘this is the catalyst’, ‘this is debate’, ‘this is the start of act 2’.

One thing I disliked about the book was its simple language.

Consider the following:

“The elevator started to rise. The pit of Linus’s stomach seemed to stay in the basement. It was the longest elevator ride of Linus’s life, lasting at least two minutes. It didn’t help that it stopped on the first floor, opened, and began to fill with people. They asked for two and three and four, but nobody ever asked for five.”

This is the sort of bland description that I can be pretty ruthless about when I see it in my own writing, but The House in the Cerulean Sea reminds me that witty turns of phrase are a double-edged sword. They can set off fireworks in the reader’s imagination, but they can also get in the way of the story.

The language in this book is a hobbit. It’s not interesting, mysterious, or sexy, but it is unobtrusive, methodical, determined, and capable of carrying its burden to Mordor and beyond.

This is a book that doesn’t worry about wowing the reader with every sentence. I read it and felt encouraged, just write! Tell the story that you want to tell. Some writers need to be reminded,

“You don’t have to have a story. You don’t have to have an idea just connect with that moment and maybe you’ll write crap, but you’ll write.”

‘Film Courage’ on youtube: You Don’t Need a Story to Write – Jack Grape

In conclusion, The House in the Cerulean Sea is a wholesome, bright story. It’s well-plotted. It’s told with simple, straightforward language. It’s a brilliant reminder to get out there and put your story on paper without worrying about all the rules and regulations that you’re supposed to follow.

Until next time, Good luck and good writing.

Ashaya’s thoughts:
Yeah, I don’t know. There was one cat in this story, but no dogs. I wouldn’t have minded hearing a little bit more about the cat. I found it a bit unrealistic that, I think, only one of the characters tried to eat the cat. I think if there had been a dog in this story that could have added some interesting tension… dramatic tension, I think. But I lost interest when we stopped talking about the cat and there wasn’t really any dog that I could put myself in its paws and think about all of the attention I would have enjoyed from the characters.


2 thoughts on “Book Review: The House in the Cerulean Sea”

  1. Warhammer 40k to Care bears is a pretty wide swath. Great review, though I’m a little surprised you reviewed a book like this. It sounds like fun, though I’m not sure if I have the time to read it (or much else to be fair). I am pretty sick of hearing about yet another angsty book about dark, grim teens in a dark grim house dealigh with dark grim stuff.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Unless I have a good reason not to, I’m going to review whatever I read. I have a big ol’ list of miscellaneous recommendations and somehow this one found its way on there AND the library had an ebook edition… and here we are.


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