Shelter the Sea, by Heidi Cullian
Series: The Roosevelt, Book 2
Release Date: April 18, 2017
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
Some heroes wear capes. Some prefer sensory sacks.
Emmet Washington has never let the world define him, even though he, his boyfriend, Jeremey, and his friends aren’t considered “real” adults because of their disabilities. When the State of Iowa restructures its mental health system and puts the independent living facility where they live in jeopardy, Emmet refuses to be forced into substandard, privatized corporate care. With the help of Jeremey and their friends, he starts a local grassroots organization and fights every step of the way.
In addition to navigating his boyfriend’s increased depression and anxiety, Emmet has to make his autistic tics acceptable to politicians and donors, and he wonders if they’re raising awareness or putting their disabilities on display. When their campaign attracts the attention of the opposition’s powerful corporate lobbyist, Emmet relies on his skill with calculations and predictions and trusts he can save the day—for himself, his friends, and everyone with disabilities.
He only hopes there isn’t a variable in his formula he’s failed to foresee.
Asexual Character (Secondary)
Discussions about suicide and references
to previous suicide attempt.
This book alternated between making me laugh and making me cry (often on the subway). I think I spent most of this book with a sappy grin on my face… at least the times when I wasn’t blinking away tears.
Shelter the Sea is a little sad, but mostly it’s delightful and full of hope. It is also extremely cheesy at times… I’m talking “roll your eyes and scoff” levels of cheesy. But that’s not a bad thing… with Emmet’s straightforward narration and Jeremey’s depression-tinged view of the world, it actually worked really well in the story.
I can’t speak for the disability rep. I am, as Emmet would say, “on the mean” and able-bodied. But I enjoyed the way Heidi clearly researched different types of disability, and showed every one of them with respect. Someone with autism or depression would be better suited to review that aspect of the novel, and I would really love to see their thoughts!
One note on rep, though: Darren, one of Emmet’s friends, is panromantic asexual, and has on-page rep! YAAAAAY! And he’ll get his own book someday!
What I can talk about, though, was how this book made me feel: full of hope. This was absolutely a book about overcoming the obstacles in front of you without sacrificing part of yourself in the process. It was about finding tools and support from friends and community. It wasn’t always a happy story, but it was always a story that made me smile.
The ocean was a real thing, and I had love for it. I loved it so much, so quickly it hurt my chest and made me sway, made my octopus quiver with all the emotions inside me. I could watch it reach for the land for hours. For days. It would make me so happy to do nothing but watch this ocean forever.
At times I was a bit frustrated; the novel gets a bit bogged down at times with very detailed local and state politics, which I felt detracted from the plot. And I did suffer a pretty bad case of second-hand embarrassment when the Jeremey, Emmet, and their friends decided to make a video of themselves dancing. (Note: I get bad second-hand embarrassment when people in books do things that are VERY MUCH outside my personal comfort zone; this was also an issue I had with the first book, Carry the Ocean, which had a similar scene at the end.) But this is absolutely a personal issue, and not a fault with the book itself.
Overall, I think Shelter the Sea is a very successful follow-up to Carry the Ocean. The narrative has expanded to include Jeremey and Emmet’s friends and co-workers, and I think it’s a richer book for that. I’m looking forward to Darren’s and David’s stories in the future!
Heidi Cullinan has always enjoyed a good love story, provided it has a happy ending. Proud to be from the first Midwestern state with full marriage equality, Heidi is a vocal advocate for LGBT rights. She writes positive-outcome romances for LGBT characters struggling against insurmountable odds because she believes there’s no such thing as too much happy ever after. When Heidi isn’t writing, she enjoys cooking, reading, playing with her cats, and watching television with her family. Find out more about Heidi at heidicullinan.com.
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I received an advanced copy of this novel in exchange for a fair and honest review.