Book & Movie Reviews, Reviews

What happens to children that are forgotten? – The House in the Cerulean Sea by TJ Klune #BookReview

โ€œ๐˜š๐˜ฐ๐˜ฎ๐˜ฆ๐˜ต๐˜ช๐˜ฎ๐˜ฆ๐˜ด, ๐˜ฃ๐˜ฆ๐˜ช๐˜ฏ๐˜จ ๐˜ฅ๐˜ช๐˜ง๐˜ง๐˜ฆ๐˜ณ๐˜ฆ๐˜ฏ๐˜ต ๐˜ง๐˜ฆ๐˜ฆ๐˜ญ๐˜ด ๐˜ข ๐˜ญ๐˜ฐ๐˜ต ๐˜ญ๐˜ช๐˜ฌ๐˜ฆ ๐˜ฃ๐˜ฆ๐˜ช๐˜ฏ๐˜จ ๐˜ข๐˜ญ๐˜ฐ๐˜ฏ๐˜ฆ.” – ๐˜“๐˜ช๐˜ฏ๐˜ฅ๐˜ด๐˜ฆ๐˜บ ๐˜š๐˜ต๐˜ช๐˜ณ๐˜ญ๐˜ช๐˜ฏ๐˜จ

W๐™๐™–๐™ฉ ๐™ฌ๐™–๐™จ ๐™ฉ๐™๐™š ๐™ก๐™–๐™จ๐™ฉ ๐™—๐™ค๐™ค๐™  ๐™ฎ๐™ค๐™ช ๐™ง๐™š๐™–๐™™ ๐™ฉ๐™๐™–๐™ฉ ๐™ฌ๐™–๐™ง๐™ข๐™š๐™™ ๐™ฎ๐™ค๐™ช๐™ง ๐™๐™š๐™–๐™ง๐™ฉ?

In August, I read The House in the Cerulean Sea by TJ Kluneย after seeing Mara (@bookslikewhoa) rave about it on herย BookTube page. Kluneโ€™s novel is one of a kind in its depiction of the child welfare state and how โ€œunwantedโ€ children are often herded from place to place with no real care for their wellbeing. Even though this author has placed the children in his story in an alternate world, it speaks to the plight of children who are either minority or LGBTQ+ or โ€œhard to manage.โ€

Author, TJ Klune

Kluneโ€™s book starts in this โ€œalternateโ€ version of what seems to be London with Linus Baker, a caseworker in the Department in Charge of Magical Youth, who happens to be gay. Linus is a character who the readerย will immediately recognize as a person whoโ€™s just going through the motions at work. For all those in the helping profession, youโ€™ll recognize him immediately as a person whoโ€™s โ€œburned outโ€ and just going through the motions of his job.

The House in the Cerulean Sea

However, this all changes when heโ€™s sent to check up on Arthur Parnassus and his gang of โ€œmisfitโ€ children. The children under Arthurโ€™s care can be seen to represent several unwanted groups of children, such as those with behavioral issues (Lucy, the Antichrist), those who are transgendered or non-binary (Talia, a female gnome, & Chauncey, an anthropomorphic blob), mischaracterized BIPOC children (Sal, a Black teenager who has been characterized as โ€œviolentโ€ even though heโ€™s just introverted), and the neurodiverse (Phee, a sprite who relates more to nature, & Theodore, a wyvern with limited speech patterns).

While the world and Linus at the beginning of the book view Arthurโ€™s charges as a danger to society, he knows better. Through careful work with each child, heโ€™s able to bring out the best in them. Sadly, this is not the route many people take when dealing with children in each of these populations, causing them more harm than good.

I will admit when I met the kids in Kluneโ€™s book, I was a little taken aback by the fact that Sal, who seems to be the only child of color, was depicted as a โ€œwere-dog.โ€ Yet, it hit me that this was a stroke of brilliance since Salโ€™s transformation from being this โ€œscary animalโ€ that society sees him as mirrors the plight of black men everywhere once they go past the toddler stage. Sal is a victim of circumstance who has PTSD from the violence inflicted on him. Heโ€™s not only intelligent and poetic, but also the calmest child out the bunch. Likewise, the fact that Klune subtle pokes fun at the irony of dogs being highly protected by society when BIPOC arenโ€™t had me smirking.

This book is a heartwarming tale that everyone needs to read! I gave it 4 โญ๏ธ. Itโ€™s aย book for the whole family. Checkout some of the character avatars that the publisher, TOR Forge, shared on their site below and on their website!

From top to bottom: The Marsyas Island Orphanage (@rednosestudio), The very dapper Chauncey, looking dashing as always with his bellhop attire (@mavilez_), Lucy, being the very innocent person that he is and in no way ever thinking about murder. Ever. *side eyes* (@mavilez_), & Last but not least, Talia, ready to work on her garden! Do we have any volunteers to help? (@mavilez_)
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