The House in the Cerulean Sea by TJ Klune follows a man named Linus Baker, whose life revolves around his job at the Department in Charge of Magical Youth. He’s a caseworker tasked with protecting magical children that live in orphanages in and around his city. The Department in Charge of Magical Youth is a dystopian nightmare. Employees are expected to remain impersonal and emotionless at all times; they work long hours in poor conditions, and under constant supervision. Despite this, Linus likes his job. He considers himself a protector of these orphaned magical beings, and is a poster child for the perfect employee.
Because Linus lives so by-the-book, he’s given a special assignment from the Extremely Upper Management: go to the orphanage of Arthur Parnassus, a classified orphanage for only the most dangerous children. He’s ordered to stay on their remote island for a month to document everything he sees, and ultimately give his recommendation whether the orphanage is safe for both the children and the outside world.
When Linus arrives at the island, he’s terrified. The children are even more powerful and strange than he imagined, more monstrous than childlike. Arthur Parnassus himself is also an enigma; he has no fear of these children and sparks a warmth in Linus that he’d resigned himself to never finding. As Linus stays on the island and gets to know the residents and their routine, he comes to realize that things, and especially people, aren’t always what they seem.
The House in the Cerulean Sea is wonderfully chaotic, with dark humor and love found in the most unexpected of places. Linus watches these children who are considered monstrous by the outside world learn to love themselves through the love they have for each other, and Linus comes to realize that this isn’t an orphanage, or even just a house. It’s a home, one they made for themselves, and one he slowly comes to learn could be his home, too.
This is a story of found family, and it’s so tender and kind that it brought tears to my eyes. The love Arthur has for his wards, the effort he puts into making them feel safe and happy, was beautiful. Watching Linus learn to open his heart and feel seen for the first time in his life plucked at my heartstrings like no book has done in a long time.
If you want a lighthearted, feel-good story with love and humor in equal amounts, I highly recommend this novel. You can get it here on Amazon.