Monday, May 7, 2018

Book Review: Ramona Blue by Julie Murphy

Title: Ramona Blue
Written by: July Murphy
Published: May 9, 2017 by Balzar + Bray (HarperCollins)

(Amazon / Goodreads)

Synopsis: From Julie Murphy, the #1 New York Times bestselling author of Dumplin’ and Side Effects May Vary, comes another fearless heroine, Ramona Blue, in a gorgeously evocative novel about family, friendship, and how sometimes love can be more fluid than you first think. Perfect for fans of Rainbow Rowell and Morgan Matson.

Ramona was only five years old when Hurricane Katrina changed her life forever.

Since then, it’s been Ramona and her family against the world. Standing over six feet tall with unmistakable blue hair, Ramona is sure of three things: she likes girls, she’s fiercely devoted to her family, and she knows she’s destined for something bigger than the trailer she calls home in Eulogy, Mississippi.

But juggling multiple jobs, her flaky mom, and her well-meaning but ineffectual dad forces her to be the adult of the family. Now, with her sister, Hattie, pregnant, responsibility weighs more heavily than ever.

The return of her childhood friend Freddie brings a welcome distraction. Ramona’s friendship with the former competitive swimmer picks up exactly where it left off, and soon he’s talked her into joining him for laps at the pool.

But as Ramona falls in love with swimming, her feelings for Freddie begin to shift too, which is the last thing she expected. With her growing affection for Freddie making her question her sexual identity, Ramona begins to wonder if perhaps she likes girls and guys or if this new attraction is just a fluke.

Either way, Ramona will discover that, for her, life and love are more fluid than they seem.

I love Julie Murphy’s books. Every book I have read by her I loved. I had wanted to read this book when it first came out but I didn’t get around to it until now. I wish I had read it sooner, because I unsurprising liked it a lot.

Like all of Julie’s books, this is a great coming-of-age story. Ramona is a small town girl who has already experienced a lot of adversity before we even meet her. She’s working two jobs just to have money to help pay the bills and save up for her move away some day.She lives in the Gulf region of Mississippi, in a town that is still dealing with the effects of Hurricane Katrina ten years later. Julie did a great job of showing the impacts of the storm on the people who are living there and that things were never really the same. It was poignant and made you think, while being an interesting setting for this book.

But much of the plot was about Ramona and her personal struggles to find out who she is and where she fits in the world. The impetus of me reading this finally was that I just read Leah on the Offbeat and I wanted to read another book with a bisexual character. And while Ramona isn’t really bisexual, or well she doesn’t want to label herself as one, the way that sexual identity is handled in this book was really interesting. For Ramona, someone who had come out when she was much younger, liking a boy is a strange thing. I liked the way Julie did that, making the heterosexual relationship the one that felt odd. And Ramona dealing with her sexuality and trying to put a label on it was a compelling and relatable subject matter. I can’t speak to whether or not the rep is realistic but the struggle to figure out your identity felt genuine and relatable.

The other fantastic and relatable thing in this book was the familial relationship. Ramona lives with her Dad and pregnant sister who she loves a lot. But her Dad, like her, is working two jobs and still struggling to make ends meet. He’s not around a lot but when he is, he’s kind of distant. But you can tell that he really cares about her and her sister. Speaking of Hattie, she and Hattie have a really good relationship. They are so close that they are almost like friends. They don’t always get along and they fight like actual sisters during the book, but they would also do anything for each other. I really liked the way that the family relationships were handled in this book. They were imperfect and realistic and gave the book a lot of heart.

The other thing I think gave this book a lot of heart was the friendship. I can sit her and talk about the romance, and my thoughts on that, but really the more interesting thing here was the friendships. Ramona had a great group of friends in Ruth and Saul. They were loving and supportive and so fun. Then when Freddie comes back to town they are able to become friends again as if nothing had changed between them. I really liked that. As someone who isn’t great at keeping up with people, I feel like this is a true and compelling thing. With true friends, it doesn’t matter how long it’s been since you last talked. And I loved Ramona and Freddie together. Not even romantically. They were just so sweet and nice with one another. They made each other so happy and I liked being there for that.

On the whole, Ramona Blue was a great read. It was engaging and poignant. It made you thing but didn’t beat you over the head with a lesson. It was a fun and sweet coming-of-age story and I’m glad I read it. It’s kind of a slower read in terms of pacing but still it’s incredibly readable. I didn’t think it dragged at all, and to be honest I wanted to keep reading it and I was sad when it was over.

I give Ramona Blue by Julie Murphy 9 out of 10 stars

Buy/Borrow/Bypass: Buy. If you liked Julie’s other books then definitely check this one out. If you are looking for a sweet and interesting coming-of-age story with a character dealing with their sexual identity then I would definitely recommend this one. I really enjoyed it is only solidifying the fact that Julie is one of my favorite writers of YA contemporary.

Have you read Ramona Blue? What did you think? Leave me a comment with your thoughts. Thanks for stopping by and HAPPY READING!

1 comment:

  1. This is a new to me book and author. Coming-of-age stories usually are a hit or miss with me, though. It can go both ways.