Thursday, May 11, 2017

Ramona Blue by Julie Murphy

Ramona Blue by Julie Murphy
Release Date - May 9, 2017
Publisher Website - Harper Collins
Publisher Social Media - Twitter/Facebook/SavvyReader/Frenzy
Pages - 432 pages
My Rating - 5/5
**received for an honest review from publisher**

Here is the Goodreads synopsis
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 expect a few things from a Julie Murphy novel - great characters, a realistic tone, and some great romance. Ramona Blue is no exception. It may, in fact, be my favourite Julie Murphy novel for so many reasons.

Julie Murphy, once again, charms with a character who is larger than the novel that contains her. Ramona is character that is a joy to get to know. So much of her story is about growing and changing. It is about having those changes redefine how you see yourself. In Ramona's case it is everything from her sexuality, her role within her family dynamic, what she wants out of the future, and what she sees herself as being capable of. It's about opening her viewpoint to life outside her safe zone and not settling into the future she thought she was stuck with. She is a character that is effortless to root for. She is frustrating at times as you want her to see the potential within herself much sooner than she does. Her journey is made all the more poignant as her growth is the core of this story.

Ramona and her family are poor. Hurricane Katrina decimated their home and their lives and things never really got back on track for them. Ramona works multiple jobs just to help out her family and this speaks volumes about her character. I felt Julie Murphy did a fantastic job of showing what life after a severe weather incident could be like. The slow progress of rebuilding what you lost. The adjustment to new circumstances. The shifting definition of what is truly important. This background is vital to all of the characters, especially Ramona, as it makes them who they are. This is woven into the fabric of the story perfectly, and really is felt in all aspects of the story.

The other thing that Julie Murphy nails in this novel is the weight of expectation and responsibility. Ramona expects that her whole life will be lived in Eulogy. She expects that she'll always live in the trailer she lives in now. She expects she'll help her sister take care of the baby she is about to have. All of the create a feeling of responsibility that catches up to Ramona when she tries to do too much on her own. She feels unable to take any opportunities that may arise for herself, simply because she either feels it is a luxury she can't afford, or it is something she never thought of as being possible for herself.

Family is so important to this story. I am loving this new trend of having parents be so present and important to the story. Ramona's family means everything to her. She's willing to do anything to support and take care of them. She puts her family before herself a lot of the time in a very unselfish way. She doesn't feel burdened by it. It is something she is happy to do. Something she needs to do, even. This very loving family is presented as being imperfect but so filled with patience and understanding. Their bond will warm your heart, even if at times you wish Ramona would take care of herself as well.

There is some controversy surrounding this novel and the bisexual representation found within. While I cannot speak to the quality of the representation found within as I am not bisexual, I did read quite a few reviews written by bisexual reviewers. I urge you to read some of those reviews as plenty of them have smart, insightful things to say and seem to feel the representation found within was respectful. I understand the initial worry of Ramona falling for a boy and the potential for a problematic storyline where she is 'magically turned straight'. This is addressed in the novel, with Ramona even expressing that her relationship with Freddie doesn't mean she is not attracted to girls any longer. Everyone, I think, can relate to figuring out their sexuality and that is what this read like for me. It read as a girl discovering a new part of herself, which is something everyone can relate to, and this discovery does not discount all the other parts of herself that she's already claimed. If anything, the story presents the idea that it is okay to still be figuring out who you (in many ways and areas) and that you don't have to put a label on anything about yourself until you're ready to do so.

The romances in Julie Murphy's novels are always stellar and this is no exception. There is a history between Freddie and Ramona that instantly makes their friendship reignite when he moves back. That friendship is the perfect foundation for feelings to grow and turn into something more. The relationship, like everything else in this book, is complex. Nothing is easy or simple. There is a strong case made of offering patience within a relationship, and allowing the other person to grow and change. It does the same for forgiveness. I loved how supportive they were of each other, and how they accepted the other for who they are. It's a healthy portrayal of a relationship where communication is key.

Ramona Blue will delight fans of Julie Murphy's previous novels, and have them reading it in one sitting. A story of a girl finding her way in this messy, ever changing thing we call life. It is a serious contender for one of my top reads of the year, and I urge you to pick it up and give it a chance to charm you like it did me.

1 comment:

  1. I'm so glad to hear you loved this one. I'm a huge fan of Julie's books and I want to read this one so badly. It sounds fantastic and your review makes me think it definitely is. Great review!
    Cassi @ My Thoughts Literally


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