Title: Ramona Blue
Author: Julie Murphy
Publication Date: May 9, 2017
“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.”
It’s been a week since I finished Ramona Blue, and I still don’t have words for this book. I’ve put off writing this review because I don’t know how to explain that this book has stolen a piece of my heart. I loved Ramona Blue in a way that I haven’t truly loved a book in quite some time. And not because it was magical, or lush, or clever. Because it was true.
This book portrays an experience rarely seen in literature, much less YA contemporary. Ramona Blue is set in the Gulf Coast, a part of the deep South that is completely unique and unto itself in terms of culture and lifestyle. I was born and raised a short drive from Ramona’s fictional town (in Louisiana instead of Ramona’s Mississippi), and my childhood was spent traveling to places Ramona frequents in this book: Biloxi, Gulfport, New Orleans, Baton Rouge. Reading this book was like reading about home, from Eulogy’s Mardi Gras parades to the experience of being a small town devastated by Hurricane Katrina. Ramona’s story resonated so deeply with me, because in many ways it’s my story too. There were so many moments where it felt as though Julie Murphy had plucked memories from my brain and written them out onto the pages.
At only seventeen, Ramona is used to putting herself last. The money she’s saved up, dreaming about moving away from Eulogy, will now be sacrificed to support her pregnant older sister. She lives in a cramped trailer with her family, and in so many ways Ramona is suffocated. Her sense of obligation to her family means her dreams get pushed aside. Thankfully Ramona ultimately realizes that she doesn’t have to give up on her own ambitions, but getting to that point isn’t easy.
Ramona is a teenager with the weight of the world – and her family – on her shoulders. Part of her journey in this book is continually figuring out who she is. Until the summer of this novel, Ramona has only ever been attracted to girls, and considers herself a lesbian. But reuniting with Freddie and realizing she’s developing feelings for him throws Ramona’s self of self (or at least, sexual identity) into question. I think Julie Murphy did an excellent job portraying that self-examination, and provides some much needed and very positive bisexual representation. This is about a girl figuring out who she is and who she’s attracted to. Ramona doesn’t suddenly stop liking girls just because she also likes Freddie.
Ultimately, I loved Ramona so fiercely, and Julie Murphy for writing this book. Ramona has secured a spot as one of my all-time favorite characters, and a spot in my heart. Ramona Blue is a contemporary story that’s all heart, and not to be missed. Sadly I can’t make any of the stops on the book tour to say it in person, but…Julie Murphy, if by some chance you’re reading this: thank you.
Rating: 4.5 stars