Ramona Blue by Julie Murphy
Hardcover, 432 pages
Published May 9th 2017 by Balzer + Bray
Source: ARC via the publisher
GOODREADS // AMAZON // BOOK DEPOSITORY
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.
Let’s Gab //
This was my first Julie Murphy book, and I ADORED it. The characters, setting, and themes were incredibly nuanced and honest, and the way that Ramona discovers the nuances of love could not have been more perfect.
There are MANY reasons I would recommend this story to you all. It is so very clear that Julie spent a LOT of time thinking through all the details of these characters’ lives, how their identities and experiences make and change who they are, and the result is an incredibly thought out story.
This story takes place in a small vacation town in Mississippi named Eulogy. It’s the kind of place that doubles in population in the summers, but the story itself surrounds the life of Ramona, whose life continues even after people go back to their homes for the rest of the year. She is one of two out lesbians in the town, is over six feet tall, has blue hair, and lives in a trailer with her father and sister and sister’s boyfriend. Her mother left the family after Hurricane Katrina, and never came back.
As someone who grew up in Northern California and has lived for the past four years in Seattle, Washington, small town Mississippi is like a completely different world to me. One that my past self might have called boring, but Julie crafted the story in such a way that made this small town come to life. I wanted to know more about these people who call Eulogy home, and I found myself rooting for every character along the way.
Especially the ragtag group of misfits consisting of Ramona, her sister Hattie, and their friends Ruth and Saul. The friendship dynamics were fantastic, and I loved seeing how everyone grew and changed over the course of the story. Every character really had at least a little bit of their own story, and all definitely had character growth, and I loved that.
Ramona herself is the kind of character who had to grow up a little too soon – she works many odd jobs to help take care of the family, including an early morning paper route and at a local restaurant with Saul and Ruthie – and plays the mom role for her older sister Hattie. Ramona doesn’t let herself dream of leaving this town, because she feels tied to her family, especially her sister, and that adds some conflict between her and her friends.
The plot itself allows for Ramona to grow and learn about herself in a lot of different ways. It starts with her summer love, Grace, leaving town. Shortly after this, though, her childhood best friend Freddie and his grandmother move back to town and this changes everything. Ramona and Freddie almost seamlessly pick back up where they left off all the years ago when Freddie stopped visiting Eulogy for the summers. Best friends like nothing every changed.
Over the course of the story, they both experience heart ache and must grow from that. But they also start to learn about love, and how love isn’t as simple as they thought before.
I loved Freddie and Ramona so much, they were both incredibly sweet and thoughtful and fun and it was a treat to spend all those pages with them.
Ramona’s own journey is one that I think a lot of people can relate to, and one that frequently goes untold. What happens when you thought you knew your identity through and through? Ramona knew she loved girls, and never really questioned her identity as a lesbian until Freddie came back into the picture. Something that really stuck out in this story is the idea that love is not easy to pin down with a label, sometimes you just know how you feel about someone and that’s all you can understand at that moment. Love happens even when you don’t expect it, or try to deny it, or find it impossible.
I found the pacing of the story to be much slower than the books I tend to pick up. I think that especially in the beginning, this could cause some folks to DNF the story, or find it less enjoyable. So be aware of that! Personally, I loved the way the story unfolded, albeit slowly, because it fit the lives of the characters in small town Mississippi, and helped add to the atmosphere. There is so much character development across all of the characters, not just Freddie and Ramona, and I don’t think this would have been possible to the same extent if it was done any differently.
Ramona Blue turned out to be a story that I truly loved, full of characters that were so honest and true that I felt like I was going through everything right there with them in Eulogy. Ramona Blue has a lot of heart. I would definitely recommend it to folks looking for YA with great diversity and representation, along with honest portrayals of love and family. This book felt like a love letter to the discovery of who you are and who you love, and the beautiful discovery that love doesn’t have to fit a label.
Overall rating: 5 out of 5 roses
About Julie //
Julie Murphy is a potty-mouthed Southern belle who was born in Bridgeport, Connecticut, but found her home in Fort Worth, Texas. She’s never seen Star Wars, but has yet to meet a made for TV movie she didn’t love. When she’s not writing, Julie can be found cruising Costco for free samples, watching Sister Act 2, stalking drag queens on instagram, obsessing over the logistics of Mars One, and forever searching for the perfect slice of cheese pizza. She lives with her bearded husband, two vicious cats, and one pomeranian that can pass as a bear cub. (source x) p.s., her website is the cutest!