Ramona Blue by Julie Murphy is a standalone contemporary novel and I listened to it on audio.
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.
Ramona Blue took me by surprise. I had read one of Julie Murphy’s books (Dumplin’) and that just wasn’t my thing. I didn’t like the characters and I didn’t find myself enjoying it a lot. So I didn’t have high expectations of Ramona Blue, and boy was I wrong. Ramona Blue is about the small town lesbian Ramona who lives with her father and big sister (and her boyfriend) in a small trailer. She works several jobs and now that her sister is pregnant they’re struggling with money. It took me a while to get really into but once I was, I couldn’t stop listening. I spent over four hours straight just listening to the audiobook a few days ago (oops).
“It’s sad that sometimes we let ourselves believe that if it’s not bad, it must be good.”
I loved Ramona and her dedication to support her family no matter what. She and her family have gone through a lot of hardship and though they’re not perfect, she would protect them with her life if she had to. But she isn’t ignorant too and doesn’t pretend they’re perfect, because they aren’t. I loved the relationship Ramona had with her sister Hattie. Hattie is at first sight a bit of a stereotype: small-town girl, pregnant at a young age, wears a bit too much make-up (according to Ramona), in an unsupportive relationship, etc. But you soon realize there’s more to her and the same thing with the other characters.
“The idea that I’m someone’s best friend fills my rib cage with summer.”
I just adored the way this book dealt with sexual/romantic orientations. It’s not perfect to everyone, I think, but I thought it was really refreshing (and important) to see this represented in a book. At first Ramona believes she is a lesbian, because she’s only ever been attracted to girls, but throughout the story (very minor spoiler, it’s literally in the synopsis) she begins to develop feelings for her (male) friend. And it’s about how she deals with questioning her identity and about how it’s okay to be unsure of your labels. Because the way you identify right now might not be the way you identify for the rest of your life, and that’s okay.
“Life isn’t written in the stars. Fate is ours to pen. I choose guys. I choose girls. I choose people. But most of all: I choose.”
I really felt like this book brought something new to the YA contemporary genre. It stands out in many ways from the typical middle class girl stories told in YA, and I just loved it! I’m giving this book 4.5 stars because it was such an enjoyable read, that discusses so many important topics (from poverty, to sexuality, to racism, to family, etc). I would definitely recommend this book! (warning for minor acephobic content)