Thursday, June 8, 2017

Book Review: RAMONA BLUE by Julie Murphy

Dear Kim,

Ramona Blue is tall.
Ramona Blue is a sister.
Ramona Blue is a survivor.
Ramona Blue has blue hair.
Ramona Blue is questioning.

And maybe those details are enough to summarize this story, but I loved it too much to stop...



Ramona Blue is Julie Murphy’s third novel to hit the shelves. Much like her Side Effects May Vary and DUMPLIN’, Murphy inserts us into the town of her main character. 

We know the setting. 
We know the friends. 
And we intimately know our main character: Ramona Blue.



The central relationship in the book is between Ramona and her sister Hattie. Both girls dream of leaving Eulogy, Mississippi after Ramona graduates from high school. Then Hattie becomes pregnant and her Cinderella dreams are dashed. Ramona is no stranger to sacrificing for her family, but the baby has her sacrificing any hope of a future on her own. 



While Ramona's own mother is inconsistent at being motherly, and barely contributing to the family, her father has many sweet moments in the book that make Ramona’s situation feel very familiar to my own. I appreciate the care Murphy took in bringing such an authentic view of family life to the page. As she says in the book, “childhood ends and adult life begins the moment you stop believing your parents can rescue you.”


💙💙💙

Murphy did play with my heart a bit. The opening scene between Grace and Ramona gave me all the feels. I wanted Ramona and Grace to step off the page and walk down the beach toward wedded bliss. (I know I am a HOPELESS romantic.) But the heartbreak of a summer romance hangs all over the page too. 

Murphy had me believing that distance would be what keeps Ramona and Grace apart. (This is familiarity sneaking between my own head and the page. This is the “reading like she knows me” that gets a reader into trouble because Murphy doesn’t know me.) Murphy doesn’t care about my fool heart. She had surprises in store for me—the reader— and Ramona too.

I won’t write much about Ramona and Freddie, several (read thousands) folks have already done so online. (A few to explore: https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/1844866135, http://meloukhia.net/2017/04/book_review_ramona_blue_by_julie_murphy/, http://womenwriteaboutcomics.com/2017/05/26/ramona-blue-sweet-novel-sexual-fluidity/... still looking for a review from a teen of the book.)

Murphy gives Ramona’s experiences a voice, we see a character explore her roles in an ever changing family. Murphy was successful in showing that being trapped doesn't always make you scream: “I WANT OUT”. There's nuance when your family is in need. It isn’t all about you. It is about eating, and contributing, and the guilt of getting out. But it is also about YOU. The need to be yourself no matter the outside pressures searing hot against your neck. This book made me cry—happy tears and big, fat sorrow too.

I look forward to sharing this book with teens, and to the story Julie Murphy gives us next.

Much love,

Alison