Ramona Blue, by Julie Murphy
Publisher: Balzer + Bray
Release Date: May 9, 2017
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
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.
You’ve heard the commentary which states that, just because you’re a girl who’s in a relationship with a guy, doesn’t mean you’re not bisexual? Well, this book isn’t exactly that story, but it’s a story in a similar vein.
Ramona Blue is one of the two out lesbian teenagers in the small beach town of Eulogy. At the start of the story, she’s in an ‘in the closet’ relationship with Grace, who only spends the summer in Eulogy with her family. That doesn’t last very long, because Grace has a boyfriend back home and she is too embarrassed to properly come out, especially when Ramona’s not around with her.
And so Ramona gets her heart broken and, along with Freddie, swears off girls for the rest of the school year.
One of the really good framing techniques for the pacing of this novel is that it comes in monthly chunks, which means that the reader has a very accurate sense of time passing. When Freddie and Ramona start to feel things towards one another, it doesn’t come on suddenly. Also, narratively speaking, the thoughts that run through Ramona’s head about how she sees herself and her identity make it clear that her actions are not just a kneejerk kind of thing.
However, Ramona is also deeply invested the place she holds in her sister’s life. She doesn’t imagine that her pregnant sister’s boyfriend is going to hang around long enough to help bring up the child, so she sees that’s going to be her responsibility.
As a hurricane sweeps through Eulogy and her sister gives birth, and real life things are happening all around her, Ramona realises more about who she is and how much more important that is than the narratives she’s been telling herself.
Although this book isn’t a happily ever after romance novel, it’s an incredibly good read for anyone who has ever questioned themselves, their identity, their place within their family, and come up with different answers than the ones they expected.
Julie lives in North Texas with her husband who loves her, her dog who adores her, and her cat who tolerates her. When she’s not writing or trying to catch stray cats, she works at an academic library. Side Effects May Vary is Julie’s debut novel.
You can purchase Ramona Blue from:
Barnes & Noble
I received an advanced copy of this novel in exchange for a fair and honest review.