Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Review: Ramona Blue - Julie Murphy

Ramona Blue 
Julie Murphy
Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary
Publisher: Balzer + Bray
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Ramona thought she had it all figured out. She thought she knew exactly who she was and exactly where she was going, but then everything she thought she knew began to unravel.

This book is about so many things, but if I had to pick one major theme, I would say it's about identity. Ramona spends a lot of this book struggling with her identity, because so many things begin to change, which challenge all these ideas of who she thought she was and the things she thought she could have or do.

Ramona was a sister, and although she was the "little" sister, she was the one always looking out for Hattie. She believed that she had to be the one to take care of Hattie and her unborn child. Ramona was a lesbian. She came out in 9th grade and never looked back. Ramona was poor. She did not see college in her future, because her family did not have the means to pay for it. She believed she would be stuck in Eulogy waiting tables for the rest of her days. Ramona had put herself in a box, and she saw no way out of it.
"But there has to be more. I'm made up of tiny pieces; scattered, they are nothing more than sharp edges. But all those pieces combined are what makes me Ramona."
Enter Freddie, or rather, re-enter Freddie. He was a summer friend from her pre-Katrina life, which included a real house to live in and both her parents. I wasn't shocked that Ramona would embrace and hold tight to Freddie as things around her were falling apart. He was associated with a stable time in her life, a happy time in her life. When they reconnected, Ramona was dealing with a broken heart, her sister's baby-daddy drama, her friends leaving her for college, and a future that seems like a dead end.
"It terrifies me and it excites me and it's not because he's a guy and I'm a girl. It's because he's Freddie and I'm Ramona."
Freddie gave her love and support. He was a wonderful friend to her. His grandmother, who was like Ramona's surrogate mother, pulled her right into the fold, and gave her all the things she wished her own mother was able to give her. They gave her the chance to swim with them, and that led to an opportunity, which could prove to be life changing for Ramona.
"I wish I could just say yes. I wish I could put myself in that box for my sake and his, but I don't know."
This could have been a pity party, but Murphy did not allow that to happen. She wrote Ramona as a survivor, and she gave her the things money could not buy. She had love from family and friends. She had their faith in her, that she could achieve those things that she thought were out of reach. She had her own strength, which kept her moving in the right direction.
"Instead, I've embraced another facet of myself. Life isn't always written in the stars. Fate is mine to pen. I choose guys. I always choose girls. I choose people. But most of all: I choose."
The overall message of this book is so positive. To see that when she finally freed herself from her box, when she finally stripped away the labels, she was free. She was free to expand her horizons and explore new opportunities, and all these things lead her to bigger and better things. I love this idea!

I enjoyed being part of Ramona's journey to self discovery, and was extra pleased that as she began to understand herself, it helped her better understand others.

**I would like to thank the publisher for the advanced copy of this book. Quotes are from an ARC and may change upon publication.

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  1. I'm so glad you enjoyed this one, Sam! It sounds really positive.
    Megan @ http://wanderingsofabookbird.blogspot.co.uk/

    1. I really enjoy Murphy's book, and I am sad about the backlash this book is getting. I hope people will read it and make their own decisions, because the books does not purport what it is being accused of.

  2. This does sound like a good read. It can be easy to stay in the box others put us in. Ramona sounds like a great character. Great review!

    1. She really was. Murphy really hit on a lot of stuff with this book, and I thought the inclusion of Katrina as a sort of demarcation for Ramona's life, as her before/after point, was great.

  3. I only first heard about this one a few days ago so I was happy to see your review. Ramona sounds like such an interesting character, one who maybe only sees her limitations instead of possibilities. It also sounds like there's a great cast of secondary characters (which I love in a book). I wasn't aware of any backlash but there always seems to be groups of people ready and willing to jump all over any perceived issues. *sigh* Great review, Sam!

    1. Well, that was my take away, and I love the idea that we can take ourselves out of the box we were put in and evolve. I found this book quite positive.

  4. I've read a lot of books about people who thought they were straight realizing that might not be the case, but none where it's the other way around! Stories about identity are some of my favourites, and it sounds like Murphy has once again pulled off a subtle, complex one.

    1. It's not that she thinks she is straight at the end. In fact, she even meets up with her ex-girlfriend to confirm the attraction is still there. It's just that she has maybe become more fluid in her sexuality, and that fits with the overarching ideas, that I think Murphy is trying to present. That our lives are not set in stone. We can change.

  5. I'm so happy to see such a positive review for this book. It's on my TBR and I most definitely want to buy as it sounds fantastic. I think you saying Ramona has put herself in a box she doesn't know how to get out of is so accurate. It's very easy to have a label for yourself and then get stuck because of it so I'm very interested to see how identity is explored in this book. Great review.

    1. I like Murphy's books, and I thought she did a great job exploring all these identity issues, though I know her main motive was sexual identity. This book had enjoyable characters and a great story. I am sad to see an #OwnVoices book receive such harsh criticism.