May 9, 2017
Balzer + Bray
Blurb: For fans of Rainbow Rowell and Morgan Matson, Julie Murphy has created another fearless heroine, Ramona Blue, in a gorgeously evocative novel about family, friendship, and how sometimes love can be more fluid than you first think.
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.
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Despite being a teenager, Ramona Blue is like a middle-aged woman taking on everyone’s responsibilities and trying to take care of everything and everyone, but not always herself. As the novel opens, Ramona is still longing for the girl who captured her heart over the summer. Ramona’s sister, Hattie, is pregnant. Her father works too many hours trying to keep them financially afloat. Ramona doesn’t see herself ever leaving Eulogy, Mississippi. When Ramona runs into the grandmother of her childhood best friend, Freddie, and then meets Freddie again. Her world becomes larger in ways she could never have imagined in this wonderfully thoughtful novel by Julie Murphy.
Ramona tells us that the world was focused on New Orleans when Hurricane Katrina hit, but the devastation in Mississippi was just as real with people losing everything. For Ramona’s family, it meant that they were moved into a trailer which they are still living in years later because they can’t afford anything else. Regardless of how many jobs she works or how much money she saves, Ramona knows that her future doesn’t hold many opportunities. This is driven home when she compares her life to Freddie’s. His family has money. He has his pick of colleges. A beautiful home. They are just so different.
In a very tidy, efficient way, Julie Murphy explores what it’s like to be Ramona, right down to her admitted pettiness of being there for her sister and not understanding Hattie’s decisions that seem to be traitorous.
And, Ramona struggles with the idea of her sexuality. She’s always known she likes girls but the idea of liking boys, or at least one specific boy, has never occurred to her. And, she equally struggles to give herself a label. It is a real struggle when you’ve only seen yourself as one way to ever contemplate being another. In a world clamoring for labels, maybe the best thing you can do for yourself is not give yourself one–love who you want to love, regardless.
When it seems like Ramona has been knocked down, the novel ends on a hopeful note. And, we readers are right there with her.
I received an ARC in exchange for an honest review.
4 butterflies and a ladybug out of 5 butterflies