Ramona Blue by Julie Murphy
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. One of only two out lesbians in her small town and standing over six feet tall with unmistakable blue hair, Ramona 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 responsible adult of the family. Now, with her sister, Hattie, pregnant, her responsibilities weigh 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.
As Ramona falls more in love with swimming, her feelings for Freddie begin to shift as well, and she must decide if knowing who she is is more important than figuring out who she might become.
Disclaimer: I received a free copy via Edelweiss for review purposes.
Ramona was just a child when Hurricane Katrina uprooted her life. Ever since, it’s been Ramona and her family against the world. Being one of the only two lesbians in her small town, standing over six feet tall, and with bright blue hair, Ramona feels like she’s outgrowing the trailer she’s come to call home. But with a flaky mom and an overworked father, and between juggling her two jobs, Ramona feels the weight of responsibility. Especially now that her sister Hattie has fallen pregnant. The return of a childhood friend, Freddie, is a welcome distraction. As Ramona’s love for swimming grows, her feelings for Freddie begin to shift.
I really enjoyed Ramona Blue. It’s a fantastic, well-developed YA contemporary with lots of talking points and issues. There are so many things I enjoyed. Firstly, the sibling relationship between Ramona and Hattie. I loved (and I mean loved) their relationship. I’m a sucker for well-developed sibling relationships, and I loved how Ramona knew Hattie better than anyone and vice versa. Hattie was a bit selfish, and I really enjoyed the exploration of the dependency and responsibility between the two. And on top of this, I thought that the familial relationship was very well done. Whilst I wasn’t a fan of Ramona’s mother, I really loved her father; I particularly enjoyed the loving and supporting figure her father was.
Additionally, I thought that exploration and the genuine look at poverty was very well done. It’s definitely something I would like to see more of in YA fiction, because I do think it’s lacking. And I think that this also ties in with the supporting familial relationship because it’s rare that we get a look at poverty and supporting families, because there is quite often this assumption that poverty means neglectful parents and that’s definitely not always the case. So yeah, that’s definitely something I really enjoyed about Ramona Blue (yes–her mother was flaky, but her father was a stable and reliable parental figure and that’s who she lived with).
I loved the exploration of sexuality and how it’s fluid, and how Ramona was the only one to define her identity:
“I was so scared that by having sex with Freddie, I would lose part of myself-part of my identity. 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.”
Whilst I enjoyed the romance, and it was sweet and well-developed, it definitely wasn’t the focal point of the story, and so was probably the aspect I least enjoyed. Nevertheless, it’s still a sweet romance, and Ramona Blue is still a book I would recommend to YA romance fans too.
It’s not quite a 5-star read for me, but it’s pretty close. I would definitely recommend Ramona Blue to fans of realistic fiction and contemporary romance.