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.
I had Ramona Blue on my shelf since like Memorial Day. I wanted to make sure I got it off my list by the end of 2017, so after reading a really bad Christmas themed story I was like okay going to read something totally different.
So I read Ramona Blue, I got to say I really don’t think I’m a fan of Julie Murphy’s. I know a lot of people like her books, but they just don’t do it for me. It doesn’t make sense really. She has prickly heroines and I’m usually a fan of the prickly heroine. I like reading about a character that’s not perfect and makes mistakes, but honestly Murphy’s heroines are borderline unlikable.
And God, did Ramona annoy me.
In part, I think this is being an older reader of YA. The more immature, more teenage-y heroines are going to get on your nerves at a certain point of your life. And, well, Ramona was the type of kid I’d want to smack. And so was Willow Dean. Both are extremely self centered. But again, that’s more of a own personal preference not a this book is so bad you shouldn’t read it thing.
Another thing that bothers me about Murphy’s stuff is they often rely very little on plot. Again, part of this might be because Murphy’s books are generally realistic contemporaries and having a linear plot with a contemporary can be a stretch. Because, come on, most people’s lives aren’t linear plot-lines like in a book. And to be fair there are some overarching events that happen in Ramona Blue that I guess you can view as plot points, but to me they were merely thrown in there.
Yeah, there’s the whole Ramona’s sister Hattie is pregnant thing and what is Ramona going to do after senior year, but it was sort of thrown around at best. And the whole Ramona getting a scholarship for a community college thing made me roll my eyes.
And yes, Delgado is a community college in Louisiana. There are several of them. I know this because when I lived in that state I took a notary exam, and unlike most states actually be a notary public in that state is sort of a big deal. You can actually do stuff that most states require a licensed attorney to do-draft wills, draft property descriptions, handle estates, etc. It’s actually a good way as prep work before actual bar study for the state since a lot of Louisiana’s law is civil law and…
Anyway, long story short Delgado was a community college offering notary prep. There’s several of these schools, and anyone seemed to get accepted to them. So, it was sort of laughable that an out of state student was trying to go there. Again, maybe there was something I was missing but from my own experiences but it was sort of hilarious to read about.
One thing I will give Murphy, is I thought the atmosphere of the area was pretty spot on. Again, lived in southeast Louisiana for almost two years, and even though this book takes place in southwest Mississippi I could see several similarities between the culture and it was eerie to what I experienced.
There was that tight sense of community that is prevalent in that area, but at the same time the area is overshadowed still by Katrina. Yep, Katrina. When I was living in Louisiana the ten year mark had just passed, and you could still see signs that the area was STILL struggling to rebuild itself. Buildings would still have clear flood damage, the police station where I got myself finger printed for the bar still reeked of mold. People would still talk about the storm, about how it effected them in their family, and hearing that Ramona’s family still hadn’t left the FEMA trailer that they had moved in after the storm seemed realistic to me.
So that was a plus, I guess. Getting the setting down. I know a lot books where this does not happen, but the setting came off brilliantly here. Too bad, not much else did. And I’m sorry a setting doesn’t make a book.
As for how it did depicting representation, I’m really don’t know if it’s my place to discuss so much since I am straight. However, I will say that I like that the quote quote plot about the MC’s sexuality it isn’t the sole focus of the book, i.e. it’s not so much a lesbian finding out that she’s bisexual than a teenager dealing with different relationships. I can see someone who ID’s the same as the protagonist liking the book because the book’s target isn’t clearly WASP cis het kids who Murphy is trying to “teach a lesson to”. Rather, it deals with the character’s sexuality nonchalantly. So that in my book, makes this one decent. But again, I’m probably not the best person to ask about this.
So, at the end of the day, I really wasn’t a fan of Ramona Blue. I mean, it had some nice things going for it but the fact that it has a very unlikable protagonist and a nonexistent plot made me disinterested in it.
Again, though, more subjective reasons for me not liking this one than objective so take that into account.
Overall Rating: I’ll give it a C.