Title: Ramona Blue
Author: Julie Murphy
Publisher: Balzer & Bray, 2017
Themes: love, genderqueer, fluid sexuality, bisexualism, lesbianism, family, responsibility, labeling, poverty, swimming
This is a memory I want to keep forever: Grace standing at the stove of her parents’ rental cottage, in one of her dad’s oversize T-shirts as she makes us a can of SpaghettiOs. Her mom already cleaned out the fridge and cabinets, throwing away anything with an expiration date.
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. (Goodreads)
Why I love this Book:
I loved Julie Murphy’s last book, Dumplin’, but I actually think I love Ramona Blue even more. At its heart this is a story of a young woman discovering the complexities and fluidity, in her case, of love. All sexualities are valid, and I love this portrayal of a teen girl exploring and discovering and trying to figure out where she fits in all the labels society hands out. I think this book represents so well different sexualities and also the fluidity of sexuality and why it’s important to fall in love with a person instead of their gender.
One of the key quotes for me is:
“Kissing him is different, yes. But it’s not. Kissing Freddie doesn’t feel different because he’s a boy, it feels different because he’s Freddie.”
I find this an entirely plausible scenario of what one young woman might experience, and feel it is important to have representation that allows for flux, and change and ambiguity. Teen life is often like that.
Once again, Julie manages to create such rich fully realized secondary characters, friends, lovers, family, swim coach… Ramona (another character equally as ‘big’ as Dumplin’) has very different relationships with her (alcoholic) mom, (pregnant) sister, and dad (an amazing support0, and each is explored in the book. Her friendship group is eclectic and real and I love them.
Julie tackle so many themes in this book, and does each thread justice—how swimming becomes such an important part of Ramona’s life; how her support of her sister is both admirable and yet is robbing her of life; how her family’s poverty touches everything about their lives and yet they are all survivors; how even years later Mississippi is still suffering post Katrina.
I am thrilled to see the depiction of a teen who realizes just how complex attraction can be and is struggling and uncertain about what she feels, and hesitant to label, (and relabel) herself. This is about a girl trying to figure out who she is and be true to that, and that is a universal truth for any teen.
Oh, and I love this cover!