Let me begin by saying that I love this book and I’m so glad I read it. You may remember that I read the first chapter of Ramona Blue by Julie Murphy for my Try a Chapter Tag and be wondering what the heck took me so long to actually finish it. That’s a great question.
Something about Julie Murphy’s writing takes me a while to get so absorbed in the story that I refuse to put it down. It’s not that they are beautifully written, trust me, the tabs in Ramona Blue were numerous, and it’s not that I don’t love the characters or the story. I haven’t figured out what it is, but it might be that the characters feel too raw to me, too real. When I want to escape, I don’t want to pick up Julie Murphy because she’s going to make me feel some things. So, I put this beautiful book off. I would read a couple chapters at a time and then I would set it down and walk away. And then I got about 200 pages in or so and I refused to go to bed until I’d finished the entire book. So… That’s what I did. Me headed to the airport that morning:
This book is about Ramona Blue, a senior in high school in a small town in Mississippi that was hit pretty severely by Hurricane Katrina. The book opens with Ramona saying goodbye to the girl she’s been seeing (Grace), who is in the closet and a summer visitor. Then, on Ramona’s early morning paper route, her last house is a woman she spent a ton of time with as a child and Freddie’s grandma. Freddie was her childhood best friend, but because he isn’t from the town, she hasn’t seen him in years. It’s important to mention that Freddie is black because there’s a conflict between Freddie in Ramona later in the book where she’s startled to realize that for as much time as she’s spent thinking about being gay in the South, she hadn’t really stopped to consider what it was like for Freddie to be black in the south (or at all). This quote just really got to me:
“You can’t pretend to be color-blind or some shit when it’s convenient for you, okay? I’m black. This is the skin I wear every damn day. You’re my best friend. You can’t tell me that you don’t see that my black life is not the same as your white life.”
This line just really struck me. It was one of my favorite parts of the book. However, this book is not just about Freddie and Ramona’s friendship. It’s also about Ramona learning that maybe she’s not a lesbian, maybe she’s bisexual. There was a ton of criticism of this plot point before the book was released, but to my knowledge, after Julie Murphy announced that she is bisexual (speaking of which, can we stop making authors out themselves? no?) the complaints faded. From a non-bisexual person standpoint, I felt like all of the discussions of sexuality were handled very well.
The part of this book I found personally most relatable was Ramona Blue’s sense of being trapped in her small town. I don’t know that I could explain precisely why I found this so relatable, but regardless, I did. Ramona Blue feels trapped because she’s the responsible sister, even though Hattie is older. Hattie is also pregnant and continually abandons her own room to sleep with Ramona instead of with her boyfriend, Tyler, who has basically moved in. It’s interesting to see how Ramona tells herself that she’s fine staying in her small town and how that conflicts with some other things that she feels.
Overall, I loved this book so much and would highly recommend. Please read it and Dumplin’ so you’re ready for the movie. If you’ve read either, let me know!