#IMWAYR (3/16/2020): Ramona Blue by Julie Murphy

Today is an exciting day for this blog, as this is my first post for "It's Monday - What Are You Reading?" (or #IMWAYR)! I discovered this group of bloggers after noticing that Ms. Yingling, the near-superhuman librarian and daily MG book reviewer, posts for both MMGM (which I participate in regularly) and #IMWAYR. I am excited to both continue my participation in MMGM and also participate in #IMWAYR, especially since it gives me the opportunity to try my hand at reviewing YA novels!

MMGMers, if you're interested in participating in #IMWAYR, learn about it on its co-host blogs, Teach Mentor Texts (by Jen Vincent) and Unleashing Readers (by Kellee Moye). Likewise, #IMWAYRers, if you're interested in participating in MMGM, learn about it on its host blog, Always in the Middle (by Greg Pattridge).

Lastly, a word of caution: this book is a YA (young adult) novel, not an MG (middle grade) novel and contains some mature content. With all of that done, I am recommending Ramona Blue by Julie Murphy.




          Written by Julie Murphy (author of the bestselling, movie-adapted YA novel Dumplin'), Ramona Blue revolves around Ramona, a senior in high school in the small town of Eulogy, Mississippi. Ramona is dealing with a lot at the start of the book: her older (but still very young) sister Hattie is pregnant, she is starting to get sick of the trailer her family lives in (which they moved into after their house was destroyed years earlier in Hurricane Katrina), and she has just suffered an unpleasant breakup with her girlfriend Grace (due in part to Grace's refusal to come out of the closet and to break up with her boyfriend back home). Ramona is both working as a waitress and delivering newspapers to support her father and sister (her mother is largely out of the picture), and she is feeling like there is no point in going to college when her family needs help right now. Her childhood friend Freddie moving to Eulogy is just what she needs to take her mind off of things. However, as they start to hang out and swim together at the local YMCA, Ramona's feelings about Freddie start to change, and she begins to wonder both what that means for her own sexual orientation and if she should even be pursuing relationships with her family in need of help.
          This book is absolutely spectacular! There is so much to praise that I hardly know where to begin, but I'll start off with Ramona and Freddie's relationship. Ramona and Freddie are complete opposites in some ways: Ramona is white and from a poor family, while Freddie is black and from a rich family. This contrast is explored throughout the novel, yet Ramona and Freddie are able to connect in spite of their differences and make for a compelling pairing. I also appreciate how original this book's perspective on sexual orientation is: Ramona's status as a lesbian is part of her identity (and has helped her connect with friends, such as lesbian Ruthie and her gay brother Saul), and she spends much of the book learning how to make sense of her liking a boy for the first time. Author Julie Murphy (who is bisexual) is also exceedingly careful not to let the plot become a "he-turned-her-straight" situation. The book is steadfastly accepting of everyone, allowing for exploration of topics that less-tactful authors would not be able to write about.
          I also love Ramona Blue's depiction of Ramona's family situation. Ramona and Hattie have a close connection, and their connection is tested by Hattie's pregnancy. Hattie has an off-and-on relationship with the boy who got her pregnant, Tyler, and his unpleasant demeanor and nonexistent work ethic become a problem when he moves in with Ramona, Hattie, and their father. Ramona ends up picking up much of the slack in the house with the goal of creating a reasonable life for Hattie and the baby, but she struggles with Hattie's vision of Tyler as a potential father figure for the baby when he cannot even be bothered to hold a job or wash dishes. Ramona plans to avoid college and stay in Eulogy to support her family, which both makes her the odd one out in her friend group and illustrates to readers (such as myself) exactly why people may make the choice to skip college even if it means diminished opportunities later in life.
          Lastly, I should mention that Ramona is an excellent narrator and a deeply compelling character: she is caring and hardworking, and readers will respond to her occasional poor decisions with a mixture of sadness and understanding. The book's plot is varied and interesting, and although the book comes in at 408 pages, much of it moves swiftly and will captivate readers. All in all, whether you relate personally to Ramona's story or are interested in exposing yourself to new perspectives (which, quite frankly, appear rarely in literature), you will absolutely love Ramona Blue! I recommend this book to everyone!

(P.S. In these trying times of coronavirus, thank goodness for books and book reviewers, two sources of joy in my life!)

Update (1/2/2021): My rating is: Stunning!

Comments

  1. This sounds really rich and complex. It also sounds pretty groundbreaking, although I don't read much YA, so I could be wrong about that. Thanks for the heads up.

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    1. It's a few years old (it came out in 2017), but I think it was pretty groundbreaking at the time! Thanks for reading my post!

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  2. Welcome to this group that shares all kinds of books. Ramona Blue sounds good, a new title to me!

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    1. Thanks—I'm having a blast reading everyone's posts! Thanks for reading mine!

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  3. Welcome!
    I adored Ramona Blue and just finished reading Sweet Pea by Julie Murphy. Have you read it?

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    1. I haven't yet, although it sounds excellent as well! Thanks for the reminder, and I'm glad you liked Ramona Blue!

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