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I've been a fan of Julie Murphy's work since her debut Side Effects May Vary. She continued to wow me with her sophomore novel, Dumplin'. But then she completely blew me away when I had the honor of reading Ramona Blue, her 2017 release. If there ever is such an author who keeps getting better and better as she writes, it would be Julie Murphy. She gives characters a voice that feels so authentic, as if they are speaking directly to me from the page. Her stories are about people we may know, people we encounter daily, or people that may live inside each one of us. I wish I had these novels as a teen, but I am so grateful to have them now as a teacher so that I can put them in the hands of today's youth. They are strong, compelling, relatable, and so needed.
Ramona Blue by Julie Murphy
Published: May 9, 2017 by Balzer + Bray
About the book: 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]
Ramona thinks she has herself all figured out, portrayed as the strong girl who is always there to support her friends and family. However, life has a funny way of setting our paths off balance and causing us to question what we always thought was true. I really admired Ramona's fierce personality and her loyal heart to the ones she cares most for. But what really stood out the most is when she must face adversity within herself. It's such a natural feeling to question who we are, especially throughout our teen years. Ramona felt vivid, identifiable, and like someone I already knew.
I cannot recommend this novel enough. It's a story that reaches deep, bringing up topics that so many can identify with. The beauty of Murphy's writing shines brightest within this novel. She isn't afraid to show the ugly side of growing pains, and discovering one's self. Everything Julie Murphy writes is "such a Ginger read", but this story here, Ramona Blue, might just be THE Ginger read of 2017.