Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Book Birthday & Review: Ramona Blue


★★★★☆

Ramona Blue's protagonist is a 6'3" gay teen living in Southern Mississippi in a beach town. Her life is spent going to school, working to help support her family, and hanging out with her best friends, Ruth and Saul and her sister, Hattie. When her childhood best friend moves back into town, their friendship picks up right where it left off. Over time, she realizes that her feelings for Freddie might be more complicated than she originally thought, which leads to some major introspection.

I related to this book so much that I found myself crying through parts of it that weren't even supposed to be make you cry. I felt Ramona's futility at her financial situation and her frustration over her friends lack of understanding so well. I understand her poverty, how she feels like an impostor when she visits a nice neighborhood. I understand why she feels that she can't leave her town, a town she has outgrown.

"My sport–the special skill I've developed my whole life–is surviving, and that doesn't leave much for Cinderella dreams."

The characters in this book were incredibly vivid, but my favorite is Freddie, a biracial boy with curly hair and freckles. It's clear from the first time that we see Freddie that Ramona has complicated feelings about him. Those feelings are further complicated when she finds herself holding hands with him and that feeling "like aloe on a sunburn." This leads to some very uncomfortable conversations and feelings. She feels like she's lying to Freddie (at first), like she's somehow betrayed her (also gay) best friend Ruth. She doesn't know if this means she's bi, or if this is just a fluke. Ramona herself sums it up perfectly,

"Love doesn't disappear when you give it away, and new love doesn't make old love any less legitimate."

All she really knows is that although Ramona identifies as gay, she found home in a sweet, freckled boy.

Another thing I loved about this book was the way that everyone is called out. There are obvious examples, especially from Ramona's mother, but nobody is unproblematic. When Freddie finds out that Ramona is gay, he says some pretty awful shit out of ignorance, but as Ramona says "It's not like I think he's some bigot. He's ignorant, and sometimes ignorance is as dangerous as bigotry."

Likewise, after Ramona and her friends do something that's not exactly legal, Freddie calls Ramona out for putting him, a black kid, in a situation that could end up with him being shot. Ramona quickly realizes how she messed up and apologizes. That being said, some of the bigoted things expressed in the book were hard to read, even though they were called out.

I do have a couple issues with the book, namely a few phrases that should just not be used in 2017 (like "Oriental" for one, and describing someone with a mustache as looking like a pedophile), but since I read this in the arc stage, I'll be checking against the final copy to see if these things were edited out.

Ramona Blue is an incredibly nuanced and well-written book, with intersections of race, class, and sexuality. It's not quite fluffy, but it's incredibly realistic.

1 comment:

  1. AHA OMG SO GLAD TO HEAR YOU ENJOYED THIS SHAUNA! I'm going to be trying to pick this one up soon and I cannot wait for it! Thanks for the fantastic review and it's an amazing feeling when you can relate to a book and it's characters!

    xx Anisha @ Sprinkled Pages

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