by Julie Murphy
Publication Date: May 9th 2017
Find This Book: Ramona Blue
This book's review is a bit scary for me, as I feel a bit vulnerable when I compare it to my own experiences. I think it's so important that conversations like this have been allowed by the doors this book has opened, but it's sensitive to all. Be aware and be kind.
I was given a copy of this book in exchange for honest review.
The first half of this book was absolutely great for me. The spaghetti-o’s were cute, Grace was cute, the summer fling was cute. Ramona’s problems with Grace’s confusion and reservations was emotional and powerful. Ramona’s mother was disheartening, but real. Even Hattie’s struggle, which is not relatable to me in the slightest, still felt relatable. It was when the self-declared lesbian kissed a guy that I became super scared about the rest of the novel. I’d heard so many good things about this book, I was really looking forward to it. How could people not warn me about a lesbian finding the guy to “turn her straight”?
As a confused sexuality-fluid female myself, I was super worried about where this twist was going. Is the author going to make this one boy invalidate all of Ramona’s past relationships with girls? I didn’t think I’d make it through a book about that. Maybe Ramona was Bi? Fortunately for me, Julie Murphy emphasized Ramona’s love for this person because of the person and everything they mean to her, not really taking gender into account. This then left me wondering if Ramona was Pansexual or Demisexual. What was super powerful for me was Ramona’s internal struggle with sexuality. Did her love for this guy mean that she liked guys? Or was it just this specific guy? And every time she kissed him, she said she felt like she was betraying her old identity. Death by a thousand cuts to the Ramona who thought she had it all figured out in high school being a lesbian in Mississippi. I can’t count how many times the same thoughts have gone through my head. I’m a cis female, dating a cis male, that is probably seen as a heterosexual relationship to everyone. If it’s not visible does it even count? Does this mean I am queer enough for LGBTQ+ clubs, safe spaces, pride marches etc.? It can feel like people feel like I’m an intruder, which of course makes everything even more confusing. This is what saved the book for me. Ramona doesn’t label her sexuality by the end of the book. She hasn’t figured herself out yet and maybe she never will, but the point is that the pressure to have a label has been removed. And maybe it will help fellow confused queers not feel pressured to label themselves as well.
What brought this book down the stars is how long it took Ramona to be her own person. The whole book is spent following her sister Hattie around, picking up the pieces and trying to keep things together. While I can respect that, every single person in her life tells her that that’s not the destiny that’s set in stone for her. The future is still up to her and she could go to college after graduation if she really worked for it. While money is obviously an issue, it saddened me to watch Ramona counter everyone supporting her, and shut down any possible future that wasn’t staying in Eulogy, working 3 jobs, and living with her sister in the trailer park. In life, you really only need one person supporting you: yourself. Ramona didn’t even have that which made the book really hard to get through for me. I could only end up reading a couple chapters at a time because of this mental block Ramona has.
I thought this book was going to disappoint me, but it ended up pulling through. The ending was comfortingly bittersweet. I can appreciate how Ramona is going to figure out her sexuality, her career, her relationships etc. as she goes along. She’s finally come to accept that the future isn’t set in stone and that she has a life to live- a super important message. Honestly, if Ramona wasn’t her own worst enemy, and if the writing didn’t originally indicate that this guy was going to ‘turn Ramona straight’ as her mother had hoped, it definitely would’ve gotten a better rating. While the payoff was worth it, the author put me through a lot to get there.