Back in 2016, the CBR hivemind recommended Dumplin’ by Julie Murphy. I tore through it and adored it, and thought that Julie Murphy had the potential to be a great voice in modern, southern YA. She wrote about rural southern life so vividly, and made even the most uncomfortable topics easy to digest.
Ramona Blue is her follow up novel, and I’m happy to report that it’s just as good as Dumplin’.
Ramona (who has blue hair, but is called Ramona Blue because of her love of water) is about to graduate high school in her tiny, coastal Mississippi town. She lives in a dilapidated trailer with her dad and pregnant sister, and has no particular plans for life after graduation, other than to keep working the many jobs that she has so she can help out. She talks a lot about the way her life used to be, before Hurricane Katrina, when she lived in a house with both of her parents, and how that storm was really the first pivotal point in her life.
The second pivotal point is the return of her childhood best friend, Freddie. Freddie and his grandma used to vacation in Ramona’s beach town every summer and the kids were inseparable. But now Freddie is 17, tall, and beautiful. To say that Ramona is confused by his reappearance and the immediate attraction between them would be an understatement.
Why? Because Ramona is gay, and happily so. She’s been out for as long as she can remember and has the support of her friends and family.
But Freddie changes everything. And Ramona doesn’t know what it means. Does she love Freddie as a friend? Or as something more? Does that change who she is?
I loved Ramona. And I hated Ramona. Her stubborn refusal to face the future really pissed me off. And yet…I totally got why she felt the way she did. I loved the amazing cast of characters that orbited Ramona — Saul and Adam, in particular. And I loved Freddie’s grandma.
Growing up poor and gay in a single-parent trailer park is not a life that I identify with. But it felt so real. I can’t imagine a greater compliment to a writer.
I was lucky enough to get a copy of this book from The Mama (thanks, Lynn!!) for the holiday book exchange. It’s not only a great read, but its a beautiful hardcover. This one will stay on my shelf, just so I can look at it sometimes.
(And by the way, did you see that Dumplin’ is going to be a movie this year, with Jennifer Aniston as her beauty pageant mom? Hmm.)