Book Reviews

Review: Ramona Blue by Julie Murphy



Julie Murphy is one of the brightest stars of her generation of YA authors. No, scratch that. Of her generation of AUTHORS period. I love her books. The characters are vividly drawn, the dialogue is pitch-perfect. The emotions are spot-on to the age group. Everything is …. well… excellent.

There were so many amazing quotes, but, sadly, my week didn’t allow much time to pull over and write them down. I listened to the audio book, and in this case I wish I’d read it. I’d have covered a notebook in quotes.

Maybe the gist of life is learning how to be comfortable with being uncomfortable.

Ramona Blue


The Story

Coming of age is difficult enough when you live in a former FEMA trailer with a decent, hard-working single Dad and your knocked up, but wonderful sister. Add in sister’s obnoxious boy friend, a drunk Mom who left long ago and it gets worse. But then there’s sex.  Or rather sexuality. Now, don’t go rolling your eyes. Ramona, called Ramona Blue by some due to dying her hair blue, has a dilemma that it is sometimes shocking to those of us who grew up when Stonewall meant only a Confederate general. Is she a lesbian? Does she like boys? Too? Only? Both? Neither? Things get wonderfully complicated when Freddy returns to her life.




The Good

I loved every minute of this book because it was all so true. The truth rings from each page of this story. I’ve heard sections of this in conversation with my kids and their friends. I’ve heard more of it from the young man I like who worked at the gas station but now works at the dollar store. It’s American teenage-hood circa today.

I loved that the sister and her boyfriend had to face real-life consequences. The boyfriend’s response was totally true-to-life. The girl friend didn’t get the Kate Middleton or Hollywood Starlet pregnancy. I loved that the someone in this story [no spoilers] stopped to retrieve a condom and put it on–and that he knew how to do it without having slept with half the school. That was amazing. And that they commented on how this was never part of a movie. I loved that drugs were not only not an entertainment option–they weren’t even mentioned except maybe for marijuana. While there was sex, it was not gratuitous nor was the writing graphic. And, no where was religion mocked.

It seems to me that childhood ends and adult life begins the moment you stop believing your parents can rescue you.

Ramon Blue

Ramona’s sense of having to be a grown-up, of having to protect her family is an angst that runs from Princes William and Harry down to the kid living in a beat-up, cast-off trailer in a no-where town. All classes of kids today seem to feel responsible in ways they shouldn’t [and yes, irresponsible in ways they usually should]. The determination she pours into helping her family is something I see kids do in our poor, rural area. They let it rob them of options–steal their own future. That part of the story is so achingly real that I often had tears in my eyes.

The sweetness of Freddy, the presence and authority of parents, the truthful thoughts on Ramona’s weaker parent, the feeling that even that lousy trailer was a home lifted me from my own worries and made me see that parents do their job more than we think. Her Dad did the job well. We hear about the worst stuff–the “where were the parents” stuff–not the good stuff. Parents were mostly obeyed, too. That was heartening to see in a YA novel.

I loved coach Pru. I have been that “coach” to many kids I encounter–pushing them to reach for more than a C.M.A. course–by all means do it to get the job, but don’t stop there–that sort of thing. I loved her. I loved that Ramona had a mentor find HER. That’s how it happens. Her struggle with this was also so painfully real. That pride of a very poor, disenfranchised kid is often their own worst enemy. Once again, Julie Murphy nailed that emotion.

And finally, I am still screaming YES! YES! YES! at Ramona’s excellent mockery of rom-com movies. “Why CAN’T the fat friend ever get the guy?” Plus who wouldn’t love a character who shares your own early adulthood breakfast of two Pop-Tarts and a diet Dr. Pepper?

The Bad The very, very, minor momentary disappointment explained

There really was absolutely nothing “bad.” Not at all. My one teensy, weensy disappointment was that sports were involved in getting to college. Too often poor kids, first generation college students to-be, see sports as the only possible way to get to college, when in fact they are among the worst.  I should have trusted that Julie Murphy would handle it perfectly and she did. The whole thing  was made truthful and real by the need for grants and loans to pursue it. But while I was had just the tiny-est disappointment in this, I know that an individual sport like swimming can be one of the greatest catalysts to personal strength and self-discipline ever. For that I rejoiced! I hope this story line inspires readers to get in the pool or out on the track or just on the sidewalk walking. It’s a great way to work off tension and sort out all the confusion in any mind.


4.75 out of 5 Stars

So good! Both Ramona Blue and Julie Murphy’s Dumplin’ [my review is here] are destined to be Young Adult classics for years and years to come. I can’t wait for her next book,

Ramona Blue by Julie Murphy



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