Info: Balzer & Bray, copyright 2017, 432 pages
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.
Hmm...apparently this book is controversial. I somehow failed to hear any of the initial problems with the book or the fallout after its release which makes me realize that I need to make time to follow book press more often.
The thing is - I don't have strong feelings for this book either way. I didn't love it, but I didn't hate it. In fact, it was a book I kind of forgot about as soon as I was done with it. I ADORED Dumplin' and was hoping that Murphy's newest would have the same witty dialogue and flawed yet lovable characters, but I never really connected with Ramona and her life.
Ramona lives in a trailer park in Eulogy, Mississippi. It was supposed to be a short term living situation after Hurricane Katrina destroyed the family home, but years later she's still there with her father and sister making the best of things. That part of the story I enjoyed (well, enjoyed is a strong word. I appreciated that particular storyline) - Ramona's interactions with her friends and family, especially her sister, despite the dysfunction. Besides the absentee mother, it seemed like a group of people who genuinely liked and cared about each other even if they struggled with showing it or made horrible choices on occasion.
But this was an "issues" book, and I've discovered that "issues" books are just not my cup of tea (and was apparently the violently contentious plotline that led to hurt feelings and fallout). I hate soap boxes and lectures, especially when it's obvious what point an author is trying to make. Tell your story and trust that your characters, with their own actions, will get across the point. Please don't beat me over the head with it. Murphy doesn't get into quite that territory like some other young adult authors have, but any direct conversation about sexuality seems to walk that very fine line. I don't care who your characters love, just write them as genuine individuals and the story will do its work.
I've also discovered that I have never ever gotten so worked up about something that I have come even close to wanting to send someone death threats. Perhaps I'm just not an overly passionate person. I think it's more likely that I'm just an optimistic individual who believes, for the most part, that other individuals are not intentionally trying to offend me so I don't take it personally.
I don't know - either way, this book wasn't great but it also wasn't awful, and that's all I really have to say about that.