With her last publication, ‘Dumplin’, reaching the top of the best seller charts and now soon to appear in Hollywood guise, Julie Murphy’s star has deservedly risen. What would she follow up that fresh and vital winner of a book with? The answer is the intriguing ‘Ramona Blue’. Initially I would have labelled this as, naively, a reverse coming-out book, but that would be too simplistic. It would also play into the hands of those in the good ol’ US of A (and here) who are of the feeling that all a girl/woman who feels she is attracted to the same sex needs to do is to meet the right fella. So this take, far more subtle than falling out of love with girls and into love with boys, caused a bit of a shit-storm on social media in the States, particularly amongst those (who probably hadn’t taken the trouble to even read the thing) who felt Murphy was selling out the sisterhood or some such. I was alerted to all this by reading an on-line review by Danika Ellis on Bookriot. She claimed that RB had only received two types of critical responses – one star ones and five star. There was nothing in between.
It seemed for those who hated (or loved?) Ramona and her exploration of her sexuality had a problem with the fact that the answer wasn’t clear cut. It was still a work in progress, if you like. Ms Leroux, with her blue hair, initially assumed that she was an all girls’ gal. She did some hot and bothered canoodling with holiday-maker Gracie and she felt that was that. But when distance failed to make the heart grow tenderer, along comes early childhood friend and black lad Freddie. Soon she’s developing feelings for him. She is no longer quite sure that she is one of only two lesbian girls in her run-down Mississippi resort town of Eulogy, post Cyclone Katrina. She feels bad for the other one, Ruth, also a pal. Added to all this, her family lives in a trailer, her big sis is pregnant to her no-account boyfriend and her parents are separated, being only just functional. Ramona has to take on more than any young lady should at her age, but she finds her way out of the various crises that arise, at least till another apocalyptic storm comes along. Ramona is indefatigable, an easy main character to fall in love with, no matter your gender. Murphy’s third novel gets a very fine four stars from me. I felt it could have been trimmed down a tad, but as one commentator wrote, she has ‘…solidified herself as a Big Time YA author…’ with ‘Ramona Blue’. And we do need more homoromantic demisexuals in the world, like Ramona’s mate Ruth.
The author’s website = http://juliemurphywrites.com/