New YA Fiction: Ramona Blue – Julie Murphy

Murphy’s debut Dumplin’ was one of last year’s break out books, debuting at #1 on the NYT bestseller list. After a success like that I always fret a bit about the possible “sophomore slump” No worries here. Advance reviews include two starred reviews and all the reviews praise Murphy’s thoughtful and empathetic characterizations.

The protagonist this time out is Ramona Blue, a teen steering herself and her pregnant sister through life in a coastal Mississippi town after their mother leaves them. At the opening of the book Ramona’s girlfriend leaves just as an old childhood friend returns. Freddie’s a middle-class kid and when his family signs them both up at the Y for the summer, Ramona discovers a talent for swimming—and an unexpected attraction to her old friend.

In another writer’s hands, the issues here might overwhelm the story—class, race, poverty, sexuality—but in Murphy’s hands it’s these finely drawn characters who keep the limelight, with Ramona emerging like Dumplin’, as an underdog you cheer for.

There are two things Ramona knows: she likes girls, and she’s the responsible one in her family, especially now that her sister, Hattie, is pregnant. The girls’ mother left,…they live in a trailer, and Ramona is juggling multiple jobs…. In Eulogy, Miss., Murphy creates a place that feels deeply real, a Gulf Coast vacation town that’s racially and economically diverse: Ramona is white and poor, Freddie is black and middle class, and the biggest divide might be between the year-round residents and the summer visitors. It’s a great setting for a coming-of-age story, as Ramona realizes that she’s capable of more than she imagined and that some categories are more fluid than she’d thought.”
Publishers Weekly

“An exquisite, thoughtful exploration of the ties that bind and the fluidity of relationships, sexuality, and life.”
Kirkus Reviews (starred review)

“Julie Murphy knows a thing or two about navigating the worlds of girls on the brink of self-discovery.”
Booklist (starred review)

“A must-have work that will resonate with teens”
School Library Journal

Ramona Blue (9780062418357) by Julie Murphy. $17.99 hardcover. 5/9/17 on sale.

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