content warnings: biphobia/homophobia (challenged on page), poverty, hurricanes, emotional abuse
Ramona is just trying to keep her head above water. Her family lives in a trailer (caravan) after hurricane Katrina ruined their lives. Ramona works crazy jobs for terrible pay just so she can afford to live and and maybe save a little. But then her childhood friend Freddie returns, and her sister gets pregnant and suddenly everything is up in the air and Ramona doesn’t know what’s going on. She thought she was a lesbian but she can feel romantic feelings growing for Freddie, and she feels like she isn’t as sure of herself as she once was.
What a fantastic portrayal of poverty. I feel like that’s one thing that’s missed out on in YA. But this did not beat around the bush. Ramona lives in a trailer in Louisiana and has done since Hurricane Katrina with her dad and her older sister. And as someone that has affected so many people in America I’m actually so surprised I haven’t read something from this perspective before. And to be honest I’m surprised I’ve never read a book from a teen in poverty like this. It was no holds barred and so harsh but that’s what poverty is.
There was also some discussion about racism in the book, as Freddie is black and Ramona is white and she isn’t as aware of the racial problems in America and they have fights and discussions about that and I thought that was important and you could see Ramona learning from it.
Ramona was a very interesting character. She’s very real, in that I went through stages of really liking her and then not really caring for her. And I loved that. It didn’t feel like Murphy was pandering by making her overly likeable in such a terrible situation.
The characters around Ramona were a mess. Her mother was just ugh, her dad tried really hard, her sister was supportive of Ramona but easily walked over, her friends were at time super supportive and others not the best, and Freddie was definitely an idiot a lot of the time. But the person I loved the most was Freddie’s grandma. She was an absolute sweetheart and I wish I knew someone like her.
I grew up really loving swimming and still love it so that element of this was so nice. Like he scenes where Ramona was in the pool and getting back into the swing of the strokes was so relatable and lovely.
I’ve read all but one of Murphy’s books that are out so far and at this point she is 100% an autobuy author. Everything I have read has been so good. She has this wonderful way of making some heavy topics light hearted but not in an offensive way, and hitting you in the feelings when you least expect it, whilst also being so easy to read.
This book was hit with negative press before it was released because people read the blurb in an entirely wrong context and thought it was about a lesbian being turned. Which is just a mess, and more than a bit biphobic to be honest. Don’t let the negative press sway you. This book is GOOD.