Ramona Blue by Julie Murphy | Julie Murphy Hits Me in the Feelings Again

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.

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Final Draft by Riley Redgate

Thank you to Amulet books and netgalley for sending me a copy in exchange for an honest review! I was so glad I was approved for this because it was definitely one of my most hyped books.

Laila is a teen writer and her English teacher is her biggest fan. She is forever giving him her new stories and he tells her how much he adores them. Until her teacher gets in a big car accident and she gets a substitute. To start Laila is excited as the new teacher is also an award winning writer, but she is very hard on Laila and this causes her to struggle with not only her writing but her identity.

The main character of this story is pansexual. Do you know how much that means to me? Laila really struggles with this part of herself as she has been raised to believe that girls should be ashamed of their sexuality. This is said on page. And this is the first time I’ve actually been able to comment on sexuality representation from an experienced perspective and I’m so happy about this. I absolutely adored the representation. I wish this book had been around when I was younger because I think I may have realised I was pan much sooner than I did. She also is plus size and has anxiety, so I related to Laila so much to be honest. And if you consider yourself to be any of these things I would thoroughly recommend reading it. Laila is also half Ecuadorian, but obviously I can’t speak on this representation. However it was plainly obvious that the author wanted to make this an important part of the novel. All throughout there is discussions over being mixed race and being Ecuadorian, and not knowing where she fit in. I’ve never read an Ecuadorian MC and I found that so refreshing. I did try to find a review from an Ecuadorian person but I could not, if you know of any let me know!

This book is sapphic, but I don’t want to spoil that for you. However the one thing for me that let this book down for me and meant it wasn’t a favourite was that the romance was just a little too subtle for me. I kind of didn’t recognise it happening at all until about 70% of the way in. And that might be great for you! That might be the type of romance you like. I’m more of a heavy hitting romance type.

The narrative of this novel is very much internalised, there is a lot of Laila’s struggles with her writing, her friendships and her anxiety. Sometimes I struggled with reading the book because of this, not in a bad way but it could get heavy occasionally and I wasn’t quite in the mood for that.

As this was my first Riley Redgate novel I wasn’t sure what to expect, and whilst people were hyping it up, I was pleasantly surprised (I have trust issues with hyped books). Now I need to catch up on all Redgate’s books!

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Eliza and Her Monsters by Francesca Zappia

Content warning: anxiety, a situation that is reminiscent of outing that could make you uncomfortable

Eliza creates a very popular webcomic, no one knows who she is though. Everyone just thinks she’s a loner, and her parents don’t understand how big her comic is. Then the biggest fanfic writer for the comic transfers to her school and they get on so well, but even he doesn’t know who she truly is.

I’d heard a lot of hype about this book prior to reading it and honestly it did not let me down in the slightest.

This story was in a similar vein to stuff like You’ve Got Mail, which is one of my fave rom coms ever on the planet so I was so happy reading this. Not only was there a really sweet romance but there was a lot of representation of anxiety and as someone who struggles with¬† anxiety the representation felt so spot on for me. I was reading it, just feeling so represented and I started crying a few times just because it was so spot on.

Ok, so of all the characters I think my favourite(s) were Eliza’s brothers. They were messy like little brothers can be but they also really understood her. And when everything goes awry they’re the ones to explain to Eliza’s parents how out of it they are. I also just really loved Eliza and Wallace. Together and apart they’re just such wonderful characters. They’re so passionate and awkward and it balances out so well.

This is one of those books that I just loved so much that I don’t know what to say? I just want everyone to read this. And I want to buy this book when I have the money to as I read this from the library. If you have the opportunity to read this you should, unless you’re worried that the content may hurt you, in which case ask me about the content :).

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I Believe In a Thing Called Love by Maureen Goo

Since reading this book I’ve started watching K-Dramas so I kind of wish I’d read it now because I think I would’ve liked it even more.

Desi is the kind of person who always has a plan. But she doesn’t have a plan in romance and she wants to be with a boy. Then she starts to watch K-drama and develops a game plan to follow the steps of a k-drama to get the boy.

One of the biggest things I saw people complaining about in reviews prior to reading this was that the whole premise was silly and irrational and blah blah blah. But I think these people have forgotten what it’s like to be a teen to be honest. When I was a teen I had a crush on a different boy every week. This was before I realised I was a flaming queer. I wouldn’t have put it past myself to do something similar to be honest.

I really enjoyed this book, like it was super cute and perfect for the mood I was in (doom and gloom after quitting my future). I gave it 4 stars on goodreads, and I think the one thing that stopped me from giving it a 5 star rating and becoming one of my faves was the ending, like I felt like the resolution was a bit lacklustre, and I wanted just a little bit more from it.

What I really loved about this book was Desi’s relationship with her dad. I love both my parents equally but there’s definitely times that I’m more of a daddy’s girl, especially during my teen years, and it was so nice to see that kind of relationship in a book. I loved that their relationship really grew when Desi started watching dramas, like they really bonded and it just made me happy. It made me happy that this was shown in the novel, not just the relationship aspect. I also loved her relationship with her best friend who tries to tell her it’s all a bad idea but is still there for her when things start to go south.

Desi was a really interesting girl to read as well. She’s so goal driven so is adamant to follow her list even though she sometimes she knows what she’s doing is wrong. It was really interesting to read a character like that because I could see parts of my young self in her. I’m very stubborn and I’m not that kind of person now, but when I was a teenager I definitely did things I knew were wrong because I’d made the decision I was doing it.

I hope that I can read Maurene’s new book The Way You Make Me Feel sometimes soon because I really enjoyed her writing and think she can only get better.

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The Fill-In Boyfriend by Kasie West

Sorry for the lack of post on Monday but my laptop was getting repaired and I hate oing posts on mobile.

Ok so basically fake dating is one of my absolute favourite tropes so this was a very fun read for me.

I’m really sorry I can’t remember if there are any content warnings, but if there’s anything you’re worried about let me know and I’ll find out for you!

So Gia’s boyfriend breaks up with her on the night of her prom (what a douche) and she panics because none of her friends believe she had a boyfriend in the first place so she sees a guy in the car park and asks him to be her date for the night. And by some weird bit of luck he says yes. Soon they develop a mutual agreement of being each other’s dates for events that they need to pretend to have someone for.

To start with this book is very much a white rich people problems book. Honestly I found myself rolling my eyes a lot for the situations involved because they were so trivial. However that doesn’t mean I didn’t enjoy reading it.¬† Whilst I thought the situations an decisions were a bit ridiculous it was so easy to read and entertaining.

In terms of our main characters, Gia really annoyed me. I can’t remember why but I remember her attitude at the beginning really bothering me. But her character development was really good. There were some really bizarre female friendships on Gia’s side of things. She fell out with a bunch of her friends and they didn’t act great towards each other, however she also found a new friend who really helped bring out the good in her. On the other hand we have Hayden who was my absolute favourite boy and I would die for him.

This book is kind of your classic contemporary teen romance. Some kids acting silly and getting into ridiculous problems, but it’s important to remember that it is teens and teens are unpredictable and unreliable and I feel like books like this are often more connected to teens than ones that are more deep. But that’s just me.

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Meg & Linus by Hanna Nowinski – Could’ve been cute but was let down with poor language and characterisation

Content warning: Ableism, homophobia, transphobia, fatphobia

Meg and Linus are queer best friends, who love Star Trek and each other. As they start their senior year things start to change in their lies, some for the good and some not so good. This is your classic coming of age story but from 2 queer kids.

So basically I just did not give a flying toss about Meg. The book is all about her and Linus’ friendship but I just wish it had been only from Linus’ POV. Yeah it’s great to have a half sapphic half m/m novel, but she was just infuriating. Whereas Linus is a small bean who just needs to be protected. Now I’m a fan of anti-heroes and unlikeable characters as it brings something different to the table but this was more a case of she was just an annoying character that you could tell the writer wanted to be likeable but did not come off that way.

The language use in this book is not great, there’s a lot of casual ableism, and some transphobic language too. Linus is fat, and whilst it’s not shown necessarily as a bad thing it’s also got a couple of moments where the way he’s regarded by the author is less than positive. Like it was nice to read a contemporary with a fat boy but it felt a bit rocky.

Despite this, as my only trigger is death, it was an easy read for me. And it was nice to read a contemporary of this type. But I just expected more really.

In terms of the plot, I felt like at times it dragged a bit, the book is short but with Meg’s story line it kind of felt like pulling teeth. Linus’ story move a much steadier pace but I would’ve liked to have it continued and have some more about his life.

I was glad this was a library book rather than a book I purchased because I think I would’ve been annoyed I paid for it, but it was an ok light read and was good for the reading mood I was in at the time.

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Did I Mention I Love You? by Estelle Maskame | Addictive but Not Good

Where to start with this book?

Content warnings: slight incest, cheating

So I got this out of the library because I wanted to read something “trashy” and Joanne has read it and said it was ok and she knows someone who knows the author because hey she’s from Scotland, and everyone in Scotland knows each other.

And yeah this book is pretty trashy. But it keeps you reading it. Like I couldn’t stop reading it even though I was rolling my eyes constantly.

Basically, our MC goes to LA for the summer to spend time with her estranged father and his new family. There she meets her step brother Tyler who she immediately does not get along with. But then she finds out things more about him and begins to understand.

Now I didn’t make any notes for this because I’m an idiot and read it so quickly. I think had I not been so addicted to this I would’ve put it down and not picked it up again, which is what happened with Book 2. However, I did read this in the space of a day.

The characters are so draining. Eden is your typical “I’m not like other girls” who looks down on others and whilst there’s some positive female friendships there’s also some really catty parts. And don’t get me started on Tyler, that boy is such a prat. And like yeah he has past trauma and he’s like actually a multifaceted character but I’m supposed to like him when his development is like a snail pace. He made me so angry.

Also like this book is almost incest. If you watch porn you’ve probably seen the influx of “doing my step sister” videos. If you like those this is for you. And like, ok they’re step siblings but it was still weird.

All in all, if you want to read something that’s not deep just for a bit of a breather then read this but then maybe look up the blurbs of the sequels because I couldn’t make it past 2 chapters of the second book. I was so bored.

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Dear Martin by Nic Stone

Content warnings: police brutality, racism

This book is like the brother of THUG. Like I’m not going to compare them and say other this was better in this way and pit 2 black women against each other that’s not what I’m here to do. But it deals with similar topics but very different perspectives.

So Justyce is trying to look out for his ex girlfriend who is drunk when a police officer comes along, accusing him of trying to do the worst to a drunk girl and puts him in cuffs. Weeks later that same cop shoots Jus’ best friend Manny. Justyce doesn’t know where to turn, he had been heading to Ivy League schooling and now he doesn’t even know whats happening in his life.

This book is super short but so hard hitting. I couldn’t believe how much this made me feel in a short space of time. The pacing is so heavy hitting, things happen quickly like they do in real life. One minute you blink and someone is killed.

There is some talk of gangs, from an outsiders perspective to the perspective of Jus when he starts to get involved with gangs following everything that happens to him. From someone who has never had any involvement with gangs, I mean I’m a white, Scottish girl, the narrative felt so real.

As with all my reviews of diverse novels, I cannot speak on representation of racial issues and the like. I have read in reviews that the representation is really good, which you would hope from an own voices book.

Throughout the novel we read letter that Jus write to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. I wasn’t sure how I would feel about reading these, if maybe they would take away from my read through but they didn’t. They gave a really good insight to the thoughts of teenagers going through incidents like this.

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Dumplin’ by Julie Murphy

content warning: fat shaming, um I can’t remember what else

If you haven’t read Dumplin’ yet, do it.

Dumplin’ is about a girl called Willowdean who is fat and has been told by her mother her whole life that if she could just lose a few lbs she could compete in the Beauty pageant she runs. But Willowdean doesn’t care about her weight. And she decides to show her mother this by taking part in the Pageant with a bunch of her “unattractive” friends.

At times reading this I was so close to tears because it was so damn relatable. This was the book I needed in my life. As a fat girl a book about a fat girl taking part in a beauty pageant and having a requited flirtation with a cute boy is so validating. I’ve seen some people call this “wish fulfilment” and I can’t tell you how angry that makes me. Because god forbid a cute skinny boy falls for a fat girl. I just love this book so much because t reminds that there’s nothing wrong with being fat and that doesn’t make me unwantable.

I love Willowdean so much she’s my big baby. She’s so strong and confident, I wish I’d read this when I was a teenager so I would’ve had Willowdean to relate to. Her friends are wonderful, Bo is wonderful, and they all stick up for each other and don’t let bullies get away with terrible behaviour.

The writing is wonderful, the pacing is just fast enough that you want to keep reading but not so that you rush through it and skip important parts.

I’m honestly struggling to talk about this because I just don’t know how to explain to you what this book meant to me.

This book is hilarious and deserves all the love it gets. I cannot wait for the movie.

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It Started With Goodbye by Christina June

Thank you to netgalley and Blink for sending me a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

This book follows Tatum, who in an unfortunate chain of events she has managed to be arrested for a crime she didn’t commit and charged with community service. She’s lost her only friend and is stuck in house arrest with the step mother she doesn’t like. She does however get on with her Abuela and decides to start a graphic design company. In doing so she starts to exchange emails with someone and begins to fall for them.

I’m going to be honest: I have very little recognition of this novel. I remember liking it at the time but I don’t remember much of the plot or what I thought about it. And that’s partly because I didn’t take any notes but it seems to be a theme in reviews I read to remind myself.

I remember liking this book, enjoying the story but it was nothing new. It was a kind of Cinderella retelling that felt like it didn’t bring anything fresh to the table. As I’m writing this I have just finished reading Geekerella by Ashley Poston and this was a Cinderella retelling that was different and was fresh and it’s hard not to compare the two.

I think if you haven’t read many Cinderella retellings or watched them then hey you might like this more than I did. And don’t get me wrong I thought this book was fine, it just wasn’t anything to write home about, clearly, as I have forgotten it.

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