Ramona Blue

Book review by
Andrea Beach, Common Sense Media
Ramona Blue Book Poster Image
Wry coming-of-ager explores sex orientation, family loyalty.

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Educational Value

Some insight into the culture and geography of the Mississippi Gulf Coast region and how it was severely affected by Hurricane Katrina. Placenta previa explained.

Positive Messages

Life is scary, but we can choose not to live in fear. Your fate is your own, and you can choose anything, but the important thing is that you choose. Love doesn't disappear when you give it away, and new love doesn't make old loves less important or real. A few iffy body-image messages, such as when Ramona sees an older woman's body and worries about the future of her own. Positive messages about same-sex and bisexual people being attracted to guys and gals. Reminder about racial inequity when an African-American character points out that the kind of shenanigans that get white kids stern lectures from authority figures get African-American kids shot. Assertion that everyone sends nude or partly nude pictures of themselves with their phones and that anyone who says they don't is lying.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Ramona's a good model for hard work and family loyalty. She's got a paper route and often works double shifts at a restaurant to help support her family. She selflessly helps her older sister, even spending her own hard-earned money on things her sister needs or wants. She learns that she can handle whatever life throws at her, to take things as they come, and that it's OK if she doesn't have everything figured out all the time. Freddie is a great role model for patient, understanding support and especially for actively and repeatedly seeking consent for sex.

Violence

Horseplay involves a near punch "in the nuts." A mom smacks her son in the back of the head; the son’s not injured. A good-guy character is described as looking like a pedophile.

Sex

Same-sex and opposite-sex kissing, caressing, and making out with some brief but non-graphic descriptions. A boy and a girl have sex; she watches him put on a condom; he repeatedly asks for consent, but the sex is not described. Teens talk about how you know if you're gay or straight and, without being explicit, talk about what defines having sex for gay and straight people. A teen's erection is alluded to a couple of times. Some sexual innuendo and double entendres. A joke about FaceTime sex. Tampons mentioned. Having to deal with periods that are "one step below a crime scene." An unmarried 20-year-old gets pregnant and wants to keep the baby; there’s mention that if she had wanted an abortion it would have been very difficult to get in Mississippi. Mentions of soft-core porn on TV, masturbation, and buying morning-after pills. Dancing called "grinding babymakers together." "Camel toe" mentioned a few times.

Language

"F--k" and variations, "s--t," "ass," "pee," "butt," "dick," "damn," "son of a bitch," "piss," "bulls--t," "lesbos," and "dyke."

Consumerism

Some junk food and soda brands, Clive Cussler paperback, Lisa Frank pencil case, Fireball whiskey, FaceTime, the YMCA, Dumpster.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Teens drink beer, mimosas, and whiskey at parties. Bottles of liquor available at a party. A teen has lots of mini-bottles of liquor and drinks several quickly; her drunken behavior has emotional consequences for others. Ramona works at a restaurant with a bar. An adult is drunk in the daytime, gets taken home, and passes out on the couch. A drinking game with a TV show is mentioned. Mention that on Halloween, adults get too drunk at parties to notice how drunk their kids are. Teens pass "blunts" and gather around bongs at parties. Mentions of "nineties heroin chic," a pothead, being doped up on drugs after surgery, that young people are supposed to get high in public parks.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Ramona Blue is a coming-of-age story by the author of Dumplin' and Side Effects May Vary. Ramona, 17, identifies as a lesbian and is romantically involved with a girl at first; two of her closest friends are also gay. Sexual-preference issues, such as how you know if you're gay and what happens when preferences change, are important but aren't by any means the central theme. Family life, growing up, and romance are stronger themes, and racial issues are also briefly explored. Some kissing and making out between same-sex and opposite-sex couples. An opposite-sex couple have sex; seeing the boy put on a condom is mentioned but the sex isn't described, and the boy's a great model for making sure the girl consents. Strong language includes "f--k," "s--t," "lesbos," and "dyke."

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What's the story?

At six-foot tall and with hair always dyed the color that gave rise to her nickname, RAMONA BLUE would stand out anywhere. Add to that openly identifying as a lesbian, and you can bet everyone in her small Mississippi-coast town knows who she is. While Ramona's trying to make a long-distance romance work with Grace, a summer tourist, Ramona's childhood friend Freddie moves to town, and the two pick up their friendship right where it left off. As her friendship with Freddie deepens, Ramona starts to wonder if she ever really knew herself or what she wanted from life, especially once Freddie kisses her and she realizes she liked it.

Is it any good?

Julie Murphy brings a wry sense of humor to this thought-provoking coming-of-age story that explores family loyalty, responsibility, love, identity, and more. Teens will relate to Ramona Blue as she tries to figure out herself and her place in the world. Romance veterans will find that part of the storyline pretty predictable, but the colorful cast of characters and the skillfully evoked small-town life on the Mississippi Gulf coast keep the pages turning. Ramona's authentic voice keeps the reader rooting for her right to the end.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the sexual content in Ramona Blue. How much is too much? Should any topics be taboo?

  • Ramona will do anything for her sister. Would you go as far as she does to help a loved one? Why do you think Ramona does?

  • Does the romance in Ramona Blue seem realistic? What are some of your favorite teen romances you've read or seen in movies? What makes them work?

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