by Julie Murphy
read in June 2017
This review contains minor spoilers!
When the blurb of Ramona Blue was released, it caused a lot of controversy. Just have a look at the reviews on this website. I for one was very excited to read a book about a girl who thought she was a lesbian, but later learnt she was bi. Unfortunately, that’s not what Ramona Blue is about. Though this is written by a bisexual author and she says on social media that Ramona is bisexual, it is never once stated in the book that she is. That’s my main issue with this book and I’ll get into that later.
Let’s start with the things I did like. I love how the author mentioned every character’s skin colour. Often, authors only mention the skin colours of characters that aren’t white, so this was a nice change. Among the cast of characters, there’s a lot of diversity: gay, biracial, a character with two moms, etc. And I really appreciated Freddie telling Ramona how sneaking onto private property isn’t fun when you’re a black kid, because that’s how you get shot.
Unfortunately, I have many issues with this book. I don’t speak for all bisexuals, but I want to be honest and share how much this book has hurt me. If other bisexuals did enjoy this book, that’s totally fine. I just didn’t.
It honestly baffles me that this book is written by a bisexual woman, because throughout the book, I had the feeling as if it wasn’t considered a valid sexuality. As if Ramona was now straight and no longer gay, or that she was still a lesbian, but her boyfriend was an exception. The author has shared on social media that this character is indeed bisexual, so why wasn’t that included in the book? Why do I have to read this “I don’t like labels” bullshit instead? At one point, the phrase “Even straight people are a little bit gay” is used. That’s so biphobic! BI PEOPLE EXIST! That sentence went unchallenged, so I can only assume the author agrees with that.
Freddie is very ignorant when it comes to Ramona’s sexuality. She sometimes gets a bit annoyed with him, but overall, she always feels as if she was the one who shouldn’t have snapped and “at least he’s trying”. Reading this book was therefore very hard for me. I understand why the author would include homophobia because it does exist, but for it to go unchallenged… That’s not okay.
Therefore, I couldn’t excuse the things Freddie said and did. Because Ramona didn’t call him out, he didn’t exactly change. Naturally, I couldn’t root for their relationship, which is a huge part of what this story is about. Am I supposed to excuse his homophobia because he doesn’t have any gay friends? Hell no.
Freddie was the one who initiated the first kiss with Ramona. As far as he knew, she was a lesbian. Of course sexuality can be fluid, but it should’ve been her who took that first step, not him. She told him she was gay, yet he still kissed her. Do I have to point out how wrong that is?
Obviously, I wasn’t a fan of Freddie. Which sucks, because I liked him at first. But I just can’t excuse his behaviour. Like Ramona told him months ago that she didn’t want to get a senior page in the yearbook, so he bought it for her as a surprise. He’s pushing her to do things she doesn’t want to do, but she thought it was sweet and kind. She lets him get away with everything!
Moving on from their relationship, I have some other issues as well. As a Young Adult author, I believe you are responsible for teenagers. It’s good that Freddie used a condom and the sex was definitely consensual, but he went in there without any “prep” beforehand and I just cringed.
Furthermore, the word “crazy” is used an awful lot and at one point, Ramona says “I’m a human being. I think about sex”. I found that quite acephobic.
A common theme in many books is a character who doesn’t want to go to college, but does go in the end because “it’s the only way to turn their lives around”. I find that harmful, because not everyone gets a scholarship, because it doesn’t work out for everybody. You are not a failure if you decide not to go to college, so we should see this more often in fiction!
I have even more issues with this book, but I’ll end this here. I’m so very disappointed in this book and I know people will disagree with me, but I cannot help how I feel. I never expected a bisexual author to make me feel so invalid, but here we are…
Unfortunately, reading Ramona Blue was a hurtful experience, so I wouldn’t recommend it. Yes, this book has received positive reviews, but I wouldn’t want anyone to get hurt like I did.