I’m participating in both book tours that Holly is hosting to promote Raw Blue by Kirsty Eager and Six Impossible Things by Fiona Wood. I must have signed up early because I got to read and review Six Impossible Things last week, and this week I got my hands on Raw Blue! Thank you again to Holly for hosting it and for passing around her personal copy of the book.
The Premise: Carly is a nineteen year old college dropout who works as a cook so she can work nights and evenings and spend her days out on the waves. She has no ambitions other than to keep covering the necessities so she can surf as much as possible. There’s a dark reason for Carly’s step back from her family and friends, her move close to the ocean to surf, and why she generally wants to be left alone, but despite Carly’s painful awareness of her own inability to be “normal” around others, there are people inching their way into her life. It is up to Carly whether she will find a way to move on from her past, or if it will pull her back from real relationships forever.
My Thoughts: Carly’s life seems so simple: surf, work, sleep, wake up, and do it all again. The book starts off with a typical day for her, plopping the reader next to her on the ocean. As she matter-of-factly describes her runs on the waves, I let the talk of coastal conditions, territorial disputes, and surf culture wash over me as if it was a foreign language. Surfing is followed by a shift at work as a cook, and later time at home with Carly’s neighbor, Hannah. This should be an easy read, and it is, but at the same time, there’s something slowly and quietly weighing the story down, and that is Carly herself. It’s quickly evident that she is just surviving day-to-day, throwing herself into surfing and avoiding people.
Since the story is told from her point of view, her feelings of awkwardness and of being “uptight” are clear and powerful. I really empathized with her, and It’s not long before I understood the reason behind Carly’s skittishness. It really hit me when I did. I read a few reviews of Raw Blue that didn’t really say what had happened to Carly, and I usually try to avoid stories that deal with rape, so I wanted to warn others if this is something that they just can’t handle. Had I known, I may have never read Raw Blue, but now that I have finished it, I will tell you this: I think I would have missed out.
Even though Raw Blue took a little more out of me than most books, giving me a sense of impotent protectiveness for Carly, there was always something, whether it was surfing or the people around Carly, that kept me from getting completely wrung out. The story seems so unassuming, the pace: subdued and straightforward. At first the window into Carly’s life is mundane with surfing as the highlight, but then somehow, those ordinary details that aggregate into Carly’s life ARE the story. Oh-so-subtly, between her hours on the water, her time in the kitchen and her small, seemingly minor nothing-conversations with her neighbor Hannah, openfaced teen Danny, and of course Ryan, Carly has made connections to other people. It’s these small human connections that save Carly and elevate the story.
I really liked that the three people that Carly connects to the most were people who looked at quiet Carly and wanted to know her anyway. They all let her be herself but they also nudged her a little more into the world by their example. Danny, who just decides who he likes with his own synesthesia barometer, Hannah, separated from her husband but enjoying men, and then there’s Ryan, who looks at Carly and thinks she’s a good thing. It’s Ryan who has the biggest impact. When Carly first meets him, he seems so inscrutable, but when they get closer, he has amazing sense of when to push and when not to. He’d almost be too perfect if not for the unsureness that he lets slip every so often. I loved their slow, halting steps toward one another. I was on tenterhooks I tell you.
And that ending. It wasn’t what I imagined, but made me feel really good all the same. It was just right.
Overall: Not an easy read, but still a very rewarding one. It’s a quiet story about personal pain but it’s also a story about living. Something about it just crept up on me and made a lasting impression of the good kind. And I like that.
Buy: Fishpondworld | Other
Other reviews (not a negative one in the bunch!):
The Book Harbinger – positive
Angieville – positive
Steph Su Reads – 4.5 out of 5
Chachic’s Book Nook – positive
Inkcrush – “5 stars all the way”
You read it! This is excellent. Carly makes this book. I love how you put that, he looks at her and thinks she’s a good thing. *happy*
Yes, and so glad I did!
🙂 I had a hard time describing Ryan. Maybe it’s because Carly is the narrator, but he seems so impenetrable at first. Yet! He also put himself out there! It boils down to he looks at her, and thinks she’s a good thing.
*sigh* I love them.
Hmm, your review made me think – would I have read this if I knew about Carly’s painful past? I used to shy away from novels like that but nowadays I don’t mind if it’s done well. So I think I’d still read this but I would have prepared myself, I wouldn’t go in expecting the usual Aussie YA.
I don’t know if I would have. Maybe it would have taken me longer. I may have wanted to steel myself or something, but it turned out to be less about living in that moment when this happened, and more about just.. Carly living. So I was a bit surprised to find myself feeling much better after reading it than I feared I would feel.
You’re right, the whole traumatic incident wasn’t that heavy. It did influence her choices in life but that wasn’t really the focus of the story. I saw your reply to Holly and looks like you had a valid reason for mentioning the rape in your review.
Right – still traumatic, but the book doesn’t… I don’t know what the word is. I guess it doesn’t use it as a way to make a point which involves taking the reader into a dark place and then leaving them there afterward. I seriously tossed and turned in bed thinking about what happened to Carly, but I wasn’t sad when I finished her story. The more I think about this book the more I liked it for how it left me feeling.
You are welcome. I’m glad it was an overall rewarding read. I didn’t mention the rape in my review because I hate to slap that kind of label on a book that could define it and discourage others from picking it up, especially since like you said you would’ve missed out.
I like how you articulated the story in your review. Carly is quiet and she has a quiet life that somehow still feels very eventful. I too loved those halting steps she and Ryan take towards each other. The ending is stellar. One of my favorite quotes comes from the last few pages of the book. Nice review. 🙂
I think that’s probably why most of the reviews I saw didn’t mention the rape. I was contemplating what to do for a bit too. In the end I decided I’d put it out there. I personally ended up being OK with no heads up, but I was a bit worried about certain people I know who read my reviews on LJ and have said that rape in books is triggering. Otherwise I think I’d have been more vague and just said traumatic past. It’s one of those cases where I know who is reading. I think it’s fine not to specifically say what happened. Reviewer’s decision.
Thanks. Yes, the ending MADE the book for me. Loved it. (By the way, I did buy myself a copy via FishPondWorld). 🙂
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