Editor’s Note: I reviewed this novel on Goodreads last year, and refreshed it for Clear Eyes, Full Shelves—because Raw Blue is such an important book. This is a hard book to acquire, but if you love high quality, contemporary fiction that tackles tough issues, it will be well worth your while. I left in the off-handed comment from my original review about starting a book blog for the laughs (I believe I made the same comment in my Goodreads review of Freefall, mentioned early in this review). This is the first in an ongoing series entitled “I Love,” in which we profess our love and devotion for books, authors, themes or anything else bookish we love.
I’m not even sure how to begin a review of this Raw Blue—this is the kind of novel that makes me feel like I should start a book blog to tell the world about the amazing books* they’re missing.
Given that it was a tremendous pain in the ass to acquire this book, the bar had been set pretty pretty high—and it certainly met those standards, and will be permanently filed under “True Book Love.”
Why I ♥ Kirsty Eagar’s Raw Blue.
- This could be an “issue book,” but this isn’t at all. It’s a novel of someone who’s had a bad thing happen and is dealing with it in the best way she knows.
- The juxtaposition between the bad stuff that happened to Ryan and the bad stuff that happened to Carly is extremely well done. She’s letting the past eat away at her—he’s moving on and away from it.
- The surfing, oh the surfing. The surfing is gorgeous in Raw Blue—it feels so sensory to read the scenes in the water. Kirsty Eagar is a surfer and her love for the water and the sport shines.
- The secondary characters! Especially Hannah (her half-crazy Dutch neighbor) and Danny (the 15-year old with a unique condition she meets surfing)! These characters ensure that this story is more than just about two broken people finding one another—it’s about these people discovering a community. This quotation just says it all:
What did he say? You can’t always pick your friends. Well, he’s damn right there. I have two friends here: a fifteen year old who sees people in colours and a salsa-mad Dutch woman. I didn’t pick them, they just turned up in my life, and I’m really glad.
- Ryan is wonderful. I love that he’s so open and that Carly (the narrator) is the elusive, mysterious one, bunking a common trope that drives me nuts. But the thing is, despite that he’s wonderful, he’s not an idealized, out-sized character. He’s real and flawed, but he’s also a good person, trying to figure things out. He could easily be someone you know.
- Speaking of Ryan, this book is listed as YA (I think in Australia, they include up to early 20s main characters as YA), but it does not “fade to black” as most YA novels do. I’m going to be controversial and say this is a good thing. Sex happens and it’s handled very well—more sensitively and appropriately than in most novels for adults. Frankly, this is the kind of thing that teens/young adults should read. It’s especially profound when juxtaposed with Carly being a rape survivor.
- Even more on Ryan: Eagar could’ve written Ryan as slightly stalkerish, but he never ventures into that territory—I had a moment of panic three-quarters of the way into the book, thinking that’d be the direction he headed, but nope—no typical stalkerish YA male in sight!**
- GAWD, the writing. I mean, the writing. It’s just so flipping good. First person, present tense can be a tough read when not done expertly, but Kirsty Eagar’s writing made me feel like I was there on Sydney’s beaches with Carly, struggling through every moment with her.
- There’s actually not a ton of dialogue in Raw Blue, which usually bugs me, but it makes sense—most of the action takes place in Carly’s head, Raw Blue is about her growth. Yet, it never veers into that place where it feels like a never-ending internal monologue. This is just perfect:
The whole time he’s been away I’ve been longing for him. Longing’s unbearable, something that can’t be endured but has to be. It’s the worst of all; I didn’t know that. It’s sweet and it kills at the same time, an ache eating away at your heart so that air gets in and you don’t know if what you feel is pain or pleasure.
I’m sad Kirsty Eagar’s next couple novels are paranormals, because I love, love, love quality contemporary YA—and we desperately need more excellent contemporaries.
I actually haven’t finished Saltwater Vampires (which used to be available in the Kobo store, but has disappeared), because I felt like the paranormal elements got in the way of what was a wonderful story about community and friends. I’ll likely give it another shot at some point, because the writing is just as wonderful. Eagar’s third novel, Night Beach, sounds like it’s a gothic tale, which may work better for me, as I tend to like those more than straight paranormals.
Finally, here’s my plea to the publishing powers that be:
Please publish this more widely in the US. Raw Blue used to be available in the Kobo store at least, but now it’s only available in hard copy via Fishpond World. There was a rumor it would be available on Kindle, which would give loads more people access to this amazing novel, but it’s yet to appear for sale on its product page.
Please—more people need to read Raw Blue. It’s an important book.
P.S. And, please don’t Americanize the Australian slang.
Like I said, this is a hard one to track down. To the best of my knowledge, the only place for Americans to buy Raw Blue is via Fishpond World (an Australian/New Zealand online store that ships worldwide for free).
Raw Blue is worth the effort—and more.
*Mindi Scott’s Freefall was another. Like Freefall, every person I’ve made read Raw Blue has absolutely loved it.
**How sad is it that I assume boys will become stalkers in most YA novels? Can we just stop with that already?