All The Books I Can Read

1 girl….2 many books!

Raw Blue – Kirsty Eagar

on January 15, 2012

Raw Blue
Kirsty Eagar
Penguin AU
2009, 274p
Copy courtesy of the publisher

Carly lives for one thing – surfing. She has dropped out of her university degree to take a job as a cook in a Manly cafe, working night shifts so that the days are for surfing. She has no interest in learning front of house, learning to work the coffee machine. She has no interest in being anywhere other than out in the kitchen, cooking the food. That way she doesn’t have to deal with people. Dealing with people isn’t something Carly is very good at now.

She lives a fairly solitary life these days and that’s the way she liked it. Kicked out of home after she quit Uni, Carly has made her own way. She has few friends, only Hannah, her upstairs neighbour who encroaches into her life in her friendly way, but it is not something Carly reciprocates much. When she meets Ryan, a fellow surfer who has ‘been away’ for a few months, down at the beach, there’s something about him that draws Carly, even if she can’t label it. She doesn’t seek friends, even in the surf. There’s a complicated system of rules in place down at the local spot and Carly respects them all. She doesn’t know what to do when people seek her and her interactions are laced with awkwardness and tension.

Carly is carrying around a terrible and debilitating secret, something that fuels her solitary existence and impacts on the way she deals with people. She’s been ignoring it, forcing it down into the bottom of her conscious but still it forces its way up to linger right there. When Ryan persists with her, despite all the awkwardness and her running away and inability to interact, she has a choice to make. She can wallow in her secret, in her misery and shame and push away those that want to be close to her. Or she can let it go, bit by bit and learn to live again.

Not too long ago I started seeing Raw Blue reviewed quite a bit on a few YA blogs I read. It was creating a lot of interest and praise in mostly US readers. I’d never gotten around to reading it, mostly because I thought it was just about surfing. When I went to a Penguin Between The Lines event about a month ago, they kindly gave us some complimentary copies of some of their books and this was one of the ones I picked up. And I wanted to read it specifically for the Australian Women Writers Challenge, especially after a few people at the Penguin event (Danielle!) sang its praises to me.

This book! Sometimes those reviews where you loved the book are harder to write because there’s so much you want to say, so much you want to talk about but it’s hard to get it all out without sounding like a thirteen year old girl at a Justin Timberlake concert. Or is it Justin Bieber these days? Anyway, this book? It utterly slayed me.

Carly is so real I felt like her pain leapt off the page and hit me in the face. There’s something about the shy, awkward way in which she carries herself around people and the painful interactions she has with them (particularly Ryan) are so embarrassing that you actually cringe for her. They’re so accurately humiliating that they’re almost difficult to read. And yet they’re so heartbreakingly amazing because this is how I imagine that someone with Carly’s past would interact with people. There’s an authenticity to it.

Raw Blue will make you feel so much – I’m not sure there’s an emotion I didn’t experience whilst reading this book. Carly, despite her stand-offishness and brusque manner is so easy to like. She was raised by a family with a passive aggressive, domineering father and a 50s style mother who didn’t interfere with what the mens said and pretended all was fine. All she needed was someone she could trust and things might’ve been a lot different for her early on. She might not have experienced such a great amount of pain for such a long time. What happened to her was horrific and she dealt with it by never speaking of it to anyone and after dropping out of uni and being kicked out by her father, closing herself off from the rest of the world. Surfing is basically a solo sport, even though it can be done in groups, and Carly picks a job that not only allows her to surf all she wants, but that basically means she has little to no day to day interaction with people. Her peace is found through surfing and passages of the book are devoted to describing this in extraordinarily vivid detail. The venues, the waves, the colour of the ocean, the weather, the other surfers, what’s happening on the beach… it all paints an incredibly detailed image for the reader until you can smell the salt, feel the sand and almost gain a bit of Carly’s peace.

Carly is an older protagonist than is typical in YA, being 19 and out of school for several years and Ryan isn’t the stereotypical love interest either. He’s mid-2o’s, has recently been in jail and isn’t the smooth, good-looking popular boy that crops up often. He’s a surfer, just like Carly and the way in which he gently persists with her, even when she’s almost rude or unfathomably odd, is told in such a believable way because he voices his frustration and the fact that he really doesn’t know what he’s doing or why he’s doing it or why he’s interested in her.

This book is a perfect example of why I read YA and love it at 30 years of age (next month anyway). It’s emotional, gritty, beautifully told and real. Carly’s narrative chokes you up. You feel for her, she has your sympathy almost from the beginning because it’s easy for the reader to decipher what happened to her long before she feels the need to stumble through explaining it. You feel for her when she’s interested in Ryan because we all remember those painfully embarrassing moments where we can’t get out what we want to say and just want to run away – Carly takes that one step further and actually runs away and you cringe for her but at the same time you’re so hopeful for her. Hopeful that she will let go and relax around Ryan, hopeful that she will one day confide in him and that he will understand her terrible shyness and fear. And Kirsty Eagar will keep you guessing about Carly’s future happiness right until the end.

Amazing.

9/10

Book #6 of 2012

Raw Blue is the second novel read for the Australian Women Writers Challenge 2012. It’s set in and around Manly, on Sydney’s northern beaches and the location is a large part of the story. It’s all about the swell, the beaches and surfing conditions are mentioned in every chapter and Carly’s favourite surfing locations are lovingly described. Surfing culture is also a big part of the book with the rules and regulations of the career surfers versus the casual drop ins laid out for the reader. Carly’s love of the ocean is a huge part of her, both her regular personality and also her personal therapy in coping with what happened to her. Raw Blue is Kirsty Eagar’s first novel. Her third novel, Night Beach is due out in April.

 


8 responses to “Raw Blue – Kirsty Eagar

  1. Danielle says:

    Wonderful review of a heart-breaking and marvellous book!

  2. diana mack says:

    must find this for my daughter!…oh who am i kidding..i want it too!

  3. shelleyrae @ Book'd Out says:

    I thought this was superb as well and I am looking forward to the release of Night Beach in April

    A great review!

    Shelleyrae @ Book’d Out

  4. […] Raw Blue, by Kirsty Eagar. I only read this one the other day and I was a complete fan. It’s also about a girl dealing with a shameful secret and the awkward way in which she retreats from the world because of it. It’s emotional and gritty and engrossing and totally beautiful. […]

  5. VeganYANerds says:

    Raw Blue was one of my favourite books of 2011, it was a great story and I love that it was set where I grew up, it made it even more special.

  6. I’m just going through links to reviews of the challenge and came across this. I hadn’t wanted to read it before I’d finished Raw Blue. I couldn’t agree more with your assessment of this book, Bree. The writing was extraordinary, and the emotional range swept me away. Thanks for highlighting it and for recommending it for AWW.

  7. […] Francesca by Melina Marchetta (my review) Two words: Will Trombal Raw Blue by Kirsty Eagar (my review) Carly and Ryan oh my gosh. I love this book so much. It’s that little bit something […]

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