Received for review thanks to Bibliophile Brouhaha
Carly loves to surf. It's the one thing in her life that makes her happy and blocks out the event that plagues her every moment out of the water. Not only has she dropped out of university, but she's also been kicked out of her home by her father, is considered a disappointment to her family in general, and struggles daily with the aftermath of her rape.
While surfing her usual spot, Carly runs into Ryan, reluctantly taking notice of him even though meeting strange men is always a traumatic experience for her. When she accidentally collides with him in the water, an impact that destroys both of their surfboards, she finds herself in a position of having forced contact with them while he arranges for them to be fixed.
Ryan seems to be an upstanding guy, though he's not without a past of his own, but Carly's scars run extraordinarily deep, and it remains to be seen whether Ryan has the strength of will to help her fight the demons resulting from the most personal of violations.
Raw Blue is a book that takes us by surprise, blindsiding us with the depth of feeling it explores and knocking us off-kilter as we are pulled into the swirling chaos of Carly's internal struggles like we've been tossed by one of the very waves that are almost characters unto themselves in this tale, leaving us bruised, aching, and gasping for breath due to the unexpected emotional punch such a quiet story delivers. This is not a book of flowery language or one that employs an extensive vocabulary, instead utilizing simple, short phrases and descriptions, but in those few words is a wealth of feeling conveyed so sincerely and poignantly it's as though each syllable has a direct link to our hearts and we absorb every joy and pain, left a slightly different person after reading each page than we were the page before. There is a heartbreaking realism to Carly's story, where her pain is not augmented to increase drama nor her feelings for Ryan cheapened by instant lust and inexplicable pining, instead her shame and guilt are hushed, becoming something she seems to share only with us and the great blue water she so loves–an intimacy that makes the reading of this book one of the most memorable of experiences.
Carly is a character of tragic beauty, a girl not just living life but trying to survive it as her past haunts her in every male voice she hears, wondering if by some cruel twist of fate it will be one she recognizes from the night that is her greatest shame. Though she emanates darkness and pain in visceral waves, there is an inherent strength to her as she lives a life of her choosing, and when her demons sneak up on her, the palpable tension and suffocating fear brings tears to our eyes as we are overwhelmed by the sheer debilitating force of her involuntary response. Because the details of her violation are few in the beginning, our minds are free to fill in the more explicit details, and when Carly's short episodes grip her, we can almost feel the phantom fingers running the length of our bodies as they leave a trail of invisible but permanent dirt in their wake, and our legs clench together in a vicarious protest triggered by her memories. She is a young woman who has our hearts from the beginning, and we read on with the searing hope Ryan's exquisite care and mellow persistence will strip the void in her life of its blackness and fill it with light.
In addition to a stunning main character, Ms. Eagar also introduces us to quirky, heartwarming secondary characters–individuals who lend Carly their strength and bolster her when the temptation to let the guilt swallow her rises painfully to the surface. Her salsa-loving Dutch roommate Hannah provides moments of humor with adorable odd pronunciations and a continued misuse of certain phrases, surrounding Carly with the levity and companionship we wish we could provide for her ourselves. Perhaps most fascinating and welcome is Danny, a young boy and fellow surfer who interprets the world and people through colors. His descriptions of various colors and the way in which he assigns them to those he meets allows us an unusual and uniquely profound insight into their characters. We get a very clear understanding of Carly's current emotional state based on his reactions to her, and their relationship holds us utterly captivated as we wait for whatever nugget of incredibly insightful wisdom will escape his mouth next.
Raw Blue is a story that contains a torrent of emotional conflict between its pages, one that handles personal anguish in a delicate and unassuming way so we don't even realize the strength of the connection we've developed with Carly and Ryan until we find ourselves unable to let them go, clinging to our memories of their interactions for days and weeks afterward. Interestingly, Ms. Eagar provides graphic detail in some areas of both Carly's past and her relationship with Ryan but denies us details in others, making us feel incredibly included in their lives but also allowing them a bit of privacy as well, something we are grateful for as we want nothing more than for them to have moments just between them–moments of happiness and understanding that require no witnesses. What we are privy to is more than enough, and we walk away from this book with the everlasting gift of hope for the two of them.