Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Review: Raw Blue

Kirsty Eagar
Young Adult
274 Pages
Penguin (Australia)
Available Now
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.

Rating 5/5


  1. Ooh, I saw this one on her blog, as well! I knew the cover looked familiar! Sometimes I prefer it when the prose is short and simple - there are times when it delivers a greater effect than flowery language. This sounds like a very emotionally heavy book, and I'm trying to stay away from anything heavy right now, but since you praised it so highly I'll have to check this out whenever I can! Great review, Jenny. ♥

  2. I'm so happy that Linds is doing a Canadian tour for this one and can't wait to read it too! You've just made me so much more excited to read it which I didn't think was possible. If only I had the book right now ...

  3. Jenny, your review is amazing. Seriously, you summed up this book so beautifully. I love, love, love Raw Blue and I am so glad you enjoyed it.

  4. Wonderful review! Carly sounds like such a strong character. I love emotional books with great characterization.I really want to read Raw Blue soon.

  5. Wow- A five outta five..and Missie rated it high too so I guess this is one I need to for sure check out and I love deep emotion books! Lovely review as always Jenny..:)

  6. Looooooove this review - love it!! Love spreading the word about this fantastic book!! I especially love what you said about Carly's friendship with Danny. . . that seen after Ryan goes, and Danny gets into the car and can't even look at her? Argh, that one got me.

    I just loved this story so, so much. I realize Carly's emotional journey IS the plot, but oh my God. . . it runs the full course, doesn't it?

    Would anyone else love to see this published in the US? I would. . . I think a story like this has a place on the shelves everywhere.

  7. Sounds great! I read another strong review of this one last night. Both of you talked about how great a character Carly is. I should pick it up. There's not enough really character-heavy books out there.

  8. Great review! I haven't heard much about this one, but I have to say I'm intrigued. I love character driven books!

  9. I simply cannot wait to read this book, even more so now after reading your glowing review. Thanks for sharing Jenny!

  10. With your and Linds' awesome reviews of this book, I now have to read it. The plot, characters, and writing styles sound fabulous. I'm going to see if my library has this book and if not, recommend that they purchase it.

  11. This was a great review! You said that the book used short phrases, is it written in verse?

    Jennifer (An Abundance of Books)

  12. I have never heard of this before, but it sounds amazing! I will have to check it out.

  13. Kristina - I agree completely, there was something very satisfying about her brief descriptions of certain things, much more to the point:)

    Zahida - I hope you love it, I didn't know what to expect and I just adored it.

    Nic - Thank you! I struggled to write this one because I wanted to do it justice. I hope it gets released in the US, I think more people need to read it:)

    Misha - I adored Carly and I was on edge the entire time while reading because I wanted good things for her!

    Tina - It's a good one, I don't give many 5's but this one earned it:)

    Linds - A huge thank you to you for organizing this tour, I would have missed out on this gem otherwise!

    Alison - Carly is amazing, she's frustrating and vulnerable and I just wanted to reach in and hug her:)

    Leanna - It hasn't gotten much hype I don't think since it hasn't released in the US, but I hope we can bring some attention to it:)

    Tara - Can't wait to see what you think of it!

    Rummanah - I wish it was more widely available here, it was just a very memorable and emotional read:)

    Jennifer - No, not written in verse. She just describes things in shorter sentences because I think Carly lives very much in the mindset of just get from one moment to the next, she doesn't much think long term, and the shorter, clipped sentences expressed that well.

  14. Sarah - It's amazing! You'll probably have to get it through Book Depository since it's an Australian title, but it's worth ordering for sure:)

  15. I'm so excited to read this book. I won it, but I have it sitting because I am reading review books first. But ahhh, I'm glad it got your approval. I will read it soon.!!

  16. Ohhh 5/5 huh?!!! I'll have to add it to my list!

  17. Savy - Looking forward to seeing what you think, I got very attached to it:)

    Missie - Thank you:)

    Mollie - Yes! It's a fairly rare occurrence, so I think you can tell I loved this one:)

  18. Hm... could this end up being a freezer book? She just seems so tragic and those pull at my heartstrings. Glad to see you loved it. Looks like I might have to make room in the freezer for this one. :)

  19. I don't read too many Australian titles unless they are released in the US. It sounds like a powerful and emotional book so I want to read it now too.

  20. Wow. You're beautiful reviews often leave me awed and speechless.

  21. Melissa - She is tragic in a lot of ways, but she handles herself well, it's just those moments when her memories are triggered you can't help but feel for her.

    Jenny - I wouldn't have picked this one up if not for Linds and the tour, but I would have been missing out big time.

    Juju - Aw, thank you so much!

  22. I don't know what is more beautiful sounding... Your review of this book or the book itself! I think that this book will be popping up on my "On My Wishlist" one of these upcoming Saturdays! ;)

    Thanks for the great review Jenny!

  23. I second Juju's statement :)

    Sigh, this one sounds so good!

  24. Beautiful review, Jenny. Just beautiful.

  25. Avery - Thank you very much, glad you enjoyed it. I hope a lot of people give this one a try, I can't say enough good things about it.

    Sandy - It is good! And thank you:)

    Carissa - Thank you, I'm always impressed with your reviews so that means a lot!

  26. I have wanted to read this book for ages now and am so glad to see such a fantastic review. I get the feeling that this is one of those books that although many people may have seen, many just thought to overlook it. It sounds like an achingly heart wrenching read - and I'm really looking forward to sharing in the journey of the characters, especially Carly's. What a beautiful review Jenny!

  27. This isn't really my genre, but I know a number of my library girls who would absolutely love this book. If you and Linds are both raving about Raw Blue, then I know it must be peak in its genre. I wonder why it isn't being published in the US.

  28. Wow. This sounds absolutely amazing. And honestly, this if not my favourite genre and I have to be in a certain mood to read a book this emotionally heavy but I still really want to read it now!!