Merry Wanderer of the Night  + [YA]

Review: Raw Blue by Kirsty Eagar

Raw Blue by Kirsty Eagar is a book you may not be terribly familiar with. So far, only released as an Australian title, it's hard to find a copy in the US. I first heard about the book from Linds at Bibliophile Brouhaha. (<- — that is an important link... You should click it & read it.) She talks about this book all the time, both on Twitter and her blog. I'm really passionate about the books that I absolutely love, so I'm a bit of a sucker for people who are intensely passionate about favorite books, and it automatically makes me more excited to read them. So, when Linds asked if I wanted to borrow her copy of this book, I was thrilled.

Carly is suffering. She's dropped out of University to spend her mornings surfing and her evenings working in a kitchen so she can afford to surf. She's shy and skittish and you know something has happened to her that's left her scarred. While surfing, she meets Ryan, a guy a bit older than her with some murky pieces in his past, but somehow, Carly finds herself drawn to him anyway. And as she spends more time with Ryan, more time facing her own demons and more time being herself, she slowly starts to heal, and wow is this powerful.

I am going to admit that there are two things holding me back from being as enamored of this book as Linds and many of the other bloggers I've seen mention it. The first is something that I cannot blame on anything except myself, and that is my expectations. I fully expected to love this book, because Linds and I agree on a lot of other books, and because everyone seems to love it. It's a tough, hard-hitting contemporary, something I'm very drawn to, and all the parts and pieces were there for me to just be blown away by this book (and, umm, the author is Australian. And dude, there must be something in the water over there, because these authors rock!) But, I had heard the book compared to Melina Marchetta* (something that is dangerous, as we see, because it makes my expectations impossible to meet) and while Eagar's writing is very emotional and very powerful, it didn't hit me the same way as Marchetta's writing does, so I was initially disappointed, waiting for the magic of Melina to kick in. When that didn't happen I was disappointed, and it wasn't until I gave myself a mental kick that I started to read it as an Eagar book, not the next Marchetta, which immediately increased my enjoyment of the book. I really want to reread this one, both so that I can revisit the story, but also because I think the book deserves a fair chance from me from the beginning.

The other complaint I had with this story is slightly spoilery. So, I'm warning you right now. Honestly, it's something that I had figured out from the back cover, and then again within the first 50 pages or so. But still, you've been warned. From the way Carly acts, you know she's been sexually assaulted at some point. And, it's scarred her, because that's what something like that does. And it hurts, it really and truly hurts. You can feel Carly's scars and it so broke my heart over and over again. I understand that being able to accept sex as a positive and loving thing is important to the healing process after an attack that like. But in my opinion, it wasn't handled here as well as it could have been. Especially with Ryan (which means I'm skipping the almosts from before). When she's with Ryan, after they start sleeping together, I thought things progressed beautifully. They were a great couple and Ryan was amazing with and for her, and he really helped her heal. But, they slept together on the first date, and this first date came after they'd only talked to each other a few times on the beach. I have a hard time believing that someone who has been through what Carly has would welcome sex on a first date and be healed by it. It just didn't feel right to me. It felt like the insta-love thing that so much of the paranormal fiction is guilty of. I know that some people are going to disagree with me here. I get that. I understand it. But I kinda also don't care. You are coming from it where you are, and I'm coming from it where I am. Everyone has had different experiences that allow them to view the world differently, and this is mine. I don't think you can have meaningful sex when you barely know someone, and I didn't feel like Carly and Ryan were given the chance to know each other before making that choice.

I'm cringing here now, because it feels like that's a whole lot of negativity above. But that's not the case! Not the case at all. Those were the only two things I didn't love about this book, and although it's a long section, that's mostly because I talk to much and sometimes over-explain things. But really, this book is pretty much brilliant. Eagar's characterization is spot on. Carly is suffering, and the suffering from her assault is compounded by this idea that she is now unclean or unworthy. And that is made worse again because she doesn't have a strong or supportive family to turn to, which also breaks my heart. But she finds surrogates in surfing and the friends she makes there. It's not perfect, but she starts to recognize truths about the world and herself, and she slowly starts to heal.

I love that overall, Eagar made Ryan's part in Carly's healing authentic and realistic. He wasn't a cure all, didn't come with a magic wand and he wasn't able to take away all of Carly's pain. Most of that she had to deal with on her own. Ryan is there for her, at all times, and he extends his support to her in anyway she needs, anyway she's willing and really, that right there just made my heart fill for this guy. He's seriously great. It kinda makes me wish for more older guys in YA.:)

So here's the thing. I know that there were those two things I marked as complaints about this book. But I don't think you should let that deter you in any way from finding any possibility of grabbing yourself a copy of this book, or in helping us to give some of these US publishers a little nudge, asking them to bring Ms. Eagar over to the states. Because this is a book worth reading. Go read some of the posts Linds has up on her blog. Her passion and commitment to this book is truly impressive and it's obvious that she loves it and believes in it. And you know what? She's absolutely right. There is so much that this book has to offer. So much that we can learn from these characters that it's a shame more people aren't familiar with it. It's a book I'm going to do my darndest to get the chance to read again, and it's one that I don't think is going to leave me for a long time. It makes you think, makes you wonder, makes your insides bleed, and then, somehow helps you up, washes your face and makes you stronger and better able to face the world.

*Footnote — One of my pet peeves is actually reviews that use other books or authors as comparisons in their review, especially when they end up making that comparison write their review for them. So, my apologies that I'm doing it here, but it's the only way I could accurately describe why I was disappointed in what would otherwise have been phenomenal writing.