Published by Penguin Books Australia on June 29th 2009
Genres: Contemporary, Young Adult
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Carly has dropped out of uni to spend her days surfing and her nights working as a cook in a Manly café. Surfing is the one thing she loves doing … and the only thing that helps her stop thinking about what happened two years ago at schoolies week.
And then Carly meets Ryan, a local at the break, fresh out of jail. When Ryan learns the truth, Carly has to decide. Will she let the past bury her? Or can she let go of her anger and shame, and find the courage to be happy?
If you’ve been around Goodreads for a while, you may have noticed that there’s this particular reviewer. Let’s call her Smarty McSmart-Pants. This reviewer has a reputation for having near impeccable taste in books. Usually, whatever book she gives five stars, we’re bound to love as well. Some of the other reviewers and I have a little thing going where we recommend her books because, clearly, whoever can recommend a book she likes is Queen of Goodreads for that short amount of time.
So when Smarty McSmart-Pants personally descended from her cloud-like residence and recommended this book to me via a burning tree, I jumped at the opportunity to read it. After all, it had everything going for it. Firstly, it’s written by an Australian author. A condition known within the Goodreads community to be like the kiss of the angels. Secondly, it’s recommended by aforementioned reviewer, and thirdly, it was insanely expensive to purchase. So I am completely flabbergasted that I liked this novel a lot, but didn’t really love it.
There’s a lot of words I want to use to describe this novel and its main character, Carly. See, I want to describe it as a graphic reflection on the life of a nineteen year old, traumatised rape victim.
But she wouldn’t appreciate that description. She wouldn’t like being summarised as one horrible moment in her life or to have what happened to her cheapened or used for shock value. Though it may seem silly to kowtow to the wishes of an imaginary literary character, I will.
So this is the story of Carly, nineteen year old soft-hearted surfer-chick, who is hiding out in Manly and working as a kitchen cook to escape her family and the consequences of trauma inflicted upon her. She meets Ryan, another surfer with a shady past, and they spark up an awkward and shaky relationship.
The title of Raw Blue is a very accurate one, reflecting the real state of this novel. The prose are brash and raw with strong emotion.
“I scrabble my fingers in Ryan’s pubic hair and they brush against his penis which is spent, soft and vulnerable.”
These prose are interspersed throughout the narrative. They are brash, strong and gloss over nothing.
The strongest aspect of this novel, undoubtedly, is its dealing with the subject of rape. The guilt, shame and anger is all there in its crippling insidiousness, helping the reader to feel as brittle and impotent as Carly is.
This is Carly’s journey to survive and conquer and the novel focuses on this as opposed to the romance with Ryan who serves as a catalyst for change but ultimately is powerless to rescue Carly from her own crippling emotions and trauma. That she has to do herself.
My major gripe with the novel is in its lackadaisical plot and sudden ending. The novel ends so abruptly and unexpectedly that one gets the impression Eagar was called to dinner just as she came toward the ending and never returned to finish the narrative. It leaves this awkward, unfulfilled feeling like great sex which is cut short and ends unsatisfactorily. There was a climax missed there, I feel, and I finished the novel with a vague frustration. There were plot points that had felt strong all the way through and then suddenly fizzled into limp nothings. Shane and Danny felt like potential completely wasted. What really was their point outside a brief moment each gave to the plot? I felt like there was so much missing, having been cut away from Eagar’s original intent.
I have one more complaint with this novel as silly as it is. I feel it’s my duty to inform international readers that the bulk of Australians do not talk like the characters in this novel. I’ve probably referred to someone as “mate” a total of three times in my life and I’m pretty sure every single one of those was in jest. Perhaps that’s what stopped me from really escaping into this otherwise marvelous narrative. I couldn’t escape the mental images of every Ocker, daggy Australian bloke that Ryan produced in me.
I believe this is the clinical definition of gross.