Saturday, October 18, 2014

Raw Blue Review

I just finished my third or fourth re-read of Kirsty Eagar's Raw Blue.  I first read it in 2013, so that's a fair amount of concentrated revisitation. Obviously, I love this book. (Love, love, love.)

Raw Blue is yet another outstanding offering from the Australian YA world.  (There is the understanding among YA readers and reviewers that Australians churn out consistently quality YA works.)  The joke is that there's something in the water — besides Irukandji jellyfish.

Indeed, this book is very Australian.  So much so that there's a good quantity of words and phrasings slung around of which I have only the foggiest understanding.  Far from being a detriment, this foreign-ness is alluring.  It's part of the specific and contained world of Raw Blue.

The plot follows Carly, a 19 year-old Aussie who has left university.  She works as a cook in the afternoons and evenings and surfs as much as possible in her spare time. If this makes you think Blue Crush, think again.  Something very traumatic has happened in Carly's recent past, she does not have the support of family or friends, and she's basically living on her own as a sad, troubled adult.  

In this sense, Raw Blue is a very atypical YA.  I would almost qualify the book as New Adult (NA), but without all the negative connotations of that new genre. There is sexual content in Raw Blue, but its depicted in a very frank, realistic, un-fantasized way. There is also "romance," but I hesitate in calling the relationship in the novel conventionally romantic.  It is very moving, and at times alluring, but is also so truthful and un-romanticized.  

Mainly, Raw Blue is a character-driven novel.  Carly undergoes a beautiful arc, struggling and healing before the reader's eyes.  So does Ryan, another surfer who Carly meets, who is struggling with his own demons.  Their actions, reactions, and, in Carly's case, thoughts, were very familiar to me. It is an accomplishment when a book gives words to emotions and actions that you struggle to comprehend in yourself.

Additionally, setting is another huge part of the novel.  The author, I found out in an interview, spent some time traveling around Australia with her boyfriend, hitting surfing location after surfing location, being alive, young bums.  Eagar's experiences translate so well into her novel.  Carly's love of surfing is palpable, the beaches she hits are present, and the terminology of the sport is gracefully and convincingly used. The book took everything I assumed about surfing and surfers and turned it on its head. (Granted, I didn't know much about surfing culture to begin with.)

I will say that some portions of the book are easy to skip over, mainly the dynamics of Carly's workplace.  When I re-read the book, I always find myself drawn to the parts that feature just Carly, or Carly and Ryan.  All in all, this is a minute criticism.

I would recommend Raw Blue to readers who are already hooked on Australian fiction or to those who are interested in becoming so.  I suggest that readers who like character-driven and setting-driven novels give the book a shot.  And finally, I recommend the book to readers who crave a cathartic, but ultimately triumphant, reading experience.


  1. I am a huge Aussie YA fan as well. But. Kristy Eager and I didn't really see eye to eye. Give me Melina Marchetta any day of the week. ;)

    1. That's too bad that Eagar didn't work out for you, but I agree that Marchetta is the Queen.