Friday, December 3, 2010

REVIEW: Raw Blue by Kirsty Eagar

by Kirsty Eagar
274 pages
Penguin Books Australia


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. Then she meets Ryan and 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?

REVIEW: I have a shelf in my room.  I call it my 'Holy of Holies" shelf, and on it goes my most precious and prized books.  Raw Blue by Kirsty Eager now has a place on that rather short space.  The last time I read something that affected me this deeply, it was If I Stay by Gayle Forman, and before that, who knows?  If you look for deeply emotional reads that simultaneously leave you aching and hopeful, you owe it to yourself to pick up this book. 

This is an example of a character driven story at its finest.  The entire plot of the book centers around the emotionally painful journey of Carly.  I've read many reviews that do not state outright what trauma Carly is dealing with, but, as you can guess from the synopsis and will learn very quickly what happens if you read the book, I am going to go ahead and name the pink elephant: Carly is a survivor of rape.  I don't feel it's possible to adequately talk about the book unless that fact is present.  The fear, shame, rage and bravery Carly shows is directly related to the crime committed against her.

Two years after her trauma, Carly still has told no one and has moved away from everyone she knows.  She immerses herself in her one true passion: surfing.  While doing that, she meets Ryan, a local who has recently returned after his own time away.  I cannot emphasize enough how wonderfully true-to-life the beginnings of this attraction is.  This is the real beauty of Kirsty's writing - so many conversations, so many misunderstandings in this book felt like ones I've heard or had myself.  There were several times while reading that I stopped, blinked, and thought, "Linds, this takes place in another country, not down the street!"  Carly's emotions are similar to what many people feel when they meet a special 'someone' - nervousness, self-scrutiny, and, yes, hope, however faint it may be.  For her, these feelings are so much more pungent and enhanced due to the horrible transgression committed against her.  You can feel and taste her desperation in wanting to trust again, but how do you do that when your entire sense of security has been ripped from you?

Carly is a very familiar and easy-to-read character.  I literally could see her clench and unclench her hands in her search to find a a balance between feeling safe and being brave enough to personally connect with others again.  I want to stress that this is not the story of Carly and Ryan; this is the story of Carly and her decision about conquering her pain and reclaiming her life.  However, Ryan is an extraordinary character in his own right and an excellent example of how second chances are well-deserved given certain circumstances.  His nature and behavior towards Carly reminds me very much of several 'regular' guys I know; he is simply a good person, and his approach and reactions were thoroughly 'male'.  It's clear that he cares for Carly very much, and you will want to see her be happy with him. 

Raw Blue is entrenched in the surfing lifestyle of the Northern Australian beaches, and from what I have read, is loved by Aussie reviewers for being distinctly Australian in voice.  I never have been surfing, nor do I live near a beach, but Kirsty's writing is very descriptive.  With my own limited knowledge of waves, beaches and surfing, I had no issue conjuring up the scenes that Carly describes.  I have no idea if I got it right, but I do feel like I was right there in the story.  Something I can compare it with is Cynthia Voight's descriptions of the Chesapeake Bay area in her Tillerman Family series.  I've never been there, but as in Raw Blue, the simple and vivid language flows through your mind, leaving you with a very clear picture of a place you've never been to.  More importantly, the surf is directly connected with Carly's ability to feel happy and alive.  Carly would not stay afloat if it weren't for the water, and the book is very much about her relationship with it.

There is Australian slang and surf terms throughout the book, but you easily can figure out the meaning of much of it from context, and there is a fairly obvious U.S. equivalent for most, i.e., boot --> trunk, and "How're you goin'," is "How're you doin'?"  If it ever were to be published in the U.S., I might suggest a small glossary for U.S. equivalents and explanations of surf terms - it's not absolutely needed, but it would be convenient.  I would not touch one single word of the text itself; it's a picture of life there and should remain as is. 

I don't know exactly what is is about Raw Blue that affected me so deeply.  It's a book with an easy, flowing gait but with very complex and powerful emotions.  Carly being nineteen makes this a book that fills the open gap for college aged literature.  I think what really got me was the realization that Carly could be any one of us.  It easily could have been me.  I just turned 30, and this book had me going back to my college and mid-twenties dating life.  I thought of times that could have ended badly, and I am so thankful they didn't.  I highly encourage you to read this book.  Carly's story is a poignant and powerful one that deserves attention, consideration and, most importantly, conversation.  I encourage you to share it with someone you love whose safety and well-being you hold close to your heart.

To purchase Raw Blue for an e-reader, you can do so at the Angus and Robertson website ($12.73).

To purchase a hard copy of Raw Blue please go to Abbey's Bookshop ($19.95 + S&H).

Favorite Quotes

"Shame isn't a quiet grey cloud, shame is a drowning man who claws his way on top of you, scratching and tearing your skin, pushing you under the surface."
pg. 37

"The moon is weird tonight.  A yellow devil with a knowing face and hard triumphant eyes.  The top of his head is cropped off diagonally, as though he is wearing an invisible hat at a jaunty angle.  Usually when I see the moon I feel like I've been blessed, but not tonight.  The moon is telling me to watch my feet."
pg. 50

"My happiness is crunchy.  Snapping, crackling and popping in the sun."
pg. 137

"What did he say?  You can't always pick your friends.  Well, he's damn right there.  I have two friends here: a fifteen year old who sees people in colours and a salsa-mad Dutch woman.  I didn't pick them, they just turned up in my life, and I'm really glad."
pg. 148

"Once they know they've got a hold of your shame, they can shake it out and hold it up for the all world to see.  And you become less than it.  You become something disgusting."
pg. 170

"He exhales, then leans forward, reaching under the table to hold my knee.  'I didn't mean that.  I want to be here.  You know what I kept thinking about while I was away?  When we went for a surf the morning after - how I felt coming up from the beach with you afterwards.  I was thinking, 'How good is this?'"
-Ryan, pg. 201


I have a personal request: I would never normally do this, but I loved Raw Blue and would love to see it published in the U.S.  Please tweet this review and help generate buzz for this amazing book. This is a book I am absolutely passionate about.  It has something important to say, and I truly believe it should be published in the U.S. and worldwide.  If you like my review, please retweet and share elsewhere - tweet @PenguinTeen and let them know you'd like to find this book here in the States!  I am trying to create buzz for this wonderful offering, but I can't do it without help from my fellow bloggers and readers.  The review's bit URL:

FTC: I received this book from the author in exchange for my honest opinion.  In no way was I compensated for my review.


  1. Absolutely brilliant review! Raw Blue is one of my all time favourites and I agree with everything you said about it.

    I found it very hard to let go of this story once I finished. I just kept re-reading parts of it over and over again.

    Love all the quotes you included especially 'How good is this?'.

    I really hope this book gets the attention it deserves!

  2. Oh Nic, I know exactly what you mean! I actually finished it late last Friday/early Saturday morning, and I kept re-reading certain parts again, too! It took some time for me to write the review - I needed the space to gather my thoughts.

    Carly's story just clings to your bones, doesn't it?


  3. Wow, a place on the Holy of Holies shelf huh? Sounds like a must read to me! I love how thorough this review is Linds, it gave me a great feel for a book I'm not at all familiar with. And I love that the romantic relationship feels real and something we might have experienced ourselves:) Fabulous review!

  4. Oh Jenny, the voice of Carly was so authentic - you could absolutely connect with her. If you read it, please let me know what you think.


  5. Sounds really intense! I think I need a Holy of Holies shelf. Great idea on passing on the word on this book! Terrific review :)

  6. This sounds like an amazing book that I never would have heard of without you posting about it. Thanks, I'll definitely have to pick it up (or order it since it's not in the US). Great review!

  7. @Julie and Lisa - thanks so much for stopping by! I am glad my review has garnered your interest! Thanks for helping to spread the word!

  8. Kirsty Eagar?!!! The same author of Saltwater Vampires. OMG!

    Do you know how long I've wanted that book? It has been out of stock on Book Depository forever. I finally had to contact a online friend of mine in Australia and plead to her to send me the book. And now it looks like I'm going to have to get her to send me this one because it is also list as out of stock on BD! So not fair!

    I've heard amazing things about Eager, and I'm dying to read her work. Thanks for all the great quotes!

  9. OMG, indeed! I went to BD for this, too - total fail.

    The e-reader version is pretty inexpensive, but if you don't have one of those, perhaps we could work something out. . . I actually thought of you as I was working on the review - thought this might be the type of book you'd like. Of course, this a book from my holy of holies. If I don't get this mailed back to me, the likelihood that I will show up in Texas to reclaim it is HIGHLY likely ;)

  10. LOL!

    You know you had me hooked when you mentioned If I Stay.

    Yeah, the e-book is kind of pricey. I should be getting Saltwater Vamps soon, so I will probably decide what to do about Raw after I read SV.

  11. Thank you for the review, this book sounds fantastic!
    Jodie Books For Company

  12. Jodie, it's amazing! It'll stick with you for days afterwards.


  13. Wow, this sounds like an awesome book. Thanks so much for bringing it to my attention. I'm definitely going to put it on my list. I loved If I stay so I'm looking forward to trying to get this and read it.

  14. I haven't heard of this book but now I really want to read it. It's too bad that it hasn't been published in the States because it sounds like a fabulous read. I'm off to add it to my wishlist.

  15. Oh God, that has to be the best review I've ever read. You make me want to cry and I haven't even read the book. I definitely have to have it. I think I tweeted the review. I'll have to check again. That was incredible.

    Thank you,

  16. Terrific review of a special book.
    The book is so positive and human.
    It is also wonderful reading for mothers of young adults. Full of memories, like whispers and smoke, that remind mothers of their youth and new love.

  17. Okay, last revisit (of the night).

    Yes, I think you nailed in on Carly. Familiar and easy-to-read character, which struck me as eerie for some reason. That's not saying I thought any less of Carly, I didn't but the fact that her exhibited characters have become common knowledge is a bit daunting. Not sure if I'm really explaining myself right. Agh!

    Thanks again. To be able to let this story go, you have to approach it like ripping off a band-aid. *sighs*

  18. Missie, you revisit all you want - you are always welcome here :) I'm not sure if I get exactly what you mean, but I completely get that letting go of this story is hard. . . I love the fact that you were affected by it. That's the way a good story should be, don't you think?


  19. I was trying to order this book through the A&R website and it wasn't working for me - the delivery address was only available for non-US. Any ideas on what I am doing wrong?

  20. I have wanted to read this book for a while but now you made me desperate to read it. I am so sorry about what happened to you. It is wonderful to hear (or read) that this book helped you to deal with it.
    Thank you for your brilliant review and for the giveaway.

  21. Thanks for your review! I never planned to read RAW BLUE, but it's definitely on my wishlist now!