Thursday 19 November 2015

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Review: Raw Blue by Kirsty Eagar

Raw Blue by Kirsty EagarRaw Blue by Kirsty Eagar (review copy) - Carly has dropped out of uni to spend her days surfing and her nights working as a cook in a Manly cafĂ©. 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?
From Goodreads

Having an idea of what Raw Blue by Kirsty Eagar was going to be about, I was looking forward to reading what I thought be an awesome novel along the lines of Easy by Tammara Webber. Raw Blue is an amazing story, but not in the way I thought it would be.

When Carly is surfing, nothing else matters. It's her escape. When she's out in the ocean, she doesn't have to think about her issues with her parents, that she has no friends, that she's desperate to be alone. She doesn't have to think of the reasons for taking life one day at a time, living for surfing, and blocking everything else out. But then she meets Ryan, and Carly can't stay away. The more time she spends with him, the harder it is to hide her past. Some secrets won't stay buried, but blocking things out is the only way she can stay afloat.
'When I was eighteen three men broke me in, and they left marks on my body, too.'
Raw Blue is such a wonderful book, but it's a hard one. Carly has been shattered by what happened to her; her shame is limitless, and she feels if people knew, she would be shunned. I said already that I thought Raw Blue was going to be similar to Easy, but though there are Jacquelines who fight for control over their own life with their heads held high, there are also Carlys, who have had their self-worth dashed. Some people swim, but others sink, and those who sink deserve to have their stories told, too. And Eagar does a wonderful job giving those people a voice.

The rape happens before the book starts, but we have flashbacks. It's not very graphic, but it doesn't need to be. Inside Carly's head, her pain is enough to hurt you too. Carly is really struggling. She is drowning in her pain, and can't see the surface. Sometimes she doesn't see the point in trying to find the surface. Anger is her constant companion. But she leaves it at the beach when she paddles into the ocean to surf. Despite this, she is strong, and is trying to get on with her life. She dropped out of uni, moved to Manly, got herself a job as a cook at a cafe in the evenings so she can surf in the morning. Might not be the best of solutions, but she's trying to move forward in the only way she knows how. She's running, and that seems to be working for her, so far.

As I said, she's angry. So angry. She's angry at those who raped her, and she's angry at herself. Anger that leads to such overwhelming shame.
'Rape is the perfect crime because the victim is the guilty one. I did not fight back; I did not say "no"; I did not make a sound.' (p44)
Her shame is so huge that she's not told a single soul. She has never had a great relationship with her parents. Her father expects her to do what he wants, his way, with no argument on the matter, and her mother goes along with her father. When Carly tries to live her own life, her father makes her feel less because of it. The following quote shows exactly her thinking on the good that telling her parents would bring.
'He'd won. I was exactly what he thought of me. All this time and he was right. I was disgusting. The shame I felt. The shame I feel. But I could not have borne the shame he'd make me carry. I could not have borne my mother's disappointment. I never told them.'
And her friends at the time... well, they weren't the right people to tell.
'I was worried that they'd smell it on me. Afraid they'd see the stain of it on my face. Because I couldn't trust them with it I realised. If I told them, I'd hear the thrill of it in their voices. The drama. The bigness of it all. They would pick me me apart like birds feeding.'
I loved how Carly has this unique, or at least rarely mentioned, view of how others - strangers - see people who have been raped. I found it very thought-provoking, and made me feel quite sick.
'If you've been raped, you become a Rape Victim. When people talk to you, they'll have a picture of you in their mind - you lying on the ground, men moving over you. But they won't be empathetic; they won't put themselves on the ground. They taste power, that little hint of vinegar that puts a twist to their lips and saliva in their mouths.
Look at the media. They concentrate on what was done to the Rape Victims. First by the rapists and then by the courts. They're feeding something there. People are greedy for the details, fascinated sick by them. I think it should be illegal to tell. I think that the person who was raped should own the copyright on what happened to them. They never give details on what happens to the rapist, later, when they go to jail. Nobody cares.'

Once Ryan becomes a solid presence in the book, there are a few sex scenes in Raw Blue. It's awesome to see Carly find her way to a healthy sexual relationship, enjoying being with another person. It's not overly graphic, but there's enough to show at first her nervousness, and then her enjoyment. And although there is romance in the book, it's not the main focus. A big deal, sure, but this is Carly's story. Ryan is important for Carly in how his presence in her life causes her to face her past, and for his support even when she doesn't want it.

Ryan and Carly's relationship with him are the catalysts that bring her to actually face what's happened, and where she has to choose how to live her life from then on. It's not pretty. In fact, it's incredibly sad. But with the two friends she makes over the course of the novel, Hannah, her Dutch neighbour, and Danny, a 15-year-old who she meets when surfing, who latches on to her like an older sister, in their own ways help her through. Her relationship with each of these three people is wonderful, and Carly allows herself some vulnerability with them. It's beautiful to see her fight what's been hurting her for so long, because of these three people in her life who care. The first people who seem to actually really care.

Raw Blue is a brilliantly moving book, ultimately uplifting, and really quite beautiful in it's poignancy. I highly recommend it!

Thank you to Catnip Books for the review copy.

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Published: 1st August 2012
Publisher: Catnip Books
Kirsty Eagar's Website