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?
This is another book I thought I'd reviewed when I first read it years ago. Upon discovering I hadn't, I started doubting whether I'd read it to begin with. (When I was a teenager I read so much half the books fell out of my head.) Once I started reading, my memory was jogged and I knew I had definitely read it: each scene was so vivid in my mind, and I started anticipating the unpleasant parts of the novel before they happened. I found Raw Blue incredibly realistic, uncomfortably so, and very visceral.
It frustrates me incredibly when some babe shows up in a YA novel and fixes the protagonist and their myriad problems, which I think is unrealistic (and doesn't really solve anything: the protagonist hasn't really grown or dealt with their problems). What is terrific about Raw Blue is that Carly very much saves herself. The blurb makes it sound a bit sappy, but it's entirely not; her depression and rage and self-loathing are all well-drawn, and her development as a character is gradual and convincing.
What I love best about this novel and what I think makes it so realistic is the cast of characters, all of whom are well-developed and authentic. They don't all necessarily serve the plot (a few of Carly's co-workers could easily have been merged together, for instance, without the story changing) but they make the world of the novel far more representative of real life, and the myriad people we encounter (sometimes unpleasant) and whose lives intersect ours. In Raw Blue, everyone has a story and a background and things going on in their life (often left unresolved) and the story often meanders as a result, but it's perfect for this book. Of all the characters, Danny is my favourite (a kid Carly meets surfing who has synesthesia and associates people with colours) but I also love Hannah (Carly's salsa-dancing Dutch neighbour).
Carly is a nineteen-year-old character and the novel centres around some very heavy content (always dealt with tactfully, but you may prefer not to read novels in which sexual assault occurs). I'd recommend it to older YA readers and adult readers of YA; this is a prime example of excellent, challenging Australian contemporary YA. (This is a big call, but I'd also say it's the Australian equivalent of Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson. It's that good.)