Friday, November 30, 2012

Friday Flashback: Forever by Judy Blume

Books don't have to be new to be deserving of a review! On Fridays I flashback to some of my favorite books of all-time.

Forever . . .by Judy Blume

First, let me apologize for the absolutely hideous cover art going on up there.  What is that?  I think that cover is worse than the cover of the copy I checked out of the library years ago:

My favorite cover is the one below.  Contemporary...Sets the tone for a little romance...Keeps it real.

Anyway, this post isn't supposed to be about book covers.  It's supposed to be about the content of Judy Blume's coming-of-age-novel, Forever... So here goes...

First love.  When you're in it, you're sure it will last forever.  And so it goes for Katherine and Michael, who meet at a New Year's Eve party.  Forever... chronicles the relationship from start to (spoiler alert!) finish, detailing the most intimate moments and realistically portraying the highs and lows of teenage love.  Almost 50 years after the original 1975 publication, the characters - their fears, their emotions, their decisions - and the story (aside from the 18 year olds being able to legally consume alcohol) still ring true.  It is truly a timeless classic.

But WAIT!  You know a classic coming-of-age story that realistically portrays a monogamous, committed teenage relationship isn't getting off the hook that easy, right? Because instead of (spoiler alert!) them having unprotected sex and Katherine winding up pregnant, Blume has Katherine and Michael take the novel approach of (spoiler alert!) talking to each about having sex and planning ahead to be safe.  And then they have sex.  On the page! And no one dies, becomes infected with a venereal disease or winds up pregnant. And so OF COURSE! all this together creates outraged parents and other adults can not accept that such a book was/is appropriate for teens.  It was an instructional manual for how to have SEX! And get away with it. Teens just can't go around making well thought-out emotionally mature and responsible decisions and not have to pay the consequences of having sex! And somehow, despite the vast number of provocative and controversial books on the market, it remains one of the top 20 most challenged books, as recorded by ALA.  Crazy, right?

Ooh! And if you have the time and the inclination, Roger Sutton did an interview with Judy Blume for School Library Journal like a billion years ago (1996), and it's a great piece.  Roger's on the war path, Judy's defensive, it's great family fun.

I personally didn't get around to reading Forever... until I was already in my mid-twenties, but I wish I had read it when I was in high school, because it could've given me some perspective on that whole "first love" thing.  And my friends and I totally would've passed it around and read passages out loud and had just a ton of fun together with it.  So if you have a teenage girl on your holiday shopping list, think about gifting her Judy Blume's Forever... Or if you ARE a teenage girl, read it! Heck, if you're a teenage boy, you should probably read it too.  My friend James read it and it totally blew his mind.  He's a married man and he just could not fathom the thoughts in Katherine's head.  It gave him some perspective.  And made him wish to never have a daughter.  But now he has a daughter.  And someday, when she's a teenager, hopefully she'll read Forever...

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  1. I really like this description of Forever...! (Although I have to disagree about the cover art. The one with the lipstick is hideous, but the one with the cameo is hideous-er. ;))

    Did we talk about Forever... covers in class, or just Annie on My Mind covers? (Because that's another book whose cover art has evolved, a lot. Maybe a choice for a future Friday?)

    I'm sure you know about how Forever... came about. It's possibly one of the only really good books written explicitly to serve a purpose/send a message. The purpose was to answer Bloom's teenage daughter's request, "Can't there be a book out there where two nice kids have sex and no one dies?"

    And of course the urban folklore that Forever... contains the most-read *page* in YA lit. (I tested this recently while discussing it with a group of adults - when I mentioned this, one woman said right away that she knew *exactly* the page I meant.)

  2. Oh, and how could I forget to add: readers looking for a more modern take on Forever... should check out Anatomy of a Boyfriend by Daria Snadowsky (Delacorte, 2007). It follows the plot of Forever... point by point but with more modern language, scenarios, and sensibilities.

    (I have a lot to say about this. I should teach a YA lit class, or something.)

  3. Oh, and I see from your other post that Anatomy of a Single Girl, the followup to Anatomy of a Boyfriend, is coming soon!

  4. 1. I loved Anatomy of a Boyfriend and am very excited for the sequel!
    2. I don't think we talked about the cover evolution, but I love doing the whole "judge a book by its cover" thing and seeing how covers change over time.
    3. I haven't read Annie On My Mind. Must fix this.

  5. 37 years is hardly almost 50 years later!!

    1. Ha! My husband, who was born in '76 would probably agree! But "almost 40" (which he would also say he wasn't) just doesn't have the same ring as "almost 50" and I'm a gal who rounds to quarter centuries. Perhaps I should have said "over 35 years later"?