Feb 15, 2013

February Genreflecting: Forever by Judy Blume review

Genreflecting wordle

Forever cover"Going all the way" is still a taboo subject in young adult literature. Judy Blume was the first author to write candidly about a sexually active teen, and she's been defending teenagers' rights to read about such subjects ever since. Here, Blume tells a convincing tale of first love--a love that seems strong and true enough to last forever. 

Katherine loves Michael so much, in fact, that she's willing to lose her virginity to him, and, as the months go by, it gets harder and harder for her to imagine living without him. However, something happens when they are separated for the summer: Katherine begins to have feelings for another guy. What does this mean about her love for Michael? What does this mean about love in general? What does "forever" mean, anyway? As always, Blume writes as if she's never forgotten a moment of what it's like to be a teenager.

From Goodreads

As if you didn't already know, forever is a very long time. In Judy Blume's Forever, originally published in 1975, we meet Katherine and Michael. Despite going to different schools, these two meet at a party. While they don't hit it off right away, they do manage to have at least a few sparks. Soon enough these two are spending all of their spare time together. Their love for one another grows until the only thing standing in their way to happiness is the long summer before college.

Having been written during the mid 1970's there are some things that we have to forgive for a contemporary audience. Going parking & the mishandling of a young man's mental illness aren't really surprising in this book, while they might be foreign concepts to today's youth. Everything else though, the pressure to have sex, the parental negotiations, and so forth are quite standard.

While this wasn't really a shocking book by any means, for the time period, it was rather revolutionary. Things were starting to shake themselves up by this time and societal norms weren't very clear (not that they always are or should be). The frankness with which Blume handles her subject matter are what really allow the reader access to the characters' sensations and drive. This experience gives the reader permission to place themselves in the characters' situation and experience it for themselves in a way they may not have done before.

With respect to the genre analysis, Forever is the perfect older romance book. While we don't get to see everyone's emotions, we do at least get to see the romantic emotions of Katherine and her best friend Erica as they deal with varying issues in their relationships. 

Katherine's relationship is the more traditional one wherein she meets a "nice boy", they go out, and start to plan a future together. Her basis for this being love is to compare her feelings now to how she felt with other guys she dated. Erica has a less straightforward experience with Michael's best friend Artie as he is emotional unstable. Erica and Artie try to work through his ups, downs, and unpredictability. Their issues bleed over into other relationships showing how interconnected & formidable social groups can be during the adolescent period.

I think the most important feature of the romantic story in Forever is the outcome. Not all relationships are meant to last, no matter how hard each party wants to carry on. Blume displays this in multiple ways through several different couples. I like this realistic approach because oftentimes the most emotionally rewarding part of a relationship is how you recover from its ending.


Bookworm1858 said...

I remember hearing about how shocking this book was and then reading it and thinking that it wasn't that shocking (this would probably have been in 2005/6 when I was a teenager). I found it well handled and well written, a great Blume novel and I love that it is still read and loved today.

loreleimarsh said...

When it was originally published in the 1970's, yeah it would have been considered shocking. Out-of-wedlock pregnancy, possible homosexuality, and pre-marital sex were still very touchy/taboo subjects. It was a good book, as long as you kept in mind when it was written. I've heard that some newer editions have been "updated" but this one was still the original.