Judy Blume is an American author who is probably most famous for her books for children and teens, although she has also published novels for adults, including her latest , In the Unlikely Event. Her novels are realistic with contemporary settings and her teen novels involve issues which young people find difficult and need novels to help them understand, but that some adults find problematic in books for young people… all the more so in the seventies when Judy first addressed such issues.
Forever was written, Blume has said, in response to a comment by her daughter that there were no stories about a couple of nice teenagers who had sex in a responsible way and there were no dire consequences. To be honest, put like that, it doesn’t sound like much of a story, but nonetheless, Judy Blume took up the challenge.
Forever doesn’t sing right away. The first half determinedly ploughs through all the questions and situations that might crop up for a couple of nice teenagers thinking about and then having sex in a responsible way. Not that that’s a bad thing. God no. I don’t think Judy Blume was banned in my school, but when I was that age books aimed at teens were sniffed at rather by people who bought books for schools. Oh no. Once you stopped reading Winnie the Pooh and C S Lewis it was time to take on board adult books. I don’t think it wasn’t the sex that bothered them. There were plenty of books in the library with sex in them. It was the idea that somehow books aimed at teenagers were not extending us as readers. Which is bonkers, because the most borrowed books in the library were The Thornbirds and Lace which not only didn’t extend us as readers, but gave us all much odder ideas about sex than we would have got from reading Forever!
So by about halfway though Forever, the book has at least mentioned masturbation, STDs, periods, condoms, the pill, the difficulty of finding anywhere to do it, what it’s like the first time, not being able to get it up, orgasms … hmm … have I forgotten anything? … and I’m thinking, well, this is OK, and actually pretty informative, but I’m not getting a lot of character involvement. And then suddenly, once the nitty gritty is out of the way, Katherine and Michael become terribly real and you’re right in it with them, and there’s angst and trauma and confusion and a bitter-sweet ending.
So yes, top marks for being informative and non-judgemental about sex. And thoughtful about a character who becomes pregnant too, and about a boy who is not sure whether he’s interested in girls or not.
Not quite top marks for the story, because, although it did grab me at the end, it was so much like an information-disseminating exercise to start off with.
I do think this is a book teenagers should read. I think that it is an honest portrayal of a first sexual relationship, written in a way that is not sensational and not judgemental. I wish it had been in my school library.