Sunday, May 20, 2012

Lite Pop: Reviewing "Teen Classic" "Forever..."

ForeverForever by Judy Blume
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Even though I read and enjoyed many of Judy Blume's other books when I was a kid, I never read "Forever," so I thought I'd check it out and fill in that hole (no pun intended, but you see how I left it there anyway).  I'm glad I didn't read it as a teenager because I'd hate to think that I would have been influenced by it. I'd always heard what a mature book it was and how it was all about a girl's first time and was so explicit.  Okay, some of the sex descriptions are specific, but I wouldn't call them graphic or even titillating.  The girl and boy in question are so gosh gee that there is a lack of realism permeating on every page that portends to have some.  There is no plot to speak of, and all of the supporting characters are types - meant to have depth (the suicidal boy, the stroke victim grandpa, the know-it-all best friend, the gifted younger sister, etc.) - but don't.  When the lead girl takes a self-motivated trip to Planned Parenthood, the author's PSA is glaring.  I see on IMDB there was a TV movie made of it in 1978, and I suppose for that time, the subject matter itself was controversy enough to warrant adaptation.  But it's not a timeless story, and even as a story of its time, it suffers from banality on most accounts. I suppose it deserves some snaps for even tackling the subject at a time when a lot of youth fiction, especially by popular authors didn't... thus two stars instead of one.  Oh, and it was also upgraded by me for one memorable exchange between the main character Katherine and a random uncle at her high-school graduation that showed real depth and promise:

The uncle picked something out of his teeth, examined it, then flicked it off his finger. "So tell me," he said. "What do you want to do with your life?"
"Do?" I repeated.
"Yes... you've thought about it, haven't you?"
"I want to be happy," I told him.  "And make other people happy too."
"Very nice... but not enough."
"That's all I know right now." I turned and walked away from him.

If only the whole book had been as wry and observant as that!  But alas, it wasn't.  So I've got to find something better to hand my daughter when the time comes - I've just got to.

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Dena said...

I'm surprised that you didn't read this in the 6th grade when I did (my mom erroneously brought it home for me when I had the chicken pox; saw the author's name and figured it would be ok; oops).

Given that I read this book in 1980, a mere 32 years ago, the only thing I remember is the sex. You're right, no story (completely forgot about the suicidal boy), but when it was written, all we knew is that the author who guided us through our younger years (Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing), being teased (Deenie), and eventually our menstrual cycle (Are You There God, it's Me, Margaret) wrote a book and it had SEX in it. The dog eared pages were a testiment to the amount of sex that was written that we could get our hands on = zero (in those days, our parents seemed to have more control over what we listened to, watched on tv saw in the movies, and read; or maybe that was just my parents). We didn't read Forever for plot, when we were 12, the plot it contained was designed (in our adolescent minds) to keep our interest from one sex scene to another. Whether Ms. Blume intended that is it something we ever thought about.

Do you think that had you read it as a 12 year old girl (which I am still baffled that you did not given that I had my own copy) you might feel different about the relationships and inner workings of the characters?

Lori Lakin Hutcherson said...


First and foremost, thank you for reading and for your thoughtful comments, as always! Hopefully this can become a semi-regular discourse on the various topics presented here, as it used to be (pre-2nd babies & full-time jobs).

It made me chuckle imagining you sick with the pox and Queen bringing you home a book to distract you from your misery. Hah! Some distraction. But to answer your actual question, yes, if I'd read it when i was a pre-teen or teen I probably would have a different relationship to the material, perhaps even a reverent one. Although knowing myself, I think I would have found it ridiculous even then that there were boys out there who named their penises and expected you to address them by such. I also think I would have thought things were too simple and easy in Katherine's life (you mentioned other books where there were actual issues/problems to deal with), right down to her describing her first gynecological exam as "not so bad." I'm sorry, but virgin or no, when a strange older dude with rubber gloves sticks a cold piece of metal up your hoohah for the first time and swabs around with a fireplace matchstick-length Q-Tip, you don't have a "not so bad" reaction, at least not inwardly. And that's what was lacking to me - any real depth or insight into Katherine's inner thoughts on the real facts/details/consequences of emergent sexuality and sexual activity. But all that said, I am the kid who in junior high found my mom's copy of the Hite Report and was at the dictionary seconds later looking up "fellatio" and "cunnilingus" (with jaw-dropping results - pun intended), so any Judy Blume-type version of sex would have seemed like child's play to me.