Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Review: Forever by Judy Blume

With a little extra time to read now that the year is winding down, and the headaches eased up, I have been a reading fiend! As part of the 10,000 step challenge that just finished up at work, I've been taking about an hour walk every day, and taking a book along for the ride. I can report back that after four weeks, I lost four pounds. I suppose that's right in line with the "healthy" range you should be losing at, right? That made me happy to see. Anyway, as part of that walking plan, I would take a good book along with me. Yesterday, I took Judy Blume's famously challenged novel, Forever along for the walk. This last year I read Blume's other challenged book Are You There God? It's Me Margaret (previous review at that link) and found it to be a very honest book about what teens go through during puberty. Likewise, I think that Blume's Forever takes an honest look at teen sexuality, and doesn't shy away from speaking the way a teen girl very honestly might in this situation.

I know I might get myself in a little trouble with some of my extra conservative readers with this review, but here we go. Let's consider teen sex...

Synopsis: Katherine first met Michael on New Year's Eve, when Michael leaned down to kiss another girl at the stroke of midnight. She was intrigued by this good looking senior from a neighboring high school, and was excited to learn he had picked up her phone number from a friend. The two soon started dating, and with the excitement of young love and dating, came progressive steps of intimacy. Katherine revealed to Michael she was a virgin, and not emotionally ready to have sex, which he respected (even if he pushed the boundaries a little to see if she was really serious). Over time, and with increased steps into their exploration, Katherine and Michael had sex. Although the adults in their lives seemed in the periphery, they were there, looking in with concern, and questioning the two on their relationship. Frank discussions about teen sex and pregnancy made the two sincere in their use of protection, both from STDs and pregnancy, but did little to curb their desire to be together. With graduation looming, and two colleges far from one another, Katherine and Michael had to consider if their love could keep them together, and how they might bridge that gap to keep their relationship growing. Was their love forever, and could they stay together?

Review: I realize that I'm an adult reading this short novel, and with that comes a more adult perspective on sexuality that is based on a more mature perspective (and a developed brain helps in this case). Here's the thing. I think that we, meaning adults, tend to shy away from sex in such a way that it makes teens 1) curious, and 2) ashamed. How do we expect them to come to understand sex if all we tell them is to wait, not do it, or that it's bad to do before marriage? Now, I'm not saying we should encourage "erotic play" as put forth in Aldous Huxley's Brave New World (you can see my review of that novel at the link), but will say that there has to be a better way of helping teens to understand that what they are feeling is natural and normal, and that with some understanding of its influence, can be used when appropriate to the person. Since the novel is told from Katherine's perspective, and I have to say she was a pretty together teen, we get only a slight sense of the adults present in the story. Their presence seemed much more light handed, because I think that Katherine's teen voice filtered them out in her focused drive to find any way possible to be with Michael. This sounds pretty true to life to me. The "I'll die if I can't be with him" phrase feels all too familiar in teen fiction, and rings true in Forever.

Having been raised very much with the "sex is bad" motto ringing in my head as a teen, I have to say that this novel would have shocked me. I really don't think I could have read it and got anything out of it, but I do think that many more teens are rushing forward to understand more about sex, and stumbling along the way. I can't say that I would put this novel in the hands of every teen I see, but I will say that it's message about young love feels honest and real. In fact, if two teens were having sex, you would hope their experience was anywhere near as respectful as the one between Katherine and Michael. Should this book be banned? I don't really believe in banning books, but I do believe that certain books (such as Madonna's sex book), shouldn't be in a public school setting. Should this one? Yes. I don't think that Forever is necessarily glamorizing sex, trying to be titillating, or even gratuitous. Come on, I know young teen girls reaching for romance novels for that! In the case of Judy Blume's novel, leave it on the shelves, and those teens seeking out a story that reflects their own curiosity about the "what if" about their own sex lives will find it. Will it offend some teens and cause them to be even more curious? Of course. Maybe those are the teens that need someone to allow them to feel safe enough to bring up what they're curious about in the first place? In the end, sex is still an extremely taboo subject in most homes and schools. Other than glamorizing it in the media, it has little to no place in our educational process for teens (and I don't mean at school...I mean in the home). In the end, most teens won't come ask, because it's just too "weird." If that's the case, although blatantly forward in the mechanics of a young relationship, I think Blume was courageous in her novel of young love...taken to the next level.

For more information on Judy Blume's novel, see: Forever . . ..

*FTC Disclosure: Book review based off of a library copy of the novel. Also, as an Amazon.com associate, a very small proceed comes from purchases of the novel made from this review.

This book also counts as my 6th in the 2010 Young Adult Reading Challenge started over at J. Kaye's Book Blog, now renamed "Home Girl's Book Blog."

8 comments:

  1. Way to say it like it is! Very well balanced review. I'd have to agree with what you said, especially about how parents discuss sex with their teens.

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  2. I really like this review, when I was a teen my parents were willing to discuss sex with me but I did not want to discuss sex with them. It seems that there is no right way of approaching the subject but it shouldn't be a taboo and schools should make sure to provide information.

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  3. I never knew this book is considered controversial. Maybeit has to do with the difference in the approach to teens and sex between the US and Europe, or at least the country I'm from. I do believe it is important to educate teens on the subject of sex and I personally feel that only telling them to wait 'till marriage won't work. I have to admit myself surprised that that is truly what's being advocated by parents and schools. In that case, I guess people expect teens to get married when they're 19, because you can't honestly expect people to wait until they're 26, which would happen if people would get married after finishing graduate school and finding a good job and thus knowing a little of where there lives are going. It often surprises me how different countries are in their treatment of sex and sex education. Ofcourse, I come from a totally different background and I can't imagine a teenager not getting a thorough education on sex, pregnancy and STD's. Admittedly though, even an environment in which there is an open discussion about sex, or being raised with open discussions about it, doesn't necessarily mean that a girl would go out and just "do it" or that the taboo of sex suddenly disappears. I have been raised like that and trust me, I haven't turned out wild and I still blush when someone even so much as mentions sex.

    Btw, I think you did a great job in discussing this book, it was a very open and honest review. I did not mean the above as a personal attack or something, because I believe we share the same outlook or at least partly. It's just that your mention of the propaganda of abstination really.. surprised? me. I always thought that it must be a stereotype Europeans have on the US that isn't necessarily based on anything.

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  4. Thorough and honest review! Great job, really. After reading through that and some of the comments...I definitely have to agree with you. I don't really think this book will have a "bad" influence per se on teens in general...and it may help those that are too shy to ask the questions for which they seek answers. The other day a few fellow co-workers were just having a rather inappropriate conversation right out in front of anyone that was within earshot about such topics. I happened upon it while helping someone else and yeah...let's just say UNCOMFORTABLE. They may be younger than I but definitely more brazen in topics suitable for public discussion. It's not necessarily a bad thing (though time and place kinda were) but it does go to show how each generation treats this ever controversial subject.
    Thanks for sharing your thoughts...and happy reading!

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  5. Uh-oh, sex and teens! :P

    I never read this book. I was too busy reading trashy romance novels. ;)

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  6. I really love this post/review. I also loved how you pointed out reading it as an adult vs. how a teen might read it. Or what your thoughts might have been reading it as a teen. It is also nice to see a healthy teen relationship about sex. It is a really big shame it is getting put on the banned book list?

    I also loved reading everyones comments here.

    I also really need to read Judy Blume.

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  7. An enjoyable read Forever . . . by Judy Blume . loved the way you wrote it. I find your review very genuine and original, this book is going in by "to read" list.

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