Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Book Review: "Forever" by Judy Blume

Forever Judy Blume
Published: 1975
ISBN: 9780330397803
Genre: Young Adult Fiction
Source: Personal Copy

Katherine and Michael meet at a New Year's Eve party. They're attracted to each other, they grow to love each other. And once they've decided their love is forever, they make love.

It's the beginning of an intense and exclusive relationship, with a future all planned. Until Katherine's parents insist that she and Michael put their love to the test with a summer apart...

"Forever" is written for an older age group than Judy Blume's other novels for children. It caused a storm of controversy when it was first published because of its explicit sexual content. 

It was a book ahead of its time - and remains, after thirty years in print, a teenage best-seller. America's No. 1 children's author has written some of the best books of our time about real-life issues - family stress and pressures, what happens when your parents divorce, the problems of growing up and sexual awakening, bereavement - with insight, sensitivity and honesty.

My Thoughts:
This was my "Banned Book Week" read for this year--and I have to admit that I picked it up because I couldn't believe I hadn't read it before.  I thought I had read all of Blume's children's and young adult literature, but apparently not.  I have a feeling that the reason I hadn't read it is simply because I never found it in a school library--which is fitting, I guess.

In the past, when I've read a book because it was banned, I always came out of the experience with the same 2 thoughts in my head--"Why on Earth would anyone want to ban this book?" and "My kids should totally read this book when they're older."  With this book, however, I thought neither of those things.

Frankly, I can see why this book was challenged back in 1975 (and probably many times over since then).  Here's the entire plot: 2 teenagers sleep together.  That's it.  It is fairly graphic--I wouldn't call it erotica, but it is definitely at the level of a mass market romance novel.  However, it seems to be graphic purely for informational purposes, not narrative.  For someone who is reading it for entertainment instead of information, that is off-putting.

I'm not saying that I was offended by it, or that I felt it should be banned (in case you didn't know, I'm really not a fan of banning or challenging books).  But it also isn't one that I would recommend to my kids when they are of the appropriate age.  The thing is, there are (now) better books that deal with the same subject matter.  If you wanted a book dealing with teenage sexuality--and there is a need for books like that--you can easily find dozens that have fully-developed characters and actual plot.  Frankly, I just didn't find much in this story that made it worth reading.

There was something, though, that I did find uncomfortable.  I've read both Judy Blume's books for kids and her books for adults and I know that she can write in both worlds. While her style doesn't change between those two genres, her language does a bit.  The best I can describe it is to say that she writes at a higher reading level in her books for adults--I'd say an 8th grade level instead of a 3rd grade level.  This book felt like it was written for the younger set and, because of that, her character seemed much younger than their ages.  Frankly, it felt like I was reading about two 10 year olds having sex and that is, um, uncomfortable.  I think if she had written it at the level that she writes her adult literature, it would be both more impactful and more successful.

No, I don't think this book deserves to be banned or challenged and while I wouldn't have a problem with my kids reading it when they are old enough to really understand it, it isn't a book that I would recommend to them.

I was not solicited for this review and I received no compensation for this post.

Forever . . .
by Judy Blume

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