The plot of Forever … from Judy Blume is simple … it’s 18-year olds in love and lust circa 1978. Blume also uses way too many ellipses in her writing, so forgive the nod to my reading group’s frustration with this quirk.
When my Litsy friends suggested a reread of this classic young adult novel, I was all in. It was YA before YA was a thing. But like life and love itself, the theme is timeless. Can first love be forever love?
In her introduction, Blume tells us that her daughter requested a book where two teenagers fall in love and into bed without dire consequences. This is one advantage of having a mother who’s an author! I think Blume fulfilled the request well.
But she didn’t shy away from presenting some heavy issues for the teen reader. Among Katherine and Michael’s friends, Blume presents teen pregnancy, sexual identity questions, thoughts of suicide, and of course, whether or not to have sex.
At just 200 pages, this is a quick and wholesome trip down memory lane. Considering I last read it in 1978, the decades have sure changed my perspective.
I suppose the typical 1978 reader thought Michael’s behavior was permissible. But with the filter of today’s mindset, I thought he was self-centered and not overly swoon-worthy. I question whether he really said all the right things or just had all the right moves.
On the other hand, I was mostly impressed with Katherine. Despite her emotional palpitations about Michael, she was responsible and didn’t take unnecessary risks. Her venture to Planned Parenthood for birth control is a reminder that this is the most common function at their clinics. And hooray to her grandmother for the information and activism. Funny how I identified with this character on the reread!
In Blume’s story, the kids are drinking at 18. This was another eye-opening reminder of the 1978 publication date. It wasn’t until 1984 that drinking ages were raised to 21, so this was quite normal at that time.
Kath and Erica have a male teacher who perpetually leaves his fly half open. This was cringe-worthy, partly because Blume glossed over it so completely. This type of 1970s incident started the #MeToo moments for my generation. Ewww.
On the whole, I enjoyed this one-day, nostalgic reread. Blume wrote simply, which meant it read quickly. The dialogue and narrative arc aren’t complex or nuanced. Many of today’s YA authors have improved on this approach with more layered offerings. Nonetheless, I found Forever to be surprisingly thought-provoking.
If not for Deb from Kahakai Kitchen, our buddy read wouldn’t have happened. Thanks for the memories, Deb!