Shelf Discovery Challenge #1: FOREVER by Judy Blume

I am participating in Booking Mama's Shelf Discovery Challenge (discussed here). The challenge requires participants to read six books from Lizzie Skurnick's Shelf Discovery, a book about the classic young adult books we all read growing up.

Blume My first choice was Forever, by Judy Blume, a book I only read, shall we say, selections of when I was growing up. I remember the book being passed around at camp, where we all read the more colorful parts (such as p. 73 – a page number I've always remembered). I used to think that the world was separated into two different group of girls – those who had read Forever, and those who hadn't. When I went to the library last week, I swear I was embarrassed to check it out. I didn't make eye contact with the checkout person, and I felt like I was using a fake ID to buy wine coolers.

Forever is the story of the romance between Katherine and Michael, two high school seniors in New Jersey. It's Katherine's first sexual relationship, and the book is a good introduction to sex for teenagers. Katherine is responsible (though the book takes place pre-AIDS) and approaches her physical relationship maturely, but realistically. This being a Judy Blume book, other topics are tackled too – depression, death of a grandparent, teenage pregnancy.

I guess we all liked Forever in the early 80s because it wasn't gross (like The Joy of Sex), and it wasn't creepy, and it wasn't preachy. It was informative and told in a relatable tone. Reading it now, though, I found it somewhat unfulfilling. Katherine fell "out of love" with Michael pretty easily after a few weeks around a handsome fellow tennis instructor at summer camp, which made their relationship seem a bit dubious. I realize that they were 18 years old, but I never got much of a sense of why they thought they loved each other. Reading it as an adult, I was definitely struck by how young – and relatively self-absorbed – the characters were.

I am curious to see if I will have the same reaction to the other five books I am going to read for the challenge. I am definitely glad to have finally read Forever cover to cover, if for no other reason than my daughters probably will in due course, and I want to know what they're being exposed to. And, maybe, because I feel like one of the cool kids now.

8 Comments

  • November 14, 2009 - 8:02 pm | Permalink

    It’s interesting that it affected you differently as an adult. I do think most people are pretty self absorbed at that age, though.

  • November 14, 2009 - 10:13 pm | Permalink

    That’s on my list for the challenge, too. It will be interesting to see what I think of it now all these years later (I don’t want to admit how many!!! LOL)

  • November 15, 2009 - 9:48 am | Permalink

    What a great review of this teenage classic. I love your description of how you sheepishly checked out the book when you were young, as if buying wine coolers with a fake id.
    I was also one who had just read “selections” and your summary of the book makes me think I would have found it cold and unfulfilling. I like that it wasn’t preachy or gross, as you say, but I guess I would have preferred a more exhilarating ending, like an intense romance that was destined for “til death do us part.”
    Oh well, that’s life, and perhaps it’s good for kids to look it in the face. Thanks for letting me vicariously become a cool kid too.

  • November 15, 2009 - 6:04 pm | Permalink

    Totally interesting review. I have this one downstairs and I’d love to go read it right now just to see my opinion. I don’t know if I read this one as a kid — how weird is it that I don’t remember?

  • November 15, 2009 - 8:43 pm | Permalink

    Amy – so funny – I felt sheepish when I took it out LAST WEEK, not when I was young!!

  • Kiki
    November 15, 2009 - 9:33 pm | Permalink

    We have self checkout at our library–guess you could use that instead of facing the check out person, but who are they to judge?! I read this as a young teen. I remember being just blown away at the gigantic step these teenagers were taking. But your observation of how they affected you now is very interesting, and I guess looking back, exactly how I would probably feel if I re-read it now! I can honestly say, I remember the story very well. Katherine going to the city to her grandmother’s and going to get on the pill…yes, it made an impression on me for sure!

  • November 30, 2009 - 9:26 pm | Permalink

    Gayle, I thought of you and this post because I just found myself re-reading another Judy Blume book, “Blubber,” when my 7-year-old asked for it. Like you, I found it a different experience to read so many years later… I blogged about it here: http://writingrunningraisingkids.blogspot.com/2009/11/reading-judy-blumes-blubber-25-years.html

  • Pingback: Everyday I Write the Book » Shelf Discovery Challenge #2: “The Cat Ate My Gymsuit” by Paula Danziger

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