We all love Judy Blume. So many of us grew up with her books and those books made a lasting impression on us (everyone needs Double Fudge in their lives). So this book was written back in 1975, won the 1996 A.L.A. Margaret A. Edwards Award for Outstanding Literature for Young Adults and was said to be ahead of its time. It was, and for some, it might still be. I really, really adored this book. I related a lot to the story and it hurt.
Forever by Judy Blume.
The book follows the love story of Katherine and Michael, who meet at New Year’s party. the two are attracted to each other and eventually grow to love each other and a relationship forms in the wake of their attraction. It doesn’t take long but the two soon decide that their love is forever and decide to make love. This marks the start of an intense relationship where the two are quick to plan their future together, much to the displeasure of Katherine’s parents who plan for the two to spend the summer apart and put their relationship to the test.
“But you have to be sure you can handle the situation before you jump into it…sex is a commitment…once you’re there you can’t go back to holding hands.”
It is a very realistic portrayal of a teen relationship, especially of the 1970s but even still nowadays, where the two are quick to fall in love with only the intensity that teens are capable of. Michael wants to sleep with Kath but she is reluctant to do so. They eventually have sex and both find they enjoy it and Kath takes the responsible steps to get herself onto the birth control pill. At the time, the biggest issue of teens having sex was for the girl to fall pregnant, which of course is still a large cause for concern but nowadays safe sex is taught from an early age to prevent the risk of transmitting diseases as well as prevent pregnancy.
But unlike a lot of contemporary/romance novels I’ve read, nothing tragic happens to the pair even though they had sex. The two are not ‘destined for each other’ or ‘soulmates’ or anything of the like (something that is becoming increasingly more and more common in YA books). The two decide to have sex because they love each other and that is ultimately the crux of it because their relationship does not last the short separation of the summer and that is okay. It is important and I’ll say this for every girl who has ever felt shamed because of what they choose to do with their bodies – it is okay not to be with the person that you shared your first time with. In YA literature it always seems that sex is only okay if it’s true love. Well, sex needs to be two things: 1) consensual, and 2) enjoyable for all parties. That is it. This book emphasises the importance of safe sex, of understanding what you are ultimately about to do and that by doing it your world is not over.
“I wanted to tell him that I will never be sorry for loving him. That in a way I still do – that maybe I always will. I’ll never regret one single thing we did together because what we had was very special. Maybe if we were ten years older it would have worked out differently. Maybe. I think it’s just that I’m not ready for forever.”
There are sexually explicit scenes in the book so it’s definitely not a children’s book but would be suitable for teens. It caused a lot of controversy at the time when it was published because of its sexual content but I feel like this book was necessary. I wish I had been given this book to read when I was younger and hadn’t experienced it for the first time at the age of 21 when I had already made all of my mistakes.
Judy Blume, the author, had this to say about Forever and I think it’s so important.
This book was first published in 1975. My daughter Randy asked for a story about two nice kids who have sex without either of them having to die. She had read several novels about teenagers in love. If they had sex the girl was always punished—an unplanned pregnancy, a hasty trip to a relative in another state, a grisly abortion (illegal in the U.S. until the 1970’s), sometimes even death. Lies. Secrets. At least one life ruined. Girls in these books had no sexual feelings and boys had no feelings other than sexual. Neither took responsibility for their actions. I wanted to present another kind of story—one in which two seniors in high school fall in love, decide together to have sex, and act responsibly.
I recommend all teenage girls to read this book, or anyone really. It covers a lot of points that I wish someone had thought to tell me when I was going through something similar.
Until next time.