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Forever..., by Judy Blume
Katherine is a senior in high school and when she meets Michael, he makes her feel really special. Together, they explore their sexuality together, moving as slowly as Katherine needs to feel comfortable. It's the first time Katherine or Michael has ever said "I love you," to anyone, and when they finally have sex for the first time, they just know that they will be together forever. But when summer comes and they both take summer jobs in different states, their forever will be tested.
Blume, J. (1975). Forever. New York, NY: Bradbury.
This book is frequently banned or challenged due to its unabashed look at a romantic young couple's first sexual experiences. The book doesn't hold anything back, and I can see why
it would make a lot of parents, and even some teens uncomfortable. It discusses hiding their sexual relationship from their parents and going to Planned Parenthood for birth control. But it also discusses the responsibilities that come along with having sex, including the physical and emotional things to consider before doing it. Katherine shows maturity and responsibility by making sure he's got protection, and by making sure he's not pressuring her into something that she isn't ready for. And although she doesn't want to discuss it with her parents, they let her make her own decisions and let her know she can come to them to talk. Her grandmother feeds her information from Planned Parenthood on safe sex and everything that goes along with it. Katherine takes the initiative to go to Planned Parenthood and make sure she is safe. And acting as Katherine's foil, there is Sybil, a girl who doesn't respect herself much so she uses sex to feel wanted. The first line of the book says, "Sybil Davison has a genius I.Q. and has been laid by at least six different guys," (Blume, 1975, p. 1). By the end, Sybil has ha a baby, the father unknown, and realizes how hollow she feels when she gives it up for adoption. Sybil is a great contrast to Katherine, and shows that flippant regard for sexual behavior can get you into trouble.
Despite the tricky subject matter of this book, Judy Blume handles it well without being didactic. She provides positive role models out of ordinary teens, and proves that she can provide insight into the difficulties young women face as they are coming of age. These subjects are handled so well by Blume that teens and even adults may not realize how much they are taking away from it until later. Like Are You There God, It's Me Margaret?, this book helps girls learn a little bit more about themselves and see that they aren't going through this weird stage alone-- although this time it's about sex and not menstruation.
A note on the censorship of this book -- I understand that sex is a difficult topic for parents to face. This book definitely isn't for everyone. Common Sense Media reviews show that not all teens are ready for this book, but that plenty of others are. But it's important that this book is available for teens to read if they are in fact, ready for it. That's why it's important that this is kept where teens can find it. Even relegating this book to the adult stacks is a form of censorship, because you are taking the book away from its intended audience. It's important that this book and others like it be available for teens to be able to find. To see what readers-- teens and other are saying about this book, check out the reviews on Common Sense Media for it.
Increasingly Judy Blume's books center on single topics and the topic here, as pronounced in the first sentence, is getting laid. Cath and Michael fall in love when both are high school seniors, and Blume leads up to It date by date and almost inch by inch (hand over sweater, hand under skirt. . .) and then, after the breakthrough, describes each session until the kinks in timing and such are straightened out. (There's also a word for word transcript of her Planned Parenthood interview and a letter from Grandma, who's heard she is "going steady," advising birth control.) For Cath though forever lasts only until her parents send her off to a summer camp job and she finds herself unwillingly attracted to the tennis counsellor she's assisting; Michael takes it without much grace but Cath will never regret one single thing because it was all very special. "I think it's just that I'm not ready for forever." As usual with this immensely popular author, Forever has a lot of easy, empathic verity and very little heft. Cath like Blume's other heroines is deliberately ordinary, which means here (despite friends, nice family, etc.) that outside of the love affair she's pretty much a blank. In fact this could be a real magnet for all those girls who took to Are You There God It's Me Margaret just a few years ago and haven't changed all that much since. Another way of looking at Forever is as an updated Seventeenth Summer.
[Review of the book Forever, by J. Blume]. (1975, October 1). Kirkus' Reviews. Retrieved from http://kirkusreviews.com
Reviews by teens on Common Sense Media:
*This review was written by a reader claiming to be 15 years old. http://www.commonsensemedia.org/book-reviews/forever/user-reviews
"I didn't like this book. I just didn't find it to be good. The story was pretty lame, but the main issue was the way the sex scenes were described. I did not expect so much detail. The book was honest though and I think she did a good job with that. But still overall I was not a fan."
*This review was written by a reader claiming to be 16 years old. http://www.commonsensemedia.org/book-reviews/forever/user-reviews
I would suggest this book be used in a banned book display during Banned Books Week to call attention to censorship in libraries. According to ALA, this book was the 7th most challenged book from 1990-1999 and the 16th most banned book between 2000 and 2009 (American Library Association, 2011).
Other ways this book could be used is in a booklist of books that discuss sensitive issues for teens. Teens may want to read books that can give them information on sex, drugs, alcohol, rape, menstruation, peer pressure, and other issues. These are often issues that teens have difficulty discussing with others, and a booklist, whether it's in a Wiki format online, or in a printed booklet, lets them know where they can find information-- both fictional or factual on this information.
Some other books (a lot of them banned or challenged) that contain great information on sensitive issues are:
About puberty and sex:
What's Happening to My Body? Book for Girl by Lynda Madaras (nonfiction)
What's Happening to My Body? Book for Boys by Lynda Madaras (nonfiction)
Are You There God, It's Me Margaret? by Judy Blume (fiction)
Forever... by Judy Blume
Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson (fiction)
About drugs and alcohol:
Looking for Alaska by John Green (fiction)
Crank by Ellen Hopkins (fictional verse poetry)
American Library Association. (2011). 100 most frequently challenged books: 1990-1999. Retrieved from http://ala.org/ala/issuesadvocacy/banned/frequentlychallenged/challengedbydecade/1990_1999/index.cfm