Wednesday, 11 June 2014

Review: Forever - Judy Blume

Michael stopped the car and kissed me again. "You're delicious," he said. No boy had ever told me that. As I opened the car door all I could think of to say was, "See you . . ." But that wasn't at all what I meant.

Katherine and Michael meet at a party. The attraction is instant and pretty soon they're going out - and making out. Katherine is a virgin, but as their relationship grows deeper and more intense they both want more. This is love, and love is forever - right?

But love isn't simple - and when Katherine's parents make them spend the summer apart, forever begins to feel like an awfully long time . . .

The classic novel of first love, first sex and first heartbreak.

Discover Judy Blume - the original queen of teen.

Visit Judy Blume's website for more information

Forever was first published in the 1970's and was surrounded by a huge amount of controversy because of Judy Blume's realistic (and fairly graphic) portrayal of teenage sex and relationships. Compared to the kind of YA books we see published today it doesn't have the same shock factor that it did at that time but even when I first read the story (back in the 90's) it was one of a very small minority of books aimed at teenagers. As a teen I knew that picking up a book by Judy Blume I was going to get a story with characters who I could relate to and about relationships that were relevant to the things I was experiencing at the time so I read all of her books over and over again.

I was nervous about reading this book again now, after all it's been 20 years since I read it last and I was worried that it would be outdated. To be honest in a lot of ways it is, there is no mention of mobile phones or the internet, something that didn't matter when I first read it because they weren't common then either but that teenagers today will probably raise their eyes at! I don't think you get many 17 year olds meeting up to play backgammon and scrabble at fondue parties with their friends these days (even the dirty word variety) when they could be on the PlayStation or Xbox or out clubbing instead so there are some parts of the story that new readers won't necessarily connect to.

However, the important part of the story, the realistic look at first relationships - falling in love and thinking it will last forever, deciding when you're ready to have sex for the first time, how to deal with heartbreak - all of that is still just as relevant today as it was in the 70's. The latest version has a note from the author at the beginning talking about how birth control methods have changed and raising the point that it just as vital to protect from diseases by using condoms as it is to protect from pregnancy by using the pill (which is the method most girls prefer in the story) but what I enjoyed most was that it shows a much more lifelike version of sex than most novels.

The sex in Forever isn't perfect, it's messy and complicated but that's what makes it true to life. Most people's first time isn't all sunshine and roses, even if you're with a partner you love - especially if you're both fairly inexperienced. Boys don't always last forever and girls don't always orgasm but there is nothing wrong with that. This is the kind of book that will give teenagers realistic expectations about sex and how even if the first few times are a disaster that doesn't mean it won't get better. Practice really does make perfect in this case, especially if you're with someone who is willing to work at it!

I also love the message that Judy Blume sends about never letting anyone pressure you into doing something you're uncomfortable with. You are the only person who can decide if and when you're ready to take that step and there is nothing wrong with wanting to wait. Kath's reaction to her ex-boyfriend says it all:

"Sex was all he was ever interested in, which is why we broke up - because he threatened that if I wouldn't sleep with him he'd find somebody who would. I told him that if that was all he cared about he should go right ahead."

There are so many books aimed at teenagers these days that talk about similar issues and probably do so in a way that modern teenagers will find easier to relate to but Judy Blume had such a huge impact on teenage me and I will always love her for that.

Source: Received from Macmillan in exchange for an honest review

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