Author: Judy Blume
Genre: Young Adult Fiction
Publication Date: 1975
Purchase Price: $9.00 (Paperback)
Of all the books I discussed during Banned Books Week, the only book I knew for certain that I needed to read was Judy Blume’s Forever… .
I found a much-worn copy at my local library (always a good sign in a book), and decided that I better check out the controversy for myself.
I had no idea what was coming.
17 year-old Katherine has just met The One — the last thing she expected to do at her friend Erica’s New Year’s party. But there he is, right next to her at the fondue pot. His name is Michael, and it’s essentially love at first sight.
What follows are five of the best months of Katherine’s life: she and Michael are in love, and promise that they will remain so “forever.”
But when the two get summer jobs far away from each other, Katherine is forced to consider the implications of their promise.
Like looking into a mirror
I had no clue that Forever… would affect me as much as it did.
It’s fairly safe to say that everyone remembers his or her first love. It’s a heady feeling, the first time you say those three little words.
There is a cross between wanting and fear when it comes to the physical, as Katherine discovers. New thoughts and feelings are at war with the teachings and sayings of parents, teachers, and friends.
Looking back now, I find Katherine’s mother’s statement to be incredibly true:
“…sex is a commitment…once you’re there you can’t go back to holding hands.”
The only statement my own mother ever made on the subject was that sex “changes” things. I didn’t understand what she meant, and I wish that she had explained it the way Katherine’s mother did.
Another parallel I drew between myself and Katherine is that both our families seem completely perplexed as to why we felt the need to “tie ourselves down” to one person at such a “young” age. It seemed to me to be a strange concept: why were they encouraging me to “date around”?
I don’t know if it’s because Katherine’s parents were products of the sexual revolution, or because they were genuinely trying to protect her from…something.
But no matter what parents do, their children are going to get hurt — that’s just the way it goes. Without those hurtful experiences, a young person cannot grow.
And in a similar way, a heart that is hurt, is broken, or has hurt the heart of another, cannot become stronger. It’s something for which Disney does not prepare you: sometimes relationships just don’t work out.
But that doesn’t mean that they’re any less worthwhile.
Rather than being challenged or banned, I think Forever… is a book that would make a fantastic teaching tool.
Not only does it portray first relationships in a way universally understandable to young people, it does so through the lens of fictional characters, allowing readers to put a bit of distance between themselves and the story. This makes it easier to discuss the subject matter and themes the novel spotlights.
The end of one’s first love is a bittersweet pill to swallow. It’s bitter because you realize that although what you had was wonderful, it’s simply impossible to promise forever; it’s sweet because the memories will always be with you, and have fundamentally changed who you are — and that is forever.
“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.” (p. 192)
Have you read Forever…? There are some relatively explicit passages; at what age do you think it’s appropriate for young people to read a book about first love?