Retro Review: Forever by Judy Blume

RATING: 4/5 stars
PUB DATE: June 3, 2005 (first pub 1975)
PUBLISHER: Pan Children's
GENRE: young adult, classic contemporary, realistic, romance
FORMAT: Hardcover, borrowed from the library

Forever is one of those books where I didn't enjoy it so much as recognize its significance in the world of young adult literature, which is what really earned it those 4 stars. And, as most of you know, this book was originally published in 1975. So why am I reviewing it? Well, every so oftem, there are books so good, so interesting, or so important to the young adult genre that I'm going to review them regardless of when they were published. These reviews I will call my "Retro Reviews" and I'm going to make that a Thursday meme (but not a weekly one). Anywho, Forever seriously blew the lid off the sex-in-ya discussion, which is why it's still so relevant to both literature and real life for teens today.

So, first of all, my disclaimer is that I'm laying aside my personal feelings about teenagers having sex. I have serious opinions about the issue, but I'm only going to talk about the sex as far as the context of the book. Sure, my opinions about the issue helped me to form my opinion about the book, but...I really just don't want to open up that can of worms. I want to stay focused on the issue at hand...which is the actual book. Still with me? Cool.

I guess one of the reasons I didn't connect well with Forever is that Michael and Kath are fairly realistic depictions of "regular" teenagers. Part of the fun of reading is that each character is usually exotic and special in some way. At the same time, this realism is part of the magic of the book. Judy Blume went into writing Forever wanting to depict normal teens and their relationship at the request of her daughter. She succeeded! I found both Michael and Kath, as well as their friends, perfectly likeable at times and at other moments in the book, I wanted to smack the crap out of them. Now that I think about it, I feel that way about most characters, but I lacked a connection with them. I didn't feel enough about them. Although there really isn't anything wrong with how Kath and Michael are portrayed, I just don't entirely care about them.

Michael seemed a little stereotypical. He was a bit pushy with the sex issue, which really is a too-common view of teen boys. In my experience, it's completely justified, but still. I also felt he wasn't exactly sincere with his first popping the L word. Pretty sure most teenage boys "love" a girl when said girl lets any boy see and/or touch her boobs. Whether or not he was sincere at first, I do believe Michael really loves Kath. His freak out during their confrontation is absolute proof to me that he had deep feelings for her and he was 100% justified in his anger. How he handled the situation wasn't the best, but who is at their best at age 18 when confronted with a bad situation? Nobody, that's who! Logic and rational thinking take a back seat as those things called feelings and hormones angrily push to the front of your mind and proceed to duke it out like Celebrity Fight Club mixed with Bad Girls Club and a little [insert trashy-reality-dating-show here].

I don't remember much about Kath, other than the fact that she can't cook. Seriously, I just don't remember her. Part of that is as our protagonist, she didn't linger on herself and part of that is she just isn't a memorable character. Still, I think she also had a justified emotional assault on her logical thinking. I wish she could have expressed herself better at times to Michael. It's a truly fine line to walk between prude and slut or tease so I appreciate the precarious position she's in. I just wish that Kath had stuck up for herself, told Michael where the line was and kept at it until she was ready. I was SO ANGRY that Michael made fun of Kath when she expressed her need to be "mentally prepared" for sex, but I wish she'd really explained it to him in terms they could both understand and agree with.

Honestly, my "favorite" characters were Erica and Artie. Both these characters go through their own primarily unwritten sexual journey. I wish Blume had explored them a bit more and let the readers in on it because I found them pretty interesting. I think it's cool that Erica allowed herself to really redefine her view of sex. Artie's story could be really fascinating, if someone got in there and brought it out.

Now for the Big Issue: S-E-X. Making it, as it's sometimes called in the book. I truly think Blume did a great job of describing different experiences with the same act. No, you won't always get pregnant if you have sex...but one character did. No, you won't always get an std/vd...but one character did. Other sexual experiences are described in the book, and Blume did a good job of explaining...not how they work, exactly, but how someone might feel going into those situations for the first time. I applaud Blume for addressing how scared Kath was, not just of having sex, but also of her lack of experience, of getting an std. That fear is 100% realistic. I love that Kath overcame that fear and she used it to be prepared, like getting educated and going to the doctor. In addition to fear, I think Blume did a phenomenal job describing other emotions like anxiety, awkwardness, happiness, passion, humor, and impatience in regards to Michael and Kath's sex life. 

While I, again, didn't exactly love this book, the extreme care with which Blume approached the topic really bumped it up to four stars. I felt like she was trying really hard to make it a good, informative but also entertaining read without being preachy. Sex IS a sensitive topic and should be treated with respect. It's not always Sexy Female Character and Sexy Male Character Getting Down and Everything is Perfect and Everybody's Happy. Sometimes it's awkward. Sometimes it's not satisfying (poor Michael and Kath definitely learned that the hard way!!). Sometimes there's not enough emotion. Sometimes there's too much. Sometimes you don't stay together after. There are always consequences, and sometimes those consequences are unexpected and/or unwanted. I just think that Forever really is a good read exploring all of the different facets that can make up someone's sexual experience, regardless of age. I think it's a good choice for parents and kids to read together and discuss. Yeah, that's hella awkward, but sex is an important issue to be open and honest about, especially with your family.

Recommended for: Everyone. Really.
Not recommended for: If you're really gonna be that disgusted and freaked out by a (kind of literal) blow-by-blow account of certain sexual activities, you should steer clear of this and John Green's Looking for Alaska and you know what? Don't read anything age-wise above a solid middle grade. I'm serious. YA is not for you.The game has changed and this book helped change it. If you really do have a problem with honesty in regards to sex, most ya and new adult and adult books are just not going to be up your creek.



  1. What a blast from the past! I remember loving Judy Blume as a kid! I forgot about the sex :o

  2. I read Forever when I was young (after all, a dirty book!) and then again a couple of years ago. I really like it, but it's bittersweet. Judy Blume is awesome at tackling real issues.