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Forever . . . by Judy Blume

Forever . . . (1975)

by Judy Blume

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The great paradox of young adult literature is that it was created to communicate a genuine young adult voice, yet that purpose was immediately co-opted by adults. S. E. Hinton wrote The Outsiders when she was a teenager herself in 1967 and created a whole new market-- yet not even ten years later, the mid-thirties Judy Blume was cranking out YA novel after YA novel. Mike Cadden of Missouri Western University touched on this in his article, "The Irony of Narration in the Young Adult Novel" (2000). As he says, "Novels constructed by adults to simulate an authentic adolescent's voice are inherently ironic because the so-called adolescent voice is never-- and can never be-- truly authentic. [...] [T]he YA novelist often intentionally communicates to the immature reader a single and limited awareness of the world that the novelist knows to be incomplete and insufficient. It is a sophisticated representation of a lack of sophistication; it is an artful depiction of artlessness" (146).

Where Cadden goes with this is to classify YA novels into three different narrative strategies, based on the extent to which the YA reader is made aware of the inherent irony: is the reader taught that the viewpoint of the novel of "incomplete and insufficient"? It's a useful classification system; where Cadden ends the article is to promote a model for "ethical fiction": Cadden argues that YA novels ought to make clear the limited viewpoints of their narratives, and that authors ought to "help[ ] young readers detect and cope with irony, complexity, and contingency so rich in the world they hope so desperately to know" (153). This fascinates me because one of Hinton's purposes in The Outsiders was expressly anti-didactic, she was tired of novels for teens that delivered pat morals on how to liver properly. But Cadden sees an educational purpose for YA lit, and of the books I taught in my young adult literature course, surely none was more educational than Forever..., which is basically a 200-page brochure on sex for teens. It covers both the logistics and the emotions of it: Katherine visits Planned Parenthood for birth control in a scene that seems like it comes straight out of a brochure, but she also learns about how your first time might not be amazing as you dreamed, and how you might think your first love will last "forever..." but it definitely will not.

I would probably peg Forever... as what Cadden calls "Single-voicedness and Character Narration": "Each text provides a single voice that is so highly confident that it is ultimately unassailable within the text. These books and speakers provide only one argument or position on a matter, and most important, they fail to provide within the text the tools necessary to reveal the contestability of these immature perspective to the equally immature reader" (148). Indeed, Katherine is confident throughout Forever... in her love for her boyfriend Michael, and her belief that is meant to be and will always be. For the adult reader, at least, her wrongness is clear, and Cadden does allow that hyperbole is a tool for revealing what he calls "debilitating world views" (153): "Hyperbole [...] is harder to detect than either the contradiction provided by multiple perspectives or the doubt suggested by a more self-conscious narrator" (149).

But I think that despite the unassailability of Katherine's voice (her parents disagree with her, of course, but the narrative itself doesn't provide the kind of tools that would cause Cadden to classify a book as "Double-voicedness and Character Narration"), Forever... provides a different way of leading to questioning world views: plot and story. Katherine might think she is completely right, but the actual events of the book show that she is wrong, even if the narrative doesn't acknowledge this in a double-voiced way.

The thing is, though, that Forever... is terrible. Katherine's narrative voice lacks any of the spark of Ponyboy's in The Outsiders, or of later first-person narrators like Titus in Feed or Briony in Chime. She is plainly and obviously a way for Blume to disseminate information to the reader about teenage sex, and this makes the book unable to engage an adult reader in the way that most YA fiction can. My students weren't fans, but I didn't expect them to be: I taught this book because its purpose is so unlike that of The Outsiders, despite The Outsiders creating the very genre in which Forever... operates.

What really fascinated me about the book was how much my students reacted against it. I mean, I didn't like it very much, but they took particular exception to Michael, who they saw as violating Katherine's consent. Not that he rapes her or anything, but the pressure he applies to Katherine (at one point he accuses her of being a tease) is uncomfortable, moreso to a group of millennials in 2017 raised on discourses around consent and rape culture that I just don't think were there in 1975. Blume appended a preface to the novel at some point (I'm not sure when exactly, but it's in my 2014 edition and contains a web address, so that provides something of a range) indicating that the book doesn't say as much about STIs as it ought, but I think the pressure that Michael puts on Katherine, and Katherine seems to accept as normal, has dated far worse. Not to accuse my students of inconsistency (because the different viewpoints may have actually been held by different people), but after lambasting the book for how didactic it was, and also agreeing that one of the good things about The Outsiders was its lack of moralizing, they also thought it hadn't taught something it ought to have taught, they there was a "debilitating world view" that had gone unaddressed. I'm not sure what to make of this inconsistency in our expectations for young adult literature, one that would recur throughout the semester.
  Stevil2001 | Oct 13, 2017 |
“Katherine and Michael are in love, and Katherine knows it's forever-especially after she loses her virginity to him. But when they're separated for the summer, she begins to have feelings for another boy. What does this say about her love for Michael? And what does "forever" mean, anyway? Is this the love of a lifetime, or the very beginning of a lifetime of love?” Coming-of-age story about two teens in love.
  KimHoffmann | Jul 19, 2017 |
Summary: This book is about the romance between a girl named Katherine and a boy named Michael. They claim that their love will last forever, even though either of them has reached the age of 20 yet, but that will not stop them from being together.
Review: This book is a romance because it is a love story, a very gritty detailed and now understandably why it was banned; love story about compromising topics. This, however, does not make the story any less good, or less realistic, as it no doubts paints a similar picture to real teen romances of the past, present, and future because love finds a way. ( )
  C-Roy | Mar 15, 2017 |
I first read Forever in my pre-teens or teen years, my memory is a little rusty on that. I do remember it was the 80's and at the time I read it I was very surprised by the content. I couldn't believe a teen book would so openly discuss the topic of sex. And I always remember that is was a favorite book of mine. So when I came across it again over a year ago on Goodreads, I decided to get a copy for my Kindle and now I've finally re-read it and realize that I had forgotten basically everything about it. It was like reading it for the first time again. The only thing I recognized was a line that I never forgot to this day that for the life of me I couldn't remember where I heard it or read it. I did wonder at one point if it was from a Judy Blume book but I couldn't be sure.

....."once your there you can't go back to holding hands"

I was right about it being from a Judy Blume book, however I never forgot that it was referring to taking the difficult and irreversible step to having sex for the first time. And I've always agreed with that statement. The consequences that can come from such a monumental step can be devastating if not entered into prepared. It also doesn't matter the age although the younger the more mistakes are likely.

Blume wrote a very brave and honest depiction of a young person's coming of age story that will always be current no matter the decade. One thing that struck me was the openness and courage of the young people in this story compared to the contemporary books I read today. Katherine, Erica, Michael and Artie were very forthcoming with their feelings and opinions. No beating around the bush. The parents were actually present and involved too. Of course I do love my modern contemporary but it was refreshing to step back in time and just be real for a moment. Speaking of stepping back in time it was the seventies so the Sex, Drugs, that includes alcohol, and maybe a little Rock and Roll, were present and accounted for, but not in an out of control way. It was just enough to show what the time was like then and it also show that the more things change the more they stay the same.

I thought this story was a very real look at the life of the teenager, about making choices, whether they be good or bad. Realizing that your life doesn't end after high school, your just entering another chapter and experiencing their first true love, and the growing pains that come with all that.

I really enjoyed this book and I probably didn't appreciate what Blume did for society when she wrote this book back in the 70's. I wasn't even aware that it was wrong to write a book like this at the time and can look back and see how far society has come. Even though today there are still heated discussions on how much to inform young people with in parts of our society. This book not only entertained my mind but it made me reflect. ( )
  GigisIrieReads | Oct 22, 2016 |
I can see how this book was challenged many times after it was first published. It covers a very controversial topic for teenagers. Although some parts were pretty intense and descriptive I think it is still a great book for young girls to read. It accurately describes how relationships can be at that age and the pressures that go with it. I love how accepting and supportive her grandmother is and the part with her choosing to go to Planned Parenthood. Most of all I think the ending is very realistic. ( )
  KeriLynneD | Sep 20, 2016 |
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Katherine and Michael's romance progresses rapidly from kissing to sexual intercourse after Katherine gets the Pill-- but will their love last forever?
added by kthomp25 | editBooklist

» Add other authors (2 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Judy Blumeprimary authorall editionscalculated
Leent-Sieburgh, E.A. vanTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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FOR RANDY as promised...with love
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Sybil Davison has a genius I.Q. and has been laid by at least six different guys.
He and Mom started reminiscing about their college days. I didn't tell them that with Michael and me it's different. That it's not just some fifties fad, like going steady. That with us it is love--real, true honest-to-god love.
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0671695304, Mass Market Paperback)

"Going all the way" is still a taboo subject in young adult literature. Judy Blume was the first author to write candidly about a sexually active teen, and she's been defending teenagers' rights to read about such subjects ever since. Here, Blume tells a convincing tale of first love--a love that seems strong and true enough to last forever. Katherine loves Michael so much, in fact, that she's willing to lose her virginity to him, and, as the months go by, it gets harder and harder for her to imagine living without him. However, something happens when they are separated for the summer: Katherine begins to have feelings for another guy. What does this mean about her love for Michael? What does this mean about love in general? What does "forever" mean, anyway? As always, Blume writes as if she's never forgotten a moment of what it's like to be a teenager.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:08:27 -0400)

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Two high school seniors believe their love to be so strong that it will last forever.

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