A senior in high school, Kath meets Michael at a friend’s New Year’s Eve party and nineteen dates later, they are in love. This isn’t just any kind of love; it’s the kind that lasts forever. The two are inseparable, as Kath works through her confusions and fears about sex and what “making love” will mean for them as a couple. A summer apart tests their trust in one another and belief in “forever.”
Blume, J. (1975). Forever. New York: NY, Atheneum Books for Young Readers.
Katherine and Michael find each other, and it’s first love for both of them. Katherine loses her virginity, finds out about contraceptives, and learns about VD with lectures inserted as needed. Actually, both kids are so kind and considerate, so understanding, so everything, that readers may wonder what’s wrong with them. Finally, she realizes that first love isn’t always Forever, that she is growing and accepting changes. Sniff, sniff. Obviously it’s not a quality book, but that fact won’t bother the many girls who will read it, identify, cry happily, and recommend it to their friends. Librarians buying for junior high schools should be aware that the sexual scenes, while not at all explicit compared to the run of adult novels, may be more than parents of young teens bargain for. —Regina Minduri, Alameda County Library, Hayward, Calif.
Made famous by the many challenges and attempts to ban it from school and public libraries, Blume’s novel is not just about sexual awakening, but of the universal experience of “true” and “first” love; oftentimes, teens first adult experiences are wrapped up in those relationships.
What I most appreciated about Forever is the expansive cast of female characters who all explore varying issues and angles to sexuality: Kath’s best friend Erica who makes it a goal to “get laid” before she goes to college so she can have the experience behind her; Kath’s grandmother, a New York lawyer, who played a pivotal role in the development of Planned Parenthood and sends her pamphlets about birth control, reproductive rights, and venereal disease in the mail, which ultimately leads to Kath visiting the clinic for contraceptives; and, Kath’s mother who has an open and honest relationship with Kath and does not shy away from having non-judgmental conversations about sex without condemning or condoning.
Are there somewhat erotic and overtly sexual moments in Forever? Oh, yes! But, even though sex is an ever present topic, the perspectives and reflections of the characters present a well-rounded conversation that every teenager could benefit from participating in. For some, the only way that will happen is through reading the book.
Forever is an excellent title that appears on the most frequently banned books lists that could be included in a display, book talk, or trailer promoting Banned Book Week. Given the popularity of Judy Blume’s work over the generations, the library could collect personal responses to the novel from adult and teen readers spanning the three decades the book has been popular.