Reading Response to “Forever” by Judy Blume

Well, that wasn’t so bad — though the story itself felt rather empty.

Judy Blume’s controversial book Forever was first published in 1975.  From reading it, I can understand why it has been controversial (and certainly why it was in the seventies), but I think the book itself fails as a good read for either teens or adults.  As far as adults are concerned, the story lacks a good plot and the characters are very whiny, so they lack sympathy.  I doubt many adults would read this book if it weren’t for the controversy that it has generated — and even then, probably only because of a class project or because they want to know if their kids should read it.  If I want a good love story, I’m not going to waste my time with this book!

This book also fails as a good read for teens because it is probably an excellent example of the “problem novel” and little else.  I realise that this was not the case in 1975, but even then, this is not a good work of literature by any stretch of the imagination and would likely not have gained much notoriety if it wasn’t for the sexually explicit content.  I felt that I was being instructed as I read it, particularly in the medical scenes.  This could be useful for teens, but I think that sex education has improved in much of North America to the point where these scenes are rendered trite.  This is not the case everywhere, of course, and I do think that some teens would find these characters sympathetic and likely enjoy the book, but I think the only thing that this book really has going for it is the intrigue and reputation that it has earned in the past thirty-five years.

Only one good point from this novel has really stood out for me: the relationship between the two main characters is portrayed positively and somewhat realistically.  There isn’t any glamour and the novel does not have a happy ending.  The characters live in a realistic situation.  The boy isn’t a complete jerk and the girl isn’t a perfect princess.  However, I am unable to judge whether or not this book is accurate because I never had any romantic relationships as a teen.  [That said, we all have our perspectives and I don’t think having experienced romantic love or sex as a teenager really makes one much more qualified.]

As far as sex in young adult literature in general is concerned, I think that the less it is glamourized, the better.  I have no problem with the idea of teens having sex, but I think that current trends are glamourizing it more than necessary.  Teens are biologically interested in sex — they don’t need it dressed up.  Those (like me) who were not interested in sex as teens did not buy overtly-sexual materials.  In fact, many sexual covers of otherwise good books turn me off of reading them.  There are plenty of successful covers that are not sexual (the Twilight books, for example) and I think that publishers are missing the mark by trying too hard.

I am going to conclude on a personal note: I think that concentrating on solely or primarily sex in writing/marketing YA literature is detrimental to the literature as a whole.  What I like in my YA books is when sex is alluded to, but not concentrated on (certainly not glamourized!) in the main plot.  I will use as example the Harry Potter series.  This was a wonderful saga about a group of teenagers (one boy in particular) and it was implied that sex took place, if not necessarily between the main characters.  However, this was far from the main plot!  Readers are thus free to make their own assumptions.  Some readers may have come to the conclusion that most of the main characters engaged in abstinence, while others assumed that they naturally were not, but that the sex was so unimportant that J.K Rowling omitted it from the narrative.  I assume a mix of the two assumptions, but I never thought much about it while reading the series.  One can argue that this is a different genre of YA lit., but I think that more teens enjoy books where sex is not the main discussion point.  It is, after all, the main discussion point in much of their actual lives.

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