Saturday, December 4, 2010

Forever... by Judy Blume

Forever... by Judy Blume
192 pages, Paperback
Published on March 9, 2001
Summary: When you build up something in your mind — really imagine it, wish for it — sometimes, when it actually happens, it doesn't live up to your expectations. 
True love is nothing like that.
Especially not for Katherine and Michael, who can't get enough of each other. Their relationship is unique: sincere, intense, and fun all at the same time. Although they haven't been together all that long, they know it's serious. A whole world opens up as young passion and sexuality bloom.
But it's senior year of high school, and there are big changes ahead. Michael and Katherine are destined for another big "first": a decision. Is this the love of a lifetime, or the very beginning of a lifetime of love?
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So, why am I doing yet another review from years ago, actually written in the 80s, back before I was even born? Well, as much as I'd love to be writing only reviews for new novels, a) I have a limited budget and can't always buy the latest novels; b) My goal is 365 reviews in 365 days and that doesn't exactly allow for pickiness; and c) Since most readers don't always read the latest novels, it's nice to see reviews of novels that were released a while ago. I feel like sometimes older novels get shoved aside too quickly to make room for new ones. Okay, stopping my random, boring rant now.
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Overview: Forever... is a romance about first love and first expierences. this novel's short, and I know some die-hard Blume fans that all said it was fantastic and realistic and heart-wrenching. And I even remember being in 6th grade and begging my parents to let me read this novel. Well, honestly, I'm glad they said no all those years ago. Forever... is sexually explicit and while it is honest, it also seemed a little too sex-related. The whole novel basically revolved around Michael pushing Katherine into sleeping with him. In fact, over half the novel was spent on why Katherine doesn't want to do it and why Michael does. After the first 100 pages, Michael got a little less obsessive and I actually kind of liked him once he wasn't so sex-crazed. He kind of seemed sweet and they made a cute couple. But the author cut out basically everything but their relationship from the book, making it seem like Katherine was a clingy, obsessive girlfriend who only cared about her boyfriend. The rest of their lives were hinted at, with a few mentions of other activities, but they were few and far between. Also, it seemed like some of the details included within the story seemed random and useless. For instance, Katherine would go on for a few pages about Michael and her, then mention her father was attractive, and then go back to describing her relationship. The story was realistic and sad and cute at times, making it a not terrible novel, but not one to go running out to grab.
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Katherine was nice, shallow, and clingy. Michael was sweet, sex-obsessed, and dense. Now, I know these descriptions can be a bit contradicting, but that's the overall view I was left with of them. And I was slightly confused by how Katherine went from wanting to hold off, to feeling sorry that she had made Michael wait all that long. In all honesty, she didn't make him wait long at all, in fact, their relationship went to the next level really, really fast. They were cute together and after a while I cared about them and hoped things ended up for the best. The other characters, their friends, Artie and Erica, had an interesting story, along with Sybil, their other friend who gets pregnant, but Blume's focus was solely on Michael and Katherine's relationship so they were left underdeveloped. My biggest grievance with this novel was Katherine's parents, though. I know this book was written in the 80s, but did dads normally encourage their daughters to date multiple guys at the same time back then? And since when do parents get to say what jobs you take? It upset me that Katherine let her parents dictate so much of her life, and how strangely her dad acted. On a side note I found it creepy that Michael named his, er, manhood, Ralph. Do guys really do that? Because I might have to re-think some things if they do...
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The story was the book's downfall. I actually liked the premise and started in on the book soon after I received it because I expected an easy, light, simple read about the firsts of serious relationships. And that's what I got, for the most part. Until the end, that is. Okay, so spoiler, but I'm not going hide it because I'm going to explain my problems with the ending for a while. It seemed like Blume had pre-determined that Katherine and Michael weren't going to last. They were close, cute, and totally in love with each when they have to leave for different states for a few weeks. They wrote each other every day, and I liked the way they included a bunch of their letters to each other. Then Theo, an older, more sophisticated man steps into the picture and suddenly Katherine isn't in love with Michael, she's only in a relationship with him. And then Michael comes for a visit, wants to sleep with her (which, let's be honest, can't really be blamed, since they'd done it multiple times already) and Katherines screams at him and then they're over. I did a double-take on that one. What?! They were just in love, and then, bam! Katherine's moved on and poor Michael is left behind. I understood their fight, but it seemed more like an argument than a relationship-ending fight. Blume needed to think this one through for a while longer, in my opinion. And the hopeful ending, where Theo calls? Yeah, that didn't magically make the heartbreak go away like I think Blume intended it to.
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The writing was mostly good, with a few errors. 1) The random insights into Katherine's life was weird and random. I don't think most readers cared that her nanny once had a crush on her dad, or that her mom likes toast. These ramblings seemed like meaningless page-fillers to me. 2) Blume was intent on focusing the story on their relationship, which was fine, except that nothing else was included. Some sub-plots were much needed and completely absent, save maybe one tiny story about Artie's depression. 3) Blume seemed to have made bullet points on a page, thought, okay, I'll write about this, then this will happen, then this, then this, so on, so on. And while I'm all for planning ahead, it seemed like the characters were in a play themselves, trapped in a pre-made world where their fates were pre-destined. There were some good things: the writing was accurate, realistic, and did well in portraying first love. Blume accomplished her goal of showing how your first isn't necessarily your last, just like the fact that forever isn't a realistic goal.
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Cover: 4 stars
Characters: 3 stars
Plot: 3 stars
Writing: 3 stars
Overall rating: 3 stars

5 comments:

LupLun said...

Re: Father's wanting their daughters to date multiple guys: I don't know if that was common in the 1980's, but it's possible. Here's the thing: up through the 1950's, it was expected that teenage men and women would date a lot of different people over the course of their high school years. The idea was to test out a lot of different guys (or gals) and figure out what you really wanted in a relationship. Most dates were on the level of hanging out, and intimacy wasn't supposed to go beyond kissing. "Going steady" was originally something parents got very nervous about- the assumption being that continued bonding would eventually lead to premarital sex.

Fast-forward to the present, however, and things have changed. Now it's accepted that any teen couple has some degree of intimacy in their lives, and going out with multiple people is a sign that they're being promiscuous.

In other words, there's a generation gap in play here. I remember once my Mom told me that she went out with a lot of guys in high school, and after that I started telling people that my Mom was the local slut as a teen-ager. She wasn't, of course, that was my mis-perception because dating was so different back then. If Katherine's parents still hold the values of the 1950's, then yes, it's possible they see their daughter attaching to a single guy as a bad thing.

Re: the ending: I haven't read this book- which means take what I say with a grain of salt- but from what you've described, it sounds like the underlying theme is that teen love is merely *first* love. You fall in love with someone in high school and you think, "This is the one, this is love, this is for life." Then it's not. You head out into the world, realize that life is a lot more complicated than you thought, and in retrospect that first love seems so shallow and so deeply flawed. You thought it was forever, but nothing lasts forever, and that's what you have to keep in mind. Blume was trying to prepare her audience for the day they had to let go.

Nic @ Irresistible Reads said...

I liked that you reviewed an older book. I agree sometimes I feel like we do push older books and just focus on new books so it good to see. Great review :)

Cialina at Muggle-Born.net said...

This is such a well written review! Thanks for sharing.... I have to say that I have never read any of Judy Blume's books... probably like you because of the fact that it was published before I was even born. With that being said however, I think I eventually want to read one of her books even if this review isn't that too enthusiastic about Forever.

- Cialina from Muggle-Born.net

Caroline said...

@ Luplun - I wasn't totally aware of that fact and appreciate your asserting facts about the mind-set of generations past. While that does make sense, the novel still didn't quite hold up for me. That's great if you think it was a good read, this is only my opinion.

@ Nic - I've always kind of thought that new books preside too much higher over older books. They should both get some of the spotlight. :)

@ Cialina - Thanks so much! This is the first Blume book I've read, but I'm sure some of her others might be better. :)

rohit said...

An enjoyable read Forever . . . by Judy Blume . loved the way you wrote it. I find your review very genuine and original, this book is going in by "to read" list.

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