Sunday, 3 May 2015

Forever by Judy Blume **Review**

Forever by Judy Blume
Series: None
Pages: 177
Publisher: Pan Macmillan
Release date: Originally 1975
Buy: Book Depository | Amazon UK | Amazon US | Waterstones

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Goodreads synopsis:
Katherine and Michael meet at a New Year's Eve party. They're attracted to each other, they grow to love each other. And once they've decided their love is forever, they make love.

It's the beginning of an intense and exclusive relationship, with a future all planned. Until Katherine's parents insist that she and Michael put their love to the test with a summer apart...

"Forever" is written for an older age group than Judy Blume's other novels for children. It caused a storm of controversy when it was first published because of its explicit sexual content.

It was a book ahead of its time - and remains, after thirty years in print, a teenage best-seller. America's No. 1 children's author has written some of the best books of our time about real-life issues - family stress and pressures, what happens when your parents divorce, the problems of growing up and sexual awakening, bereavement - with insight, sensitivity and honesty.

The response of readers all around the world continues to make her one of the best-loved writers ever published.

I still feel a slight pang of shame when I think about Judy Blume. This shame comes from the fact that I was a bookseller for over 5 years, have been a voracious reader all of my life, and yet I had never picked up a single Judy Blume book. I knew I had to rectify this at some stage, so when Forever was mentioned in an article I read, I felt like the decision had been made for me. I immediately reserved it at my local bookstore. That was three weeks ago – I didn't want to wait too much longer.

The thing about Judy Blume is that she has been placed on a rather high pedestal (at least in the world of YA), so my expectations of my first Judy Blume experience were very high. Even my bookseller friends speak very highly of her ... I thought I was in for a racy, romantic delight.
What I got, however, was something quite different from what I had expected. I knew that it would be fairly sexually explicit – which it is – but I had expected to be more swept up in the romance than I was. Although the romance between Kath and Michael was sweet, that's about as far as it went for me. I felt like this was more like a 170-page sex education lesson with just a hint of drama thrown in, but even the 'drama' did not bother me all that much. It felt like everything the characters said and did was carefully measured against the 'message' (I really hate using that word, but it's the only one that feels close to being right here). However, that being said, I do think this is a great book for someone still in their teens to read – especially those who are just starting out in a relationship that is a little more serious than they have previously had. It's a great way for teenagers to learn about relationships, especially sexual ones, and how to take things at their own speed.
At the time that this was first published, it was definitely way ahead of its time – it was considered daring. However, now we have so many YA romance novels that deal with the same issues and more, this doesn't come across as quite as daring to a modern reader – especially someone who is not in their teens. And some of the ideas about relationships are a little outdated – Kath's parents often ask if she is 'going with' just Michael and her father expresses his opinion that she should continue to see other boyfriends. And even the term 'going with' is outdated. But I suppose these are things that don't matter as much.

Another thing that bothered me was how the chapters were structured. It seemed to me that a handful of them were cut off a little too short, often in the middle of a conversation, which really jarred me, and more than once I found myself turning back to the previous page and checking page numbers to make sure I hadn't missed a page. It would have been nice to have little more to these chapters so they felt a little more natural and flowed into the next chapter better.

Saying all that, however, Forever was a nice, easy read. I read it in a single sitting and didn't find myself bored at any stage. Yes, everything did seem a little too scripted and perfect (even when it wasn't and things were going wrong), but it was a light read that was perfect for when I needed to relax.
My verdict: although I felt the story didn't go deep enough (minds out of the gutter please!), it was a nice, easy read that would be perfect for reading on the beach or as a light relief after a more involved read. Would I read another Judy? I'm not sure, but I wouldn't rule the possibility out entirely.


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