My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Have I ever told you about my love of Judy Blume? She, along with my equally beloved Paula Danziger and repeats of Mash on Sky One, form a substantial part of my introduction to Americana. That world of summer camps, of wise-cracks and heartbreak, and of corn-dogs and schools with PA systems.
And that world of love.
To be honest, eighties children’s literature didn’t really have love. Didn’t have sex. Children appeared like clouds on a rainy day. They were sudden, unexpected. Lessons wrapped in the form of a baby, morals kicking and screaming as you tried to change its nappy.
Blume and Danziger (and also when I managed to smuggle Lady Chatterley’s Lover out of the adults section in the library) were my introduction to love. Sex. Intense, madly, neurose-ridden sex. Heartbreak. Loss. Hope. All tied up in books that involved people being people and no mention of a pony anywhere. Truly it was a foreign literary land!
And now, finally, I have read Forever.
The lack of a star needs to be explained first. There’s elements about this that have dated, substantially, and that should be recognised.
But oh, oh, this book. This challenged and censored and banned book is still so very brilliant.
This is the summer of Katherine and Michael, fallen into an intense relationship. It’s a slim book and one that hinges on the fact that they’re forced to spend the summer apart, at different holiday sites. Will their love – their ‘forever’ love – last?
I love Judy Blume. Have I mentioned that? She writes Sex as sex. It is not Seexxxhcchmmmaaghhgiigglegigglelolz. It is not SEXY SEXY ME YES. It is just sex.
And Blume mentions gonorrhea! GONORRHEA. Tell me another children’s book that does that, even today! And she mentions it in the matter-of-fact, natural way that it should be mentioned. (Keep the bogeyman in the shadows and it remains the bogeyman, bring it to the light and it’s nothing but a word, an instance to master and to be beaten).
Forever is such a book. Such a brilliant book that is like the elder sister you always wanted to have. Like Just Seventeen back in its heyday when it told me *everything* about everything. Like that time when you sat down with your friends and finally figured out about tampons and sanitary pads.
Like that time you grew up.
(Can we say we were Blumed? Can we say that? Can we say that being Blumed has made us be the powerful people we are today? Can we make that a thing? Because it really, really should be.)