Judy Blume

Review: Forever by Judy Blume

Forever
Forever by Judy Blume

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Forever is a story about a teenager’s first love and first time (having sex). Katherine and Michael are two older teenagers who meet, hit it off, and start dating. He wants to have sex with her, she’s not entirely sure if she wants to, but then she agrees and they do it. There are no horrific consequences – she doesn’t get pregnant, she doesn’t catch an STD, and she doesn’t die – and this is what sets it apart from other books depicting this kind of story (at least at the time it was published).

The story is a fairly realistic depiction of teenage romance – actual teenage romance without a paranormal element and rainbows and fireworks if and when the main characters have sex. There are scenes where both main characters acquire contraception – something a lot of YA writers leave out, because it ruins the romance of it all. This is where the book really excels – and why it is still a bestseller today – it’s realistic. There’s premature ejaculation and awkwardness and the whole ‘making-a-big-deal-of-it-all’ aspect of high school. Katherine and Michael are not soulmates (although they believe it at the time) and their relationship doesn’t even last the summer. Sure, there are people who marry their first boyfriend and live happily ever after, but it just isn’t the norm in real life (although it seems to be in YA). Michael’s had sex before, and I’d love to see more of this in fiction – real, experienced characters, especially girls. Every YA heroine seems to be an innocent virgin, and every villain is a sexually promiscuous bad girl – and it only reinforces slut-shaming and the idea that once you’ve had sex your personality miraculously changes.

The whole story is pretty progressive. Kath’s parents would rather have her having sex at home that god-knows-where, and her grandmother sends her pamphlets on all-sorts of relevant information – abortion and contraception. There’s a character questioning his sexuality and experimenting. There’s an attempted suicide, due to said questioning. It’s only disappointing that, forty years after this book was first published, so much of the story is relevant today. Teenagers are still having sex (shock horror), but there’s still controversy around non-heterosexual characters, abortion, and even just sex in general in YA fiction. In Kath’s world, there is no shame over having sex, using contraception, having an abortion – they’re seen as sensible, responsible choices. Unfortunately we don’t live in that world just yet.

Forever is known for being teenage girls’ first read of realistic sex. The topics involved (and the age of the main characters) suggest this book is for older girls, but the writing style is simplistic, and I almost felt a little too old to be reading it. The whole plot seems a little undercooked – at only 200 pages long, I would have happily read a book with a bit more padding. Some really interesting sub-plots are touched on briefly – Sybil’s hidden pregnancy, Jamie’s first experiences of love, and Artie’s possible homosexuality – which really would have brought the book into its own had they been expanded on. I think the tone and style of the book is really a remnant of the era in which it was first published – it reminds me a lot of the books I read published in the 1980s and 1990s, like Animal Ark and The Babysitters Club, rather than the high-octane paranormal fantasy romances that dominate YA today.

Ultimately, this is a book written to teach girls about safe, realistic sex. It more than achieves in that aim – and it’s a testament that girls are still reading it today. If it was a little longer, maybe those who don’t normally read, wouldn’t bother to read it.

I would kind of love to see a new Forever on the market though – a cult bestseller written today that portrays sex and being a teenager realistically. I’d also like to see a book that touches on the same theme but is aimed at boys – Forever is told through a girl’s perspective (as many YA novels are), and I’d be interested to read something from the other side for once!

(Also, my 2015 copy has a lovely design (a simple cherry) which isn’t as cheesy as some of the others and has red gilded edges)

Did you enjoy Forever? Do you have any recommendations? Tweet me at @annalisebooks or comment below 🙂

Annalise x

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TBR: The Post-YALC Pile

After an amazing weekend at YALC, my TBR (To Be Read) pile has grown. It was already pretty big – I’ve spent the last three years procrastinating by buying books, but not really procrastinating by reading them (after many 16 hour days in the library trying to learn Chemistry, you kinda just want to sleep and eat). I’m planning on getting through my pile this Summer though (never going to happen but it’s always nice to be optimistic!).

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1. An Abundance of Katherines by John Green, and 2. Will Grayson, Will Grayson by John Green and David Levithian

I’ve read two John Green novels before – Looking for Alaska and The Fault in our Stars. They’re both critically acclaimed, and I thoroughly enjoyed TFioS… the second time I read it. I hardly ever read a book twice, but TFioS was a rare exception, and I’m glad it was – I enjoyed it the first time, and I really want to be a bigger fan of John Green’s work (hence the book buys). Both of these books have interesting premises – AAoK is about a boy called Colin who has dated a grand total of 19 women called Katherine, and WG,WG is a collaboration between two authors, both writing for different characters (both called Will Grayson). I really hope these books exceed my expectations based on previous John Green novels I’ve read – but I won’t deny i’ll be first in line for his next book.

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3. Eleanor & Park, and 4. Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell

Confession: I’ve never read a book by Rainbow Rowell. That’s about to change. All I’ve heard are good things about her novels, specifically these two, both published in 2013. Eleanor & Park is a love story, set in 1986, with Eleanor, the slightly overweight new girl with a dysfunctional family, and Park, a half-Korean boy from the ‘perfect home’. Fangirl is about identical twins, moving on to university, still obsessed with their favourite author. I’m excited to start reading these books, if only for the fact that I know people who fit these characters (an achievement in itself).

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5. Forever by Judy Blume

I’ve heard about Judy Blume ever since I started reading YA fiction. She’s a legend, and this weekend, I got to watch her giving a talk at YALC. I would have asked her to sign a book, but I’ve never read a Judy Blume novel. I decided to rectify that. It is a feat in itself that this book is still a bestseller after forty years – and a little disappointing that it’s still controversial. I picked this up at the Waterstone’s book shop on site at YALC – hopefully it’ll be worth the £6.99 I forked out for it.

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6. The Winner’s Curse by Marie Rutkoski

I first heard of the book a few months ago, and I knew I had to buy it. You know why? The cover. I knew I needed that cover on my shelf. I’ve also heard good things – about the plot, the world, the characters – and after attending a talk at YALC with Marie on the panel, I ran out and bought the book. Kestrel is a general’s daughter in an empire which enslaves those who it conquers, and she’s expected to either join the military or get married. Kestrel has other ideas. She buys a slave – Arin – with unexpected consequences, and finds herself falling in love with him.

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7. Only Ever Yours by Louise O’Neill

I hadn’t heard of this book before YALC, and it only took two days before I caved and bought it – I’d heard so many good things (It won the YA Book Prize 2015). To my surprise (maybe I should plan better), the author (Louise O’Neill) appeared on the ‘Bringing Sexy Back’ panel in the morning, and, because I was hauling around all my purchases from the weekend, I happened to have my copy of Only Ever Yours on me, for the signing afterwards! I’m so excited to read this book, and ‘Asking for It’, out in September – mostly because of the comparisons to Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale.

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8. Shatter Me by Tahereh Mafi

This was one of the books my friends bought for my birthday (I sent them a huge lists of books I promised not to buy and let them choose which ones to get). This originally was released in 2011, and it’s been sitting on my Goodreads list since then. Juliette’s touch is fatal, and she must decide whether to use it for good, or for evil. Also, look at that cover!

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9. Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn

I’ve known about Gone Girl for a few years, since the book first came out in 2012. I was there for the initial hype, and I was just never convinced enough to buy and read it. Then the film came out, and I went to see it. The film is amazing, and I knew the book would be too. I know all the twists and turns now, but I hear the book is even better, and the film will be tough to beat. Bring it on!

What’s on your TBR list? Have you read any of the books on my list? (I’m not going to lie, I imagine most people have.) Comment below or tweet me at @annalisebooks 🙂

Annalise x

YALC, London: Day 2

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After a few hours sleep at my hostel (even though I was exhausted even after Day 1), I awoke on Saturday excited for another day at YALC!

I kicked off the day with an amazing panel – YA: The Next Generation. Moderated by Samantha Shannon, and starring Alice Oseman, Lucy Saxon (wearing an awe-inspiring Zelda cosplay), Helena Coggan and Taran Matharu, this was a real highlight of the weekend (although it did make me feel old at the tender age of 21!). This panel brought up some interesting discussion surrounding diversity in young adult novels, and the downsides of being published so young, and ultimately it was inspiring that people younger than me have both written and published novels – definitely got to get down to writing sometime soon! The panel also brought up the different routes into becoming a published author – Taran started posting on Wattpad before getting picked up for a publishing deal. The panel also reinforced the idea that you should write the book that you want to read – if you want to read it, others will too!

A highlight of the afternoon was the Editing Yourself workshop with Alexia Casale. This was my first real introduction into editing, something i’ve not really ever got to the point of doing (although I did write a 50,000 novel during NaNoWriMo last year which I might come back to at some point). The whole editing process became a lot less daunting and something I actually look forward to (although it is a lot easier to edit someone else’s work!). I’m really looking forward to the day where i’m confident enough in a novel and an idea that I get to edits! Alexia also gave advice on writing in general – something I took to heart was to start your novel at the last possible moment for everything to make sense and the plot to work – describing the mundane is generally boring to your readers.

The last talk of the day was on the differences between being published in the UK and the US – this was really informative about the different ways the markets work and what they look for. There was also some great advice about covers – something authors generally have no control over. It’s always exciting to see the ways different publishing teams take a novel and market it – so many different covers and titles for the same book inside (albeit a few language edits!).

On Saturday, there were also many amazing authors signing their novels – Judy Blume (a legend if I ever saw one), Cassie Clare (I didn’t take any of her books to sign because I already got two of them signed last year – and the queues were so long!), Malorie Blackman, Holly Smale, Arabella Weir, Patrick Ness… Great to see so many inspiring people in one place!

I grabbed a copy of Forever by Judy Blume, a book i’ve heard recommended for years, from the on-site Waterstone’s bookshop, and hopped on the tube after the convention to the Foyles store on Charing Cross Road. After many recommendations over the first two days, I picked up a copy of Stephen King’s On Writing, Louise O’Neill’s Only Ever Yours, Marie Rutkoski’s The Winner’s Curse, and a book on writing New Adult novels (i’m planning on writing, honest!).

All in all, Saturday was an exciting day, with some great authors and inspiring panels and workshops. Were you at YALC? What were your highlights?

Annalise x