Were Judy Blume books essential reading for you when you were young? She certainly was for me and all my friends, but all these years later, I’m still never sure quite how universal the Judy Blume love is, because luckily, she was a local author for us. We devoured the Fudge books, Blubber, Freckle Juice etc. when we were little, then when we got older it was all about Tiger Eyes, Are You There, God? It’s Me, Margaret, Deenie…she was the tween queen before tweens were even a thing. But of all her books, the one that we were most obsessed with was Forever. Not only is it the sex one, but it also takes place right in my hometown of Westfield, New Jersey.
I had some apprehension revisiting this one as an adult, because some of my old favorites are horrifying in retrospect. (Looking at you, Jake Ryan.) But no worries with Forever! While Michael is a little pushy at first, Katherine has all the agency, and she gets her birth control at Planned Parenthood. (!) What more can you ask for? This is such a sweet first love/first sex story, and Katherine is an adorable character. I absolutely love how the first time they spend a night together, she packs her prettiest long white nightgown, “with angel sleeves and tiny buttons shaped like hearts.” Hot. She is so charmingly innocent here. She’s no prude, just a bit naive. They have a nice chemistry together, and the progression of their relationship is refreshingly natural.
Katherine and Michael are the bulk of the story, but the side plots are just as well done. The parents are pretty tolerant and permissive but not unbelievably cool or uninvolved. There are a few pretty dramatic events, but it never veers into melodrama. And 30 years later, it was still just as exciting to see references to hometown spots like Hahne’s and the Robert Treat Deli, although I was more of a Bagel Chateau person myself. And I always wondered if the dead end street where teenagers go to make out was my dead end street. I don’t think it was, but who can say for sure?*
I’m glad this was one of the first books I ever read that was explicitly about sex. (There definitely were worse ones.) My daughter has already read a couple of Judy’s young adult books, and in a few years she’s getting this one too. Thank you, Judy Blume, for making the tween years a little easier on all of us.
*Somebody much cooler than me, that’s who.