Stephanie Bradt: The one positive I had with this book was that there is evidence that Judy Blume tried to stay on her bizarre topic. There is no token perverted moment arbitrarily inserted into the story. Rather, the entire story is perverted. Although this is hands down one of Blume’s worst books ever, from strictly a plot standpoint, I think it is one of her more solid works. The book’s theme is awful, but Blume sticks to it.
Here goes: This book is ridiculous. First of all, it is yet another example of Judy Blume purposely going out of her way to get a book banned. I thought I knew what to expect with this book-- I knew it was by Judy Blume and that it was all about teen sex. However, that did not completely prepare me for just how graphic this book was. I will not go into the dirty details (although Blume certainly does), but this book is bad enough for YA in the year 2011. I cannot even imagine the firestorm it must have caused in 1975. Being read by like ten-year-olds.
Then there is the point of the story. Katherine’s first time was with her boyfriend, Michael, who is supposed be the “nicest guy in the world” or something like that. The reader is clearly supposed to like Michael and his “beautiful” and “loving” relationship with Katherine. That is all well and good, except for one problem: Michael is a douchebag. Not only is he a two-dimensional character, but his only dimension is that of a horny pig. Maybe it is a pacing problem and the fact that the book is short, but the only interaction between the main characters is Michael trying to get into Katherine’s pants. He is constantly groping her and taking off her clothes and she always says no and he ignores her and keeps going then reluctantly stops all pissed off, but says “I’m not gonna pressure you,” but yeah, no. I am surprised he was even able to function, since it seems like he has a hard-on throughout the entire book.
Speaking of which, Michael has a name for his man part, and that is Ralph. Seriously. He formally introduces Ralph and Katherine with the whole, “Kath, this is Ralph.” He later says, “I named it for you.” How romantic.
When Katherine finally is practically coerced into doing the deed, she loves it (after like the fourth time). And by the way, Michael and Katherine consummate their relationship even after Katherine finds out that Michael had had the Clap. How sexy. She never even asks any more on the subject.
After all this, at the end of the book, Kath finds someone she likes better than Michael. The end.
But let us not forget: There are still the Judy-Blume-trademark absurd subplots:
-The fat slutty friend named Sybil. She gets preggers and gives the baby up for adoption. She hopes the kid will be called Jennifer.
-Kath’s annoying little preteen-ish sister, Jamie, has a new little boyfriend named David. She also asks Kath if she and Michael were “f@#%ing.”
-Kath's progressive NOW and Planned Parenthood extraordinaire 70-something-year-old grandmother gives Kath birth control. "But don't tell your parents," she says.
And my all-time favorite sub-plot:
-Arty is a quiet-ish guy who does school plays or something like that and he might be gay. Or not? Kath’s friend, Erica, thinks so because he would not try to kiss her. Erica: Maybe you are just an ugly asshole. Anyway, Erica practically tries to rape Arty (remember kids, take it from Aunt Judy—constantly pressuring someone to have sex is romantic). Erica finds out that Arty is impotent and gets frustrated and leaves him. Arty is sad and tries to kill himself by hanging himself from the shower curtain rod, but luckily, it cannot support his weight. Arty just falls into the tub and hits his head and stuff. This is good, says Katherine, now he can get the professional help he needs. W. T. F.
This book is wrong on so many levels.
Jordan Bradt: Years ago, my family moved into a new house. It belongs to my grandmother and is attached to her farm. We rented the house while building our new one. I found a box of “destroyed” books (covers ripped off) in the attic. These books included novels from the OZ series and FOREVER by Judy Blume. I read them, and was deeply disgusted by FOREVER. It’s fine as an adult novel, but young adult? No. I ended up giving it to my cousin, after she saw me reading it.
Jump forward to college. I had to read the book again for my Children’s Literature class. All of us, including the teacher, were disturbed by the novel. Now, here it is in my grasp again, and…well, let me start with the first paragraph. “Sybil Davidson has a genius I. Q. and has been laid by at least six different guys.” Yup, and the book sticks with that same theme throughout.
Quite a few random moments made me blink. The babysitter smells Dad’s things because she has a thing for him. Grandma is described as being busy with Planned Parenthood. Erica, the friend, wants to get laid before college. She also wants to do it with every guy in school, including the teachers. The parents have loud sex, and Katherine listens. Erica’s love interest fears he might be gay – but instead, he’s just impotent. Katherine discusses her period with Michael (then, even though she has her period, he still tries to touch her, and she’s only upset because his sister is nearby). Michael’s sister and her husband offer them a joint. Michael names his penis Ralph. He teaches Katherine how to make him come using her hand. Mom only wants her to apply to 3 schools…she does it through her high school and needs parental permission. Mom makes her read an article about how every relationship ends – very depressing idea.
Michael is the male love interest. He wears glasses, which is mentioned a lot. He calls Katherine quite a bit, which is nice, and something that happens in healthy relationships. Oh, and this one time toward the start of their “affair,” they make-out on the couch and he asks her if she’s a virgin. Maybe that’s part of being in a healthy relationship, too, but if a guy asked me that, I’d think he only wanted one thing – which, oh yeah, he does. He slept with a girl twice before, and got “VD” from her.
Katherine is the main character. She can’t decide if she’s ready or not. I had trouble really understanding her character, because the book seemed to be happening around her, not with her. She reacted, without really acting.
So, to their first time, which is the point of the book – they go to his sister’s apartment. Katherine worries about bleeding, so he gets a towel. He doesn’t want to use a condom since she just had her period, but they do anyway. He comes almost instantaneously.