'The best books, reviewed with insight and charm, but without compromise.'
- author Jackie French

Monday 1 April 2019

Review: Forever

In the words of Emily Rodda, 'Change just happens.' (His Name Was Walter) And change occasionally catches up with us here at KBR, too. This month we farewell a KBR favourite, YA Editor, Connie Spanos and welcome seasoned kids' lit reviewer, Jo Antareau.

Jo is a psychologist by day and an emerging children’s author by night. But she’s the mother of three boys only on the days ending with a y.

She enjoys all sorts of children’s literature and has had short stories published on various sites. In her spare time she enjoys sleeping.

It is with great pleasure welcome Jo (meet her at the bottom of this review) to our humble team and share with you, her first review.

So… when the cover features a picture of a cherry and the author is Judy Blume, the reader already has a good idea about what will ensue in the story.

First published in 1975, this is one of the most frequently banned books from libraries. Blume tells the story of a six-month romance between Katherine and Michael, a pair of middle class, American seventeen-year-olds. They meet and their attraction is mutual and immediate. Michael asks Kath out and their relationship blossoms. Kath is sexually inexperienced and the story follows her gradual awakening.

Blume’s trademark is her frankness about matters that were considered taboo, and this book is no exception. She follows the pair into the bedroom and describes their activities as Kath’s boundaries progressively change. I like that the couple discuss sex and that all is consensual. However, it is always Michael who takes the lead in their sexual activities.

Blume also follows Kath into the medical room when she seeks a prescription for contraception and details the medical examination. However, Kath stating that contraception was her responsibility made me cringe a little.

The title, Forever, is ironic. Like most teenagers in the heady throes of first love, Kath and Michael believe that their relationship is as invulnerable as they are. However, cracks appear that the pair cannot resolve.

I like that it was Kath’s choices that led to the finale, rather than she being a broken hearted victim.

In some ways, however, the book is quite dated: Blume introduces Artie, a boyfriend for Kath’s best friend Erica. When their relationship does not progress sexually, Artie reveals that he ‘might be gay’ – but this subplot is hastily shut down as it is later revealed that he’s not gay, ‘just impotent’. This is not explored any further (just left dangling, as it were).

Artie later has a self-harm incident that leaves him hospitalised and he does not appear in the story again. His admission lasts for weeks and his friends are advised to just write him cheerful, upbeat letters.

The mental health system has changed considerably since the book’s publication. Patients are usually discharged back into the community within days, if admitted at all. The current recommendation is for peers is to be supportive, non-judgemental and to rally around their distressed friend after such an incident.

If the book opens a discussion between parents and children about relationships, I think that a discussion about supporting vulnerable friends with mental health issues should rank equally to frank discussions about sex, consent and contraception.

Title: Forever
Author: Judy Blume
Publisher: PanMacmillan, $14.95
Publication Date: 1975
Format: Paperback
ISBN: 97814472 81047
For ages: 13+
Type: Young Adult Fiction
Jo Antareau