To be perfectly honest, I was a little disappointed. You’d like to think that the first time will be special, but it wasn’t. Friends, I have just read my first Judy Blume. Forever, because that’s what the then Children’s Laureate Michael Rosen told me to read. At least, I think he did. I asked where I should start and he said ‘definitely with Ralph. Buy a second-hand copy of Forever and the book will fall open at the Ralph page’. I did. And it didn’t. And it won’t after I’m done with the book, either.
I don’t exactly hang out with Michael, but he joined in when I blogged about sex in ‘children’s books’ on the Guardian books blog some years ago. He commented that ‘the first time I read Forever — I couldn’t figure out why there was a little bloke in the room called Ralph, who the couple (boy and a girl) seemed quite excited about. I was 46.’
So at the back of my mind I’ve had this idea to read Judy Blume ever since, as I was so remiss as to totally miss her in my younger days. And I expected more. Not sure more of what, but a bit more.
Forever is my March contribution to the Bookwitch Foreign Reading Challenge, on two counts. First, it is American, and that is foreign. Second, it’s so old (1975) that it counts as foreign ground in that respect, too. Not old enough to be an old classic. But definitely nothing like the books we get now.
It’s so very American. So very middle class, with such bland main characters and such very nice and educated parents. An understanding grandmother, even. No lack of money. No worries about looks or school results. There is just this preoccupation of whether or not to ‘do it’ when Katherine meets Michael. It’s love at first sight, and the love will last forever.
My copy did not fall open at ‘that’ page, so can’t have been appreciated enough. Not like Lady Chatterley, although Ralph does have a distant relative in the D H Lawrence novel.
Bland. Even the attempt to spice things up with (someone else’s) teen pregnancy and a failed suicide somehow fails to deliver. But at the time when Forever was published I’m sure the advice on how not to get pregnant was worthwhile. At least if you were American and middle class.
Boring. The grandmother was OK, and the failed suicide was about the most interesting young character, closely followed by the pregnant teenager.
Today’s teenagers would do better to read Cathy Hopkins, on whether or not to have sex, and they’d get more on friendship, too. Not to mention humour and some action a reader might actually enjoy.
My first time might be my last. But it’s over and done with.