I read Forever by Judy Blume this week. I’ll confess, even when I was a teenager I never was much of a Judy Blume fan. It was a little too real for my preference- I’d rather explore the human condition through aliens and wizards.
The characters in this book are very awkward and real. The book doesn’t preach at teenagers, and there are no serious negative consequences for the characters who do have sex. Katherine doesn’t end up bleeding to death from an illegal abortion or shamed and cast out by her family and community. Michael isn’t a vile seducer. Sybil will still go to university after her baby is adopted. On the other hand, the sex isn’t perfect and magical and the earth doesn’t move every single time. Katherine and Michael may say they will be together forever, but they don’t get married and they don’t commit suicide a la Romeo and Juliet. The relationship dies a natural death. Artie’s problems aren’t solved by the love of the right girl, he needs proper medical care.
Katherine is presented as being fairly sensible about the need for birth control, particularly for a book written in the mid-seventies. She is very matter-of-fact about not wanting to have sex without some form of birth control, and makes the appointment to go and get the information and the Pill that she needs without much embarrassment or hesitation.
The book is a little outdated, but not terribly so. Blume adds a note in the front to update the information about STDs and condoms. I don’t know how many current teenagers would know who Robert Redford is, and I know that a train ticket costs more than $5, but these are fairly minor things.