I was fourteen when copies of Judy Blume’s Forever began to circulate among the girls in my class, who all seemed to have decided at the same time that they wanted to read this book now. Never one to be left behind, I decided I’d have to read it too. I wasn’t sure why, but hey - I’d enjoyed Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing. My BFF, ever loyal, promised I could borrow her library copy before it was due back, in exchange for my mortal soul (or the latest Francine Pascal, whichever). And then she clued me in: Forever was a book about 'doing it'. Okaaay. Did I want to read a book about doing it? Not especially. But everybody else was doing it - I mean, reading about doing it - so I figured I should.
What I found was a novel that somehow managed to tread a perfectly fine line in its depiction of heroine Katherine’s first love: always frank, never straying into transparently preachy or worryingly irresponsible. It answered all the questions that I didn’t want to ask my mother, in pretty much the way that my mother would have wanted them answered. It also clarified for me that at fourteen, I did not want to be Katherine. Not for quite some time. If ever.
So, the reread. Here's the thing: it wasn't what I expected. I was surprised to find that I just don’t like the dynamic of Katherine and Michael’s relationship, and that's a major stumbling block. Michael is the more experienced of the two, and although he does pretty well at respecting Katherine’s initial decision to wait until she’s ready, he does eventually start to pester her a little - and on one occasion pesters into going further than she says she wants to. Katherine is certainly not portrayed as regretting what happens, and I’m inclined to think that the pestering / relenting is really about expected gender roles in the seventies, when Forever was written. Still, I just don’t like it. And since it’s hard to love this book without investing in the love between Katherine and Michael, the reread fell flat for me.
On the other hand, there are some awesome aspects of Forever that I'd completely forgotten about. Katherine's genius little sister, a talented artist and chef, is definitely my favourite character. I also loved the fact that Katherine's grandmother sends her a bunch of informational leaflets about staying safe and making responsible decisions. And yep, Katherine and Michael meet at a fondue party. A goddamn fondue party. How seventies is that?
Verdict: Yep, I feel let down. But it's my own fault. If Forever has a message, it's that your first love probably won't last forever, and probably shouldn't. No matter how sure you may be that this is the one, you're going to grow and change and meet other