In honor of Banned Books Week, I am going to attempt to post a book review every day this week on books that have been banned or challenged. If you are not familiar with Banned Books Week, let me enlighten you. It is an annual campaign that draws attention to banned/challenged books and celebrates the freedom to read. In other words, it is a campaign against censorship. You can read more about it here and here.
To start out the week, I would like to begin with Forever… by Judy Blume, a YA literary classic.
Review: This novel is all about first loves—specifically, that of high schoolers Katherine and Michael. The two meet at a party and they just click. They begin dating the following day. As their relationship grows, things begin to move into the realm of serious relationships and they eventually engage in sexual activity. But all is not well in the lives of Katherine and Michael. Their mutual friend, and the boyfriend of Katherine’s friend Erica, attempts suicide and is hospitalized. Michael and Erica take this event very hard and this puts a strain on Michael and Katherine’s relationship. As their senior year closes, Michael and Katherine develop a plan which will allow them to be together through college, but they must spend their summer apart. Katherine is forced attend a summer camp as a tennis co-instructor. Will her relationship with Michael last the stress of a summer apart? You’ll have to read it to find out.
Judy Blume is a literary giant. She has many well-known books tied to her name, including: Are you there, God? It’s me, Margaret, Here’s to you Rachel Robinson, Tiger Eyes, just to name a few. She does a wonderful job of publishing books about highly relatable issues. She brilliantly crafts this novel from the perspective of a naïve high school student in love for the first time. Looking back on my high school years, I could absolutely relate to Katherine in so many ways.
Audience: This book is appropriate for teens in grades 10-12, with high maturity levels. It contains some references to sexual intercourse, masturbation, drug use, depression, and attempted-suicide. These topics might be a bit much for younger or less-mature readers. My recommendation here should not be misinterpreted as censorship. If a teen younger than 10th grade wanted to read this book, I would not stop him/her. It is their right, their freedom, to do so. My recommendation here (and in all of my reviews) only reflects the age group of teens I would feel comfortable handing the book to. Therein lies the distinction.
Personal Reaction: I have to be quite honest, this book is not within the realm of books I would typically choose for my own reading. With that said, I am glad I had the chance to read it. I was absorbed in the plot; I identified with the characters; and, I felt the book was quite realistic. I can also see why it has been met with some opposition (see below for reasons for banning). I, personally, have no objection to teens reading about sex. Come on people, this is the 21st century! I think that everyone has a right to read what they deem appropriate for themselves. The 70s were a time of sexual freedom—smack dab in the center of the sexual revolution—so it is not shocking that this book would contain some elements of that. My only gripe is that I really did not enjoy that every reference to Michael’s penis was by name, “Ralph.” Maybe it speaks to the couple’s youthfulness, but I found it somewhat distracting.
Just a few reasons Forever… has been banned/challenged:
- Frequency of sexual activity and sexual descriptions
- Use of curse words
- Does not promote abstinence
- Demoralized marital sex and monogamous relationships
- Characters are disobedience to parents
- Talks about masturbation, birth control, sexuality
- Contains sexual passages inappropriate for young people
Themes: Realistic fiction, coming of age, family, friendship, death, sexuality, masturbation, mental health, suicide, teen sex, virginity, banned books
Check back tomorrow for another banned book review!