‘Sybil Davison has a genius I.Q. and has been laid by at least six different guys. She told me herself, the last time she was visiting her cousin, Erica, who is my good friend. Erica says this is because of Sybil’s fat problem and her need to feel loved…’
So begins the candid opening chapter of ‘Forever’ by Judy Blume. What follows is an honest and heartfelt account by the protagonist, Katherine, of her first real relationship with a boy, and the love that they both declare is forever.
Her frank observations about her own feelings and experiences, and that of her friends and family, form a novel which deals thoughtfully and with genuine curiosity about a whole range of issues facing young people; family relationships, love, depression, periods, contraception, inexplicable attraction, promiscuity, death, pregnancy and heartbreak.
The surprise is not that this slim book is both enjoyable and powerful at once, as it has been written by Judy Blume, a time-tested craftswoman of childhood/young adult tales, but rather that it was written in the 1970’s.
After picking up a copy with a brand new design it did not occur to me until afterwards that this was the case. A tale so universal and relevant with that heady cocktail of young love and hormones it has a strong relatable character who transcends being limited to a particular era in modern western culture. Perhaps the use of house telephones and the postal service should have been a hint regarding the decade of its origin, but these felt like deliberate choices by the characters; writing love letters is romantic after all.
After the slightly unexpected conclusion it becomes clear that the real strength of the novel is the message that everyone makes mistakes, and Blume seems to be saying ‘that’s ok, that’s life’.
Reminiscent of ‘The fault in our stars’ and ‘Ketchup clouds’ in that the reader is following the very real perspective of a young woman discovering her world and making sense of the problems that she faces, this slender volume matches up well to its contemporary counterparts and is as timeless as the title suggests.