"You can’t go back to holding hands" or Forever

I’ll never look at the name Ralph the same way again….

Negligent blogger here! So I had a really crazy December with the holidays, a sick husband, losing a babysitter (but luckily finding a great replacement!), etc. Not that you all care to hear my lame excuses. But I swear I will try to get back to doing 3-4 REAL review postings per month.
Ah…how I love Forever. Technically, the title is Forever…..(with the …., which I think is called an elipse). This book is FULL of elipses, which is probably the most annoying thing about the book. Like, here is an actual quote from the book: “Well….I really meant it…it’s not just the sex thing….that’s part of it…but it’s more than that…you know?” The whole freaking book is written like that too! With all those elipses between fragments or sentences or what have you.
This book is about a girl losing her virginity. Really, it’s pretty thin on plot, but who needs plot when there is all this sex to read about???? Forever…. is told from the point of view of Katherine Danziger, a high school senior. She is at a New Year’s Eve party with her BFF Erica, at Erica’s cousin, Sybil’s house. Katherine meets Michael Wagner and they immediatley have a connection. They start dating, and see each other all the time (they go to different schools). No sex in the beginning, but there is lots of making out in Katherine’s parent’s den.
Michael and Katherine often get together with Erica and Michael’s friend, Artie. Artie is a drama-nerd, but has some problems in the ladies department. He might be gay, it’s never quite said for sure. But Erica remains pretty interested in him throughout the book. After several weeks of dating, Michael invites Katherine to go on a ski weekend (Michael’s an avid skier) with him, his sister and her husband. Katherine is all about going, but her parents aren’t so sure. They say that skiing is dangerous. But, as Erica points out, Katherine’s dad is more worried about her breaking her cherry rather than her leg. (And there is where I learned what the phrase, breaking her cherry meant!) Her parents relent, after talking to Michael’s sister and Katherine gets her ski weekend with Michael.
Still no sex during the ski weekend. But they did exchange their first “I love you”s. Oh, and Katherine did give Michael a hand job. Michael named his penis Ralph. Which is what I meant in the very first sentence of this post. Erica is very impressed, and possibly disappointed, that Katherine returned for her weekend still a virgin. Katherine has a heart to heart with her mom about sex, and is quite sure that her mom has absolutely no idea how much in love she is with Michael. Katherine’s parents like Michael, but they are concerned with how serious she is with a boy at her age.
One weekend, Michael’s sister is off skiing and leaves Michael with a house key so he can water her plants. So……guess what happens in Michael’s sister’s house? Yeah, the sex finally happens. Michael thinks it’s odd that Katherine wants him to rubber up, because he doesn’t have VD (anymore) and didn’t she just finish her period? Gah! Casual sex in the pre-AIDS era, I never knew ye. It’s Katherine’s first time, so naturally it’s no good.
Katherine’s parents must suspect that something is up, because her mom cuts out an article about Sexual Liberation and the right to say No. Also, Katherine’s Grandma, who is a very hip lady on the board of Planned Parenthood, sends Katherine some Planned Parenthood pamphlets on birth control, VD (that’s STDs to you kids nowadays), and abortion. At first Katherine is angry. Then realizes she’s going in to the city that weekend with Erica. So she calls Planned Parenthood and makes an appointment for herself.
That weekend, Katherine gets on the pill. Then both Katherine and Michael get the flu. But they recuperate and get to have a lot more sex. Which does get better. Erica calls Katherine to tell her that her cousin, Sybil (the one who had the party where Katherine met Michael) is pregs. Evidently she has been pregs since October and is due in July. It’s now April, and she’s just telling people about it. Sybil is fat, so no one noticed a thing. She didn’t want her parents to force her to have an abortion. Both Erica and Katherine agree, that’s probably what they would have done if it was them though.
Katherine’s dad arranges for her to be a tennis instructor at a summer camp in NH. Katherine says no way, she isn’t going to be away from Michael for the whole summer. She is convinced that her dad is doing this to put a rift between her and Michael. But her dad is friends with the director of the camp and already promised him Katherine would do it. She breaks the news to Michael, who admits that he got a job with an uncle in NC for the summer anyway. They are both so heartbroken.
Right before high school graduation, Michael’s best friend, Artie tried to kill himself and he’s sent to a psych hospital. Both Michael and Erica blames themselves and get completely shitfaced at a bar (drinking age was 18 back then). It was on Michael’s birthday, and Katherine is furious to have to take care of him like that. Then Sybil has a baby girl, who she gives up for adoption.
Katherine leaves for camp and Michael leaves for NC. They write each other cheeful letters. There is another counselor at the camp, Theo, who keeps eyeballing Katherine. But she insists she is committed to Michael. But then she has a sex dream about Theo and is all confused. Katherine’s grandfather dies, and in her On her night off, he takes her to a hotel, but he can tell something isn’t quite right. She admits to being confused, but Michael isn’t going to wait for her to figure things out. So they break up.
Back home, after the summer, the phone rings. It’s Theo.
  • When I read this book the first time, I was maybe 13 years old. I thought the sex scenes were pretty hot and heavy. So I was surprised by how sweet and sentimental, and actually pretty clean they were.
  • Also, when I first read it, I hid it from my mom. I didn’t want her to disapprove of me reading a sexy book. But just a couple weeks ago, I mentioned that I bought it and she told me that was one of our books that she never read! No need to for me to have hidden it way back then.
  • Sybil says that she hopes the adoptive parents of her baby name her Jennifer. This book was published in 1975, so there’s a damn good chance that they did!
  • At Planned Parenthood, Katherine gets strong-armed into getting tested for gonorhhea. Let me tell you, that’s EXACTLY how it is there. I used to get my birth control pills at PP and they basically won’t leave the room until you agree to the gonorhhea test. And frankly, who is up to arguing when all you’re wearing is a paper sheet? It’s a good thing I guess, but I was 100% confident that I didn’t need it.
  • This book is constantly challenged by religous and other right-wing groups to get it off of library shelves. Which is too bad really, it’s a nice book. And although Katherine doesn’t face any “real” consequences of having sex (i.e. pregnancy or VD), she does kind of rush in to it high on what she thinks is love. Also, I think it’s a pretty acurate portrayal of teen-think.
  • Katherine is really convinced her dad got her this summer job to break her and Michael up. But really, she is going away to college (Denver) in three months, while Michael is going to Vermont. I think he would have just been able to wait the three months out if that really was his dastardly plan.
  • Katherine earns a whopping $350 for the WHOLE summer for being a camp counselor. I was -2 (yes, that’s negative two) in 1975….but even by those standards, that seems kind of low. Or is it? Anyone able to figure out rates of inflation here?? Anyone….anyone???
  • The cover I posted here is the cover I grew up with. But the one I just bought has an updated cover, which I can’t even find a picture of online. I like the old one better, even if Katherine looks creepy in that picture. It’s very 1970’s, and this whole book has an incredibly 1970’s vibe to it.
  • When I was a kid, I was absolutely heartbroken that Katherine and Michael broke up. Now I realize, that was the right way to end the book.

About nikkihb

Wife. Mother. Reader. Blogger.
This entry was posted in Judy Blume, teen sex. Bookmark the permalink.

11 Responses to "You can’t go back to holding hands" or Forever

  1. Wendy says:

    Camp counselors don’t earn that much now either… a good salary for a first time counselor would be around $2000 for the summer. Often less.

  2. Cat says:

    I got in sooo much trouble for having this book on me at Catholic school. Granted, I was in the seventh grade … funny how this was sooo taboo but I could read Tom Clancy and Anne Rice with impunity. Notarity is a curious thing.

  3. BananaBomb says:

    I love this book! It was loaned to me on the sly, but I didn’t read it for like a year. When I did, I thought, WHY didn’t I read this earlier?? BTW, I never gave it back.

  4. Kathryn says:

    This was my first sex book too! I remember thinking how racy it was and then writing my own terrible rip off teen novel about virginity loss. It was embarassing.

  5. Oh, Forever. Somehow I never read it as a kid, but I did read it a couple of years ago for the sake of curiousity, and I felt my brain cells dying.I wish I’d found it in high school…mainly so we could’ve dogeared the pages with the dirty parts, passed the book around and giggled like crazy. But we had dirty internet fanfic by then anyway, so I guess we really didn’t need it 🙂

  6. Sada says:

    I read this in sixth grade, then dog-eared all of the “sexy” passages so my friends wouldn’t have to waste their time with anything else.We thought that maybe ALL boys had names for their penises. I’m so glad that’s not true. Unfortunately, my grandpa’s name is Ralph, so… um… yeah. Ewwwwwwwwww times a million.

  7. Anonymous says:

    I see. Confused Catholic girl is confused. I just had a (one-sided) argument with a classmate (I’m in college) about BC and how it can be bad for the environment. I’m an environment freak and it can get into streams through urine. I didn’t mention religion but this girl who knows I’m Catholic totally scoffed. I defended the frogs, but when she said, “is this a religious thing?” I sat there like an idiot. Lols. VD? I guess that’s veneral disease! Margaret would be shocked. If Teen Softies were uncomfortable to talk about…

  8. Mellz Bellz says:

    Ahh… Forever… I first read this book in 6th grade and yea… Totally took care of the awkward sex talk parents dread. I joke around and say this book taught me all that I needed to know about sex. I only reread it once afterwards as an older teen. I should pick up a copy again and read it from the perspective of someone older.And I still giggle everytime I hear the name Ralph too… LOL

  9. Juliette says:

    Funny story: I read that in school once and was forced to read it out loud because I was reading after a quiz. I had to read the part where Ralph and Katherine meet… I had fun…

  10. Pingback: “Our toothbrushes together….” Or, Someone to Love | Are You There Youth? It's Me, Nikki

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