"I watched her until the lights went out…." or Then Again Maybe I Won’t

Happy Banned Books Week everyone! It’s my favorite time of the year. When I get to pester people to no end about the scourge of censorship in American Libraries. The ALA (American Library Association) has lists each year of books that had been challenged the most. Go to the ALA’s website to check it out. Or you can check out the Freedom to Read Foundation for more information about censorship. Our right to access ideas and intellectual information is sacred AND it’s protected by the U.S. Constitution! So don’t just sit there: sit there and read a challenged book forgodssake. I just did:

Then Again Maybe I Won’t. OK, it hasn’t been on the challenged list much recently. But it’s been there. Because how dare we read about a boy having wet dreams, right?

This book is told from the POV of thirteen year old Tony Miglione, who’s from a working-class family in Jersey City. Tony has an older brother, Ralph, who is a social studies teacher and a sister-in-law (Angie) who is Ralph’s wife who is studying to be a teacher. Tony also had a brother, Vinnie, who was killed in the Vietnam War. When Angie winds up with an unplanned pregnancy, Tony’s electrician father attempts to patent an invention he’d been working on for years. And he does and he ends up partnering with a huge electronics firm and becomes a plant manager.

The Miglione family will never be the same, as they move out of their working-class neighborhood into Rosemont, a fictional Long Island town filled with mansions and rich people. Tony is horrified to find his parents quickly changing. Tony’s mom particularly becomes obsessed with climbing the social ladder and is quick to turn her nose down at Jersey City. She tries very hard to fit in with the neighbors. Tony also disapproves of Ralph leaving teaching to assist their father in the electronics business, when Ralph is not science-minded the way Vinnie was.

Tony befriends his neighbor, Joel Hoober. Joel has an older sister Lisa, who Tony quickly falls for. Tony’s bedroom window faces Lisa’s and she doesn’t shut the curtains at night when she changes her clothes. So yeah, Tony becomes a bit of a peeping Tom. And by a bit, I mean totally. He even gets binoculars. He also starts having wet dreams and popping boners with no warning, which embarrasses the crap out of him.

Tony also has panic attacks. His friend Joel is a petty shoplifter, and every time Tony catches him at it, he gets doubled over with stomach pain, even sending him to the hospital at one point. Tony begins seeing a shrink (much to the chagrin of his mother) and he learns how to deal with his stresses better.

At the end, Joel is finally caught shoplifting. Tony refuses to defend him to some store security guards, and Joel ends up getting sent to military school. Because his wealthy parents don’t actually parent. They deal with problems by spending money on them.

I know I’ve talked about parents sucking bad in YA novels, and Judy Blume’s especially. (Deenie’s stage-mom, Davey’s mom dating so soon after her husband dies, Margaret’s parents not supporting her search for religion, Stephanie’s parents separating without fucking telling her….) but Oh my god, the Miglione’s take the fucking cake. Mom especially.

  • Tony wants to get a paper route for spending money. But OMG! They’re rich now and mom would be soooo embarrassed to have a son who has to work for money. So Tony gets an allowance. Of $10.00 per week. In 1971. I’m no economist, but I’d bet that $10 in 1971 is equivalent to at least $50 a week now. Egads.
  • She will do whatever Joel’s mom tells her…
  • Like forcing Tony to take piano lessons because Joel does.
  • At the end when Joel’s parents decide to send him to military school, she wants to send Tony. (Tony fights that idea and ends up staying at Rosemont).
  • Her name is Carmella, but she agrees to go by “Carol” to Joel’s mom. Joel’s mom says it’s because Carol is easier to say. But we all know that Carmella is too ethnic.
  • She got a baby-nurse for Ralph and Angie after their daughter was born. Without asking if they’d want it.
  • But the absolute worst thing about her is the way she treats Tony’s grandma who lives with them. Tony’s grandma was the typical Italian grandma…loves to cook and made huge meals for the whole family every night. When they moved to Rosemont, Tony’s mom found out that most people have a hired housekeeper/cook. So she hires one, then insists that Grandma not cook anymore. Grandma becomes a shut-in, refusing to come out of her room for the entire remaining book (save for one trip to Vinnie’s grave on Veteran’s Day). Tony knows that Grandma hates being replaced by someone who isn’t as good a cook, but Mom refuses to see it that way, and only worries about what the neighbors would say if they knew that Grandma was cooking, not some hired help.

My hatred for Tony’s mom knows no bounds. But Tony is all kinds of awesome.

  • He’s so not taken in by the big houses and swimming pools in Rosemont.
  • He misses Jersey City and his other Italian friends.
  • He realizes his mother is changing for the worse.
  • He’s the only one Grandma will let visit in her room.
  • His panic attacks are signs of an actual conscience.
  • He didn’t become a total dick like his friend Joel. Though they did break in to the Hoober liquor cabinet together and get wasted one night.
  • He’s a kid, so I don’t fault him for the liquor thing, or for the constant horniness. (Though he shouldn’t be peeping on Lisa!)

My next post will be all about the National Book Festival which I attended this past weekend. And what I learned when I met Judy Blume! Also, will be announcing a new giveaway thanks to two lovely ladies from Oregon (who may be reading this) I met in the Judy Blume signing line. Just give me a few days to gather my thoughts and get the post completed! Pictures will be included!


About nikkihb

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

7 Responses to "I watched her until the lights went out…." or Then Again Maybe I Won’t

  1. Sadako says:

    Oh I agree, I hated Tony's mom so much. So what if Grandma cooked? She liked doing it and she was awesome at it.I haven't read this in so long–I don't remember it as well as I do the female protagonist books. But I did like Tony. I think this book was a lot more eye opening b/c of the whole boners 'n wet dreams thing which freaked me out. I was all, "Boys have puberty issues too?! Gadzooks."The one detail that stays with me (besides Tony's klepto friend getting caught and selling Tony out) is Tony being upset that Lisa smokes. And at one point he tells her that his grandmother has emphysema and she's like, "Did she smoke?" and Tony goes, "Yup," even though Grandma never smoked, it was just one of those things that happened.

  2. Jennalee says:

    This book really upset me with the whole grandma thing. It really got to me how fucking horrible his parents were to his grandma and she couldn't do anything about it.Ugh.LOL Peeping tom Tony geez. LOL

  3. You're totally right about the parents in Judy Blume books. Most of them seem to be completely awful.Speaking of banned Judy Blume books, remember Forever? I seem to recall it getting passed around a lot in elementary school or maybe middle school.

  4. nikki says:

    Co90's – I recapped forever several months ago. Maybe December or January? Yes, that was one I dog-eared and passed around to all my friends, LOL. Sadako-When I was a kid, I liked the female protags better also. But re-reading them, I'm finding a new appreciation for boy protags. (Maybe because I have a son and not a daughter??)Jennalee-Yes the grandma thing = awful.

  5. ryno says:

    Although you make some very good points about the book, your “hatred” for Tonys folks is disturbing. There aren’t any parents out there with an instruction manual, as most have to figure it out on the fly. Not sure if you have kids yourself but I guarantee you that you will make mistakes as well, possibly some BIG ones! The best thing we can all do is learn from our parents mistakes and do what we can not to repeat them with our own kids. That will not happen if you do not forgive your parents. They are flawed, just like me.

    • nikkihb says:

      Really? My hatred for fictional characters is disturbing? I thought it was a reasonable response to seeing terrible people portrayed in fiction.

      I have two kids (I talk about them frequently in my posts) and I know full well no one is perfect, and that I’m not doing a perfect job of parenting. But I don’t put material goods above the happiness and well-being of my kids. Doing so makes you a bad parent, period. The other Judy Blume parents are often flawed, but still all right people. Tony’s parents are not only bad parents, they’re well beyond flawed individuals.

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