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A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this book.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that this book is often challenged and even banned because of its depictions of teen sex. But it remains one of the best ways of discussing this very sensitive subject with your very sensitive teens. It deals frankly and responsibly with tough questions. Katherine has sex with her boyfriend, talks frankly about his penis, visits Planned Parenthood to get birth control pills, and discusses sex with her mother, grandmother, and best friend. She also deals with other adult issues: Michael's best friend tries to hang himself; another character, who has had many sexual partners, gets pregnant and has a baby; and Katherine's grandfather dies. There's some drinking, and some characters smoke marijuana. Readers who are mature enough for the content will find a very realistic portrayal of first love -- and a thoughtful protagonist who considers carefully before deciding to enter a sexual relationship. There are plenty of opportunities for parents to use this book to talk about their own values about sex, birth control, teen pregnancy, and more.
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What's the story?
Katherine is a high school senior when she meets -- and quickly falls in love with -- Michael. Her parents grow concerned about how much time they're spending together -- and it's true that they're together whenever possible. Soon they even begin a sexual relationship. But with high school ending -- and grown-up problems just beginning -- will their young love be able to last?
Is it any good?
This classic from the '70s may seem tame compared with some of today's young adult literature, but readers will still appreciate Judy Blume's honest depiction of young love. Some of the language is dated, but Katherine and Michael are both believable characters. While there are depictions of sex, there's a lot more here, too. Not only do Katherine and Michael have a real relationship, but Katherine is thoughtful about her decision to have sex.
Katherine has some open conversations, including one in which her mother tells her: "Sex is a commitment ... once you're there you can't go back to holding hands." Blume opens newer editions of the book reminding readers that things have changed since she wrote FOREVER: "Today, sexual responsibility also means preventing sexually transmitted diseases, including AIDS which can kill you." Whatever your family's values, you can use Forever to start many conversations with your kids, from your own beliefs about premarital sex to your thoughts about book censorship.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about why this book is considered controversial. It was ranked as the eighth most-challenged book in the 1990s, according to the American Library Association. Why do some adults think teens can't handle the material in the book? What do kids think their parents worry about?
This book was written in the '70s -- how have attitudes about teens and sex continued to change since then? What causes these changes in attitudes? Is it media or something else? Do you think today's teens feel pressured to have sex earlier than their parents?
What do you think of Katherine's parents' attitudes toward dating and sex? This conversation might provide a good opportunity to discuss your own values.
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