Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Then Again, Maybe I Won't by Judy Blume (1971)


I just finished The Catcher in the Rye, and reviewed it with a statement that the kids in Judy Blume are all the nieces and nephews of Holden Caulfield.  I'm right too.  I just finished Then Again Maybe I Won't, which took me all of 30 minutes to read.  Here is my evidence.  Exhibit A:  Angst and isolation.  How awful and different it is to be 13.  Exhibit B:  Much obsession about sex.  Exhibit C:  Phoneys.  Lots of phoneys.

Judy Blume now makes me vaguely nervous to re-read, because I always know that there is some point in the book that made me feel creepy or gross or terrible as a kid.  Such as the word "period" in Are You There God, It's Me Margaret.  Or Peter always being embarrassed by his stupid little brother Fudge is such realistic and cringe-worthy ways.  Or Sheila the Great and that stupid slam book - and those gross scabs on whatever her friend's name was (Mouse?  But that's the friend in The Witch's Sister).  And let's face it, Blubber is one long feeling-like-shit book.  And I knew that something in Then Again, Maybe I Won't drove me nuts.  So like all my Blume re-reads, I approached it hesitantly - but I wanted to see how much it was like The Catcher in the Rye.  Guess what - it's not as bad as I remembered.  I guess reading about wet dreams and boners and masturbation as a 12 year old IS probably pretty embarrassing.  Not so much as a grown up.  Even the shoplifting scene, which as I approached it in the book remember being quite a Big Thing seemed sort of flat.  I was more interesting in some of the things I probably missed as a kid or didn't totally understand.  Like his mother trying to "keep up with the Joneses" in such an obvious way.  Or the shitty way they treated his grandmother, who I realized was his mother's mother, not his father's mother.

So Judy Blume is Salinger for what tween set.  That sounds about right.

Something that never occurred to me reading this as a kid:  why DID Lisa change clothes with her shades open unless she wanted people to watch her?

The paperback version I had as a kid (pictured above, looking very seventies); I thought it was pretty creepy looking.  He looks a bit like Robby Benson as a young serial killer.  But the modern paperback, his eyes even look more like Ted Bundy.

Then Again, Maybe I Won'tThen Again, Maybe I Won't by Judy Blume
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Judy Blume is J.D. Salinger for the tween set.  Like The Catcher in the Rye, Then Again Maybe I Won't has the same elements, just a younger protagonist.  Exhibit A:  Angst and isolation; it's lonely being a 13 year old boy.  Exhibit B:  obsessed with sex; at least Holden Caulfield, as creepy as he was, wasn't a peeping tom.  Exhibit C:  Phoneys.  Lots of phoneys.  I always approach Judy Blume cautiously, because I know as a kid whenever I read her books, something happened that made me feel weird or gross or guilty about something.  Are You There God? It's Me, Margaret had the word "period" (among many, many other things).  Superfudge had the many realistic and cringeworthy scenes of crap Fudge torments Peter with.  Otherwise Known as Sheila the Great had that damn slam book. Blubber is just one big story of feeling like shit and remembering every single person you ever bullied or didn't help who was being bullied.  Then Again Maybe I Won't has boners, wet dreams,masturbation, embarrassing stuff for a fifth grade reader.  As a grown up reader, what was far more interesting - and cringeworthy - was the commentary on class, and the need for Tony's mother to fit in with all her neighbors (the same thing her son was trying to figure out in junior high).  That was too subtle for me way back in fifth grade; there was actually some depth here and not just pedantry or shock value. That was a fun discovery, and really made this re-read well worth my time.  

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