Friday, July 18, 2014

Just As Long As We're Together - Judy Blume

Summary:  Rachel is Stephanie's best friend. Since second grade, they've shared secrets, good and bad. Now in seventh grade, Alison moves into the neighborhood. Stephanie hopes all three of them can be best friends, because Stephanie really likes Alison. But it looks as if it's going to be a case of two's company and three's a crowd. Can the girls' friendship be saved? (Summary from Amazon.com and image from www.listennj.com)

My Review:  This was a reread for me. I remember reading this as a young adult, but the story was so vague it was like reading it for the first time again.  Judy Blume has a way of writing that is not bound by time.  What was real for teens 15-25 years ago is still the same angst and frustration that teens have now.  Her characters have such strong voice, distinct personalities, and have erratic enough actions that they truly feel real.  And for a teenage girl looking for validation and acceptance through a book, this is priceless. 

Stephanie is an interesting character.  She manages to be witty and bitingly funny, but at the same time lacks serious intra-personal skills.  She seems to understand those around her and their motives, but hardly her own.  Or maybe that's the reverse.  Maybe she understands herself perfectly, but cannot relate to those around her enough to function.  And her friend Rachel is a perfect complement to her dysfunctional relationship skills.  Both are so smart, both are so caring, but they can't seem to communicate with each other when they need it most.  And isn't this true to form for teens?  It seems when you need your friends the most, you're often in a heated conflict.  And this is how isolating and traumatizing teenage years unfold. 

Alison is an interesting twist to the story.  While she adds a layer of '3's a crowd' to the story, she is probably the least believable character in the book.  At least for someone who doesn't live in LA or near NY.  But what makes the story meld so well, is how these types of conflicts--both inner and with each other--are universal for teenage girls. 

This is definitely a book I wouldn't recommend to a 6th grader, but for those who have children or students struggling with divorce and tumultuous friendships, this may be the right fit.

For the sensitive reader:  There is a lot of talk about periods, it mentions divorce and cheating parents, hints at speculations of teenage promiscuity, and some swearing.  It is probably obvious, but there is also realistic teenage disdain for parents--meaning, there's lots of attitude.

Rating: 3 Stars

Sum it up:  A coming of age story for what seems is now a typical teenage girl.

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