blume, judy; cohn, rachel; or, summer reading #5

I’m nearly done with Plath’s journals, but I needed a break and decided to read some YA I had missed out on. Somehow, when I read nearly all other Judy Blume books, I never read Forever…, the sex book. Then I read Rachel Cohn’s latest, which came out a while ago but I never read, You Know Where to Find Me.

Rachel Cohn’s books have always consistently made me want to write. Like, while I’m reading, I feel desperate to work on whatever it is I’m working on. Gingerbread is a favorite, and Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist is awesome as well. When I was reading this book, I didn’t actually like it as much as her others, but I still felt this need to write, and I was trying to figure out why. I was also trying to figure out why Judy Blume is so awesome, even if now her books read very seventies and seem a little silly (I was very confused when reading Just As Long As We’re Together, because I didn’t understand the whole pad with a belt thing).

My conclusion is this: Rachel Cohn’s voice in her novels is always fabulously teenager-y. Smart teenager-y. I’m thinking that if you’re not very smart, you will probably find her books boring or hard to follow. And this latest book was a bit more boring, just because I don’t particularly love books about people dealing with death. I also love that she writes about big issues (Cyd Charisse in Gingerbread has an abortion, Miles’ cousin in You Know Where to Find Me has just committed suicide, and Miles loves taking Percoset and other pills) but also keeps in mind that a lot of the time, those big issues aren’t even the biggest, and other things, like body image, friendships, crushes, etc, are still profoundly important when you’re 17. I also appreciate that her books aren’t PSAs about any of these things. Yes, people make mistakes and learn from them, because that’s been a pretty foolproof formula for novels for years. BUT not everything ends up perfectly. She’s not Sarah Dessen, which I really appreciate. At the end of this latest book, Miles is still overweight, still not sure if she’s going to quit smoking, and still has an unrequited crush on her best friend. She has learned and resolved other issues, but not everything is coming up roses. AND as if that weren’t awesome enough, Rachel Cohn’s characters are “multicultural” without really trying (take notes, all authors everywhere) and she manages to stick in politics without being annoying. Though that could just be because I agree with her politics. 😉

And now onto Judy Blume. She’s kind of like the original Rachel Cohn, except her books are really more like children’s books, except for younger teens and about younger and older ones. Definitely her formula is more like a children’s book. But she does some awesome things, like have incredible audacity (or something) to talk about periods, masturbating, and sex. In Forever…, she describes the character’s boyfriend’s penis (nicknamed Ralph) and giving him a hand job. Even I was almost embarrassed to be reading this book. I also like that Blume can insert a certain amount of “multiculturalism” in her books. Maybe because they were written in the seventies, characters aren’t really that diverse ethnically, but she does describe characters and give interesting family histories that can teach you about American history, like how in this book she describes how a character’s last name came to be when it was mispronounced at Ellis Island. Little things like that in books I appreciate.

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