Everything I Needed to Know About Being a Girl I Learned from Judy Blume

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Overview

"I wonder if Judy Blume really knows how many girls' lives she affected. I wonder if she knows that at least one of her books made a grown woman finally feel like she'd been a normal girl all along. . . ."

FROM
Everything I Needed to Know About Being a Girl I Learned from
Judy Blume

Whether laughing to tears reading Otherwise Known as Sheila the Great or clamoring for more...

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Overview

"I wonder if Judy Blume really knows how many girls' lives she affected. I wonder if she knows that at least one of her books made a grown woman finally feel like she'd been a normal girl all along. . . ."

FROM
Everything I Needed to Know About Being a Girl I Learned from
Judy Blume

Whether laughing to tears reading Otherwise Known as Sheila the Great or clamoring for more unmistakable "me too!" moments in Are You There God? It's Me, Margaret, girls all over the world have been touched by Judy Blume's poignant coming-of-age stories. Now, in this anthology of essays, twenty-four notable female authors write straight from the heart about the unforgettable novels that left an indelible mark on their childhoods and still influence them today. After growing up from Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing into Smart Women, these writers pay tribute, through their reflections and most cherished memories, to one of the most beloved authors of all time.

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Editorial Reviews

From Barnes & Noble
For millions of American girls growing up, Judy Blume's awkward, self-conscious characters became surrogates, allies, and comforters in their silent struggles. The 24 essays of Everything I Needed to Know about Being a Girl I Learned from Judy Blume honor an unconventional mentor who has entertained readers even as she teaches them. The topics touched here are as wide and deep as Blume's fiction: divorce, bullying, peer pressure, menstruation, weight issues, sibling rivalry, and racism. The contributors include Meg Cabot, Beth Kendrick, Julie Kenner, and Cara Lockwood.
From the Publisher
"From bittersweet to laugh-out-loud hilarious, the essays in this collection all sparkle with charm, style, and wit. No doubt about it, if you grew up reading Judy Blume, you will love this book." — Sarah Mlynowski, author of Bras & Broomsticks and Girls' Night In
Publishers Weekly

This collection of 24 essays edited by O'Connell (Plan B) pays tribute to the influence of Judy Blume and her work about coming-of-age as a girl in America. In each piece, the writer reveals what O'Connell calls her "Judy Blume moment," telling a heartfelt and revealing story that reflects the same social awkwardness and true-to-life experiences Blume conveys in her novels, from menstruation to childhood bullying to masturbation. In "Cry, Linda, Cry," Meg Cabot recalls how Blume's book Blubbertaught her how to laugh at herself, while also giving her the courage to stand up to schoolgirl bullies. Likewise, Stephanie Lessing, in "The One That Got Away," reflects on Blume's It's Not the End of the World, explaining the solace she found in its understanding of what it's like when parents divorce. Readers who similarly found solace and support in Blume's work should relate easily to these writers through the Blumian characters and themes they evoke. Writing in the spirit of Blume, these women present their experiences as a series of personal truths: "girl moments. Woman moments, Human moments." (June)

Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781439102657
  • Publisher: Gallery Books
  • Publication date: 4/14/2009
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Pages: 288
  • Sales rank: 963,490
  • Product dimensions: 5.30 (w) x 8.20 (h) x 0.90 (d)

Meet the Author

Jennifer O'Connell received her BA from Smith College and her MBA from the University of Chicago. She is the author of Insider Dating, Bachelorette #1, Dress Rehearsal, Off the Record, and Plan B. Visit her website at www.jenniferoconnell.com.

Meg Cabot is the author of the #1 New York Times best-sellers All-American Girl and The Princess Diaries series, two of which have been made into major motion pictures by Disney. Meg is also the author of The Mediator series, the Airhead series, and many books for adults. She currently divides her time between Key West and New York City with her husband and one-eyed cat, Henrietta.

Beth Kendrick won the Romance Writers of America's Golden Heart Award for My Favorite Mistake. She has a Ph.D. in psychology and an unshakable devotion to the Chicago Cubs. After surviving too many Minnesota winters, she moved to Arizona, where she is working on her second novel (coming soon from Downtown Press). For more information you can visit the author's website at www.bethkendrick.com.

Julie Kenner's books have hit bestseller lists as varied as USA Today, Waldenbooks, Barnes & Noble, and Locus Magazine; have won numerous awards and have been lauded in industry publications such as Publisher's Weekly and Booksense. Julie writes a broad range of fiction, including sexy and quirky romances, young adult novels, chick lit suspense thrillers and paranormal mommy lit. Visit her online at http://www.juliekenner.com

Cara Lockwood is also the author of I Do (But I Don't), which was made into a Lifetime movie, as well as Pink Slip Party and Dixieland Sushi, and Every Demon Has His Day, all available from Downtown Press. She was born in Dallas, Texas, and earned a Bachelor's degree in English from the University of Pennsylvania. She has worked as a journalist in Austin, and is now married and living in Chicago. Her husband is not a rock star, but he does play the guitar — poorly.

Laura Caldwell, a former trial lawyer, is currently a professor and Distinguished Scholar in Residence at Loyola University Chicago School of Law. She is the author of eleven novels and one non-fiction book. She is a nation-wide speaker and the founder of Life After Innocence, which helps innocent people begin their lives again after being wrongfully imprisoned. Laura has been published in thirteen languages and over twenty countries. To learn more, please visit www.lauracaldwell.com.

Melissa Senate is the author of eight novels, including the bestselling See Jane Date, which was made into an ABC Family TV movie and has sold over 200,000 copies worldwide. She's published short pieces in Everything I've Always Wanted to Know About Being a Girl I Learned from Judy Blume, It's a Wonderful Lie, Flirting with Pride and Prejudice, and American Girls About Town. A former romance and young adult editor from New York, she now lives on the southern coast of Maine with her son.

Kayla Perrin has been writing since the age of thirteen. She is a USA TODAY and Essence bestselling author of dozens of mainstream and romance novels and has been recognized for her talent, including twice winning Romance Writers of America’s Top Ten Favorite Books of the Year Award. She has also won the Career Achievement Award for multicultural romance from RT Book Reviews. Kayla lives with her daughter in Ontario, Canada. Visit her at www.KaylaPerrin.com.

Kyra Davis is the New York Times bestselling author of Just One Night, the Pure Sin series, the critically acclaimed Sophie Katz mystery series, and the novel So Much for My Happy Ending. Now a full-time author and television writer, Kyra lives in the Los Angeles area with her son, their leopard gecko, and their lovably quirky Labrador, Sophie Dogz. Visit her online at KyraDavis.com or follow her @_KyraDavis.

Elise Juska's short stories have appeared in many magazines, including The Hudson Review, Harvard Review, Salmagundi, Black Warrior Review, Calyx, and The Seattle Review. She teaches fiction writing at The New School in New York City and The University of the Arts in Philadelphia. Her first novel, Getting Over Jack Wagner, is available from Downtown Press.
Visit the author's website: www.elisejuska.com.

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Read an Excerpt

Then. Now. Forever...
Megan McCafferty

Then

You can't blame Mrs. Henderson for giving her daughter a copy of Forever on her eleventh birthday. Like all of us in Girl Scout Troop 196, Kim was a die-hard Judy Blume fan. Of course, I prided myself on being the most avid admirer of all, the only one in our troop to have read every Judy Blume book available in the Bayville Elementary School library, from Are You There God? It's Me, Margaret to Then Again, Maybe I Won't. So as I watched Kim tear open the Smurf wrapping paper to reveal a previously unheard-of novel by my favorite author — one that promised a timeless teenage love story on its cover — I became instantly and insanely jealous.

And that was before I learned that Forever was The Sex Book.

This discovery didn't take long, as I had taken it upon myself to "hold on" to the book as Kim opened up other gifts. I feigned interest in her new Duran Duran cassette, the assortment of rainbow ribbon barrettes, even the Cabbage Patch doll named Annalisa Marie. My fascination with the book and disinterest in the birthday loot deepened, until I was finally able to usher Kim and the rest of the guests upstairs to her bedroom.

"Listen to this," I whispered as I went on to read the book's notorious first sentence, about a girl genius named Sybil who had "been laid by at least six different guys." Been laid! In the first sentence! Could this be the same Judy Blume I knew and loved? I wondered what was more stunning: The sex or its source? It was a far cry from the bust enhancement exercises in Margaret or even the wet dreams in...Maybe I Won't.

With the provocative opening as incentive, Kim, the other girls, and I bounced up and down on the frilly pink canopy bed, each taking turns skimming through the book, trying to outdo each other with the discovery of another dirty passage. Page 20: Michael tried to unhook Katherine's bra. Page 25: Michael felt her up under her sweater, then fumbled on the snap of her jeans. Page 40: Katherine's eleven-year-old sister accused her of "fucking" Michael in her bedroom!

Our fingers flew over page after page, only stopping when we hit a word such as "sex," "sexy," "moans," "penis," "sex," or "sex." Not surprisingly, we gave ourselves away. Mrs. Henderson — alerted by our eardrum-cracking shrieks — came through Kim's door, demanding to know the source of our hysterics. Mrs. Henderson was a divorcée, the neighborhood Avon lady, and our acting troop leader. She favored pearly pink lipstick, acid-washed jeans, and brassy hair teased to Jersey perfection — a combination of artistry and products that I admired and never mastered. We all loved Mrs. Henderson and copped to the book's carnal content just as quickly as she removed it from Kim's clutches. She must have known that Troop 196 viewed her as being more hip and progressive than the other moms, so rather than merely banning Forever from our fourth-grade social circle, Mrs. Henderson told all our mothers that she would be happy to lend it to anyone in the troop, if they gave written parental permission.

My mother, of course, flatly refused. Though she didn't seem that different from Mrs. Henderson on the outside — she, too, wore jeans and rarely left the house without applying mascara or "hot rollering" her highlighted blonde hair — she was, at heart, the result of sixteen years of Catholic education.

"Mooooooooom," I whined as she prepared that night's dinner, something involving red meat and a few token vegetables in a crock pot. "Why can't I read it?"

"It's not appropriate for a ten-year-old," she replied without looking away from the flesh on the cutting board.

"I'm almost eleven!" My birthday was, in fact, a week after Kim's.

"It's not appropriate for an eleven-year-old!" she said, slicing down the blade. "I'm not sure it's appropriate for anyone at all!"

"Mooooooooom."

"Megan Beth, if you want to know about..." She hesitated here, waving her knife in the air. "That sort of thing...you should ask me."

This was a horrifying and altogether impossible proposition. Who wanted to talk to her mom about that sort of thing? But my mother had invoked my middle name, so I knew better than to continue my fight. Fortunately, all my years as a precocious book lover had paid off. Reading comprehension was my strong suit, so even though I'd only skimmed the book, I got the gist of the whole plot: Katherine and Michael were seniors in high school. They met. They fell in love. And they had sex.

Some crucial details I committed to memory and could still recall twenty-one years later:

1. Michael named his penis Ralph (page 73).

2. Michael "came" too soon, before they got a chance to do it (page 100. I had only the vaguest idea what that meant. Something came out of him? Like pee? And why would that stop them from doing it?)

3. Michael devirginized Katherine on a multicolored rug because her blood could have stained the bedsheets (page 101).

After Kim's sleepover, Forever turned into a game I played alone in my bedroom. Katherine (my Brooke Shields doll) made love with Michael (Ken) in an empty tissue-box bed. Pre-Forever, making love had meant sleeping in a bed naked with someone. Very little effort involved. Post-Forever, I pretended that Ralph was hidden inside Brooke-as-Katherine. Of course, Ken-as-Michael didn't have a penis, and his anatomical incorrectness suited my fantasies just fine. I still wasn't sure what a penis looked like, having only glimpsed at my baby brother's teeny unit as my mother changed his diaper, but I was simultaneously enthralled and repelled by the idea of seeing one. My nascent pangs of lust left me confused and queasy, similar to the nausea I felt whenever I tried to read a book in the backseat of a moving car.

Later that spring, Troop 196 earned points toward community service badges by cleaning up a local beach. After a heated argument in Mrs. Henderson's minivan over one pop star's supremacy (Cyndi Lauper vs. Madonna was a popular debate at the time, and I was always in the minority opinion), the other girls piled out of the van together singing "Girls Just Wanna Have Fun" louder than necessary as I stomped off to a more secluded area to work by myself. I stuffed my trash bag in defiance, silently mouthing the lyrics to my favorite song. Like a virgin. (Hee!) Touched for the very first time...

It was almost time to head back when I discovered a tattered copy of Playgirl hidden among the bottle caps and cigarette butts in the dune grass. The centerfold was miraculously intact. The model was in full-on hair-band mode, wearing a black leather studded jacket and nothing else. He was posed in front of a microphone, head thrown back, eyes shut tight as if he were belting out a power ballad...or on the verge of splooging all over the stage. His ginormous penis was obviously impressed with the performance, as it was in the throes of a standing ovation.

Even at eleven years old, this whole setup struck me as absurd. I mean, what would possess this guy to perform in a leather jacket and no pants? Duh. It made me wonder how Katherine could possibly look at Ralph-the-Penis without cracking up. How could she get hot and bothered by the idea of that...that...thing poking around inside her? It made no sense.

As unsexy as it was, I had no doubt that my fellow Scouts would take a prurient interest in the centerfold. My find could catapult me into popularity, if only for the rest of the afternoon. But I also knew if Mrs. Henderson found out and told my mom, the possession of pornographic materials would surely lead to a major grounding. My parents would be appalled, but my peers would be impressed. It was the virgin/whore, Cyndi/Madonna conundrum, and in this case, the good girl in me won out. I stuffed the Playgirl pages deep in my trash bag and didn't say another word about them.

Not long after that mystifying first introduction to the male genitalia, my mom took it upon herself to educate me in that sort of thing. She brought me across the street to my best friend Adrienne's house, which to this day remains the most orderly and pristine place I have ever visited. If Adrienne or her mom ever wore jeans, they were of the starched-stiff, high-waisted variety that could be subcategorized as slacks within the taxonomy of denim. We sat on the plump couch. Me, slumped and skeptical. Adrienne, respectful and ramrod straight like the ballet dancer she was. Together, in their darkened, dust-free family room, we watched a very special filmstrip borrowed from the middle school health class I would take two years later.

The mere mention of the word "filmstrip" hopelessly dates me, I know. As a brief primer for those who have come of age in the digital era, a filmstrip entertained and informed one boring picture at a time, with a breathy narrator on a cassette tape going on at length about the subject represented by each still frame. When the anonymous speaker finished her oration, the cassette would signal the need to manually forward the reel to the next boring picture with a mechanical-sounding BOOOOOP!

A diagram of the female reproductive system. BOOOOOP! A bottle of douche with a red slash warning that it is not a valid method of birth control. BOOOOOP! A grinning girl running rapturously through a field of wildflowers feeling so free and April fresh...ummm...because she has just used the douche for nonbirth-control purposes? BOOOOOP! This last image was particularly striking. I had just branched out of the Blume canon to read Go Ask Alice, and it seemed more likely to me that this girl was having some sort of acid freak-out and was not, as the voice-over implied, simply carried away by the joys of reproductive maturation.

It was this primitive form of audiovisual infotainment that taught me all about the 3 P's: Puberty, Periods, and Pregnancy. I'd go through Puberty, get my Period, and — if I wasn't careful — I'd get Pregnant and ruin the rest of my life. One P conspicuously deemphasized was Penis, which was discussed in the most clinical manner and only in regard to how it could be used to get me P for Pregnant and (repeat it with me) ruin the rest of my life. I remember thinking how much more interesting the lesson would have been if the filmstrip had been an actual movie starring Brooke Shields with a soundtrack by Michael Jackson. Yet it had the desired effect on my best friend. Adrienne had six years of Catholic school education behind her and couldn't wait to make a vow of lifelong chastity.

"I'm never going to have sex," she proudly declared to her mom.

And I thought, That's because you didn't read the good parts in Forever.

Over time, Forever lost its hold on me as the dominant inspiration behind my sweatiest daydreams. As I left my (secular) elementary school behind, The Sex Book was replaced by more visual and visceral stimuli including (1) the T&A teen flick Private School, in which a rich red-haired temptress taunts Matthew Modine with a bouncy topless horseback ride; (2) the "Take My Breath Away" Top Gun tongue bath between Tom Cruise and Kelly McGillis; (3) any River Phoenix movie. At twelve, thirteen, and fourteen years old, these were the images that aroused confusing pit-of-my-belly longings for...for what exactly?

I figured I'd finally find out at fifteen, when I got my first serious boyfriend. B. was the first boy to kiss me. It took place in our school's parking lot right before the buses were about to pull away. A meaty proboscis pried open my puckered lips and proceeded to probe the rest of my face. His wet tongue roamed around, more outside my mouth than in, perhaps so that it could be easily viewed at a distance, thus putting an end to the hassling the basketball team was giving him to "French" me already. This inauspicious start might have served as a warning of letdowns to come.

Back then, I never could have imagined that those disappointments would serve me well and I would be lucky enough to make my living just as Judy Blume made hers, telling fictional stories about teenage girls struggling with the choices before them. And though I imagine our story is more common than not, when B. asked me out at fifteen, he had no idea that I would turn out to be a professional writer. Or perhaps he did. Either way, despite countless battles and breakups and get-back-togethers, B. turned out to be my only serious boyfriend in high school. Together, we fumbled through that first kiss and the other firsts that followed.

And none of it was his fault.

Now

Not too long ago, I spotted a paperback copy of Forever at my local library. I hadn't picked it up since squealing over the good parts at Kim's sleepover two decades earlier. I couldn't help but notice that it hadn't been checked out in more than a year. No surprise there. In a discussion about influential authors, I'd once asked an audience of about a hundred high school students if they had read Forever, and only about a half-dozen hands went up. And these girls had read it only because they had been encouraged by their moms, for whom it had been an unforgettable rite of passage.

Yes, what my mom had once forbidden was now a source of mother/daughter bonding. When I shared this irony with my audience, they were dumbfounded. "What was so scandalous?" asked a particularly blunt sophomore. "Katherine didn't even give him a blow job." They were even more surprised when I told them that Forever remains one of the most banned books by parents and educators. Of course, these conflicting attitudes regarding teen sexuality are reinforced in the media, which depicts our nation's youth as being equally torn between public purity pledges and private rainbow parties.

I'm on the more liberal side of the ideological divide, so I picked up Forever that day in the library thinking it would be nothing more than a nostalgic hoot. A quaint throwback to the era of fondue parties, "queers," and VD. And yes, as I read it for the first time in its entirety, I chuckled at the seventies-style Public Service Announcements I had originally skipped over in favor of more salacious material. Like when Katherine's grandmother — her grandmother! — sent pamphlets from Planned Parenthood and encouraged her to go on the pill. Or when her mother wanted to have a heart-to-heart talk about a newspaper survey on the subject of sexual liberation. And when Katherine's acquaintance, Sybil — the nympho genius from the infamous first sentence — got pregnant because she made the most heinous error of all: sex without love.

And yet despite the infrequent lapses into corniness, Judy Blume's perspectives on teen sex were indeed more progressive than I had expected. Here was a seventeen-year-old female narrator who knew her desires were natural and didn't deny them to herself or her boyfriend. In an era when even pro-sex advocates focus more on Girls Gone Wild-style provocation than actual pleasure, Katherine's candor and unapologetic lust struck me as revolutionary. Specifically, here's what I had missed about Forever:

1. Katherine described losing her virginity as a "letdown."

2. Katherine "came." Without foreplay, from intercourse alone. Multiple times.

3. Katherine checked out Ralph-the-Penis not because Michael pressured her to but because she wanted to.

Now, all these years later, I realized getting up close and personal with the contents of my first boyfriend's tightie-whities had been totally out of the question. I know this sounds bizarre — and it is — but in three years of dating, I never so much as sneaked a peek, let alone studied B.'s penis with scientific interest. And yes, this means that I never performed that certain sexual act that the oh-so-jaded millennial sophomore took for granted. Never. Not before, during, or even after we did it. Which we did, after more than two years of dating, a few weeks after both of our seventeenth birthdays, on an overnight retreat for peer leaders at a religious campground. (Sorry, Mom and Dad.) While the actual act turned out to be less than what I'd hoped for, at least my devirginization at a faith-based gathering was steeped in irony.

I can identify with Katherine's anticlimactic deflowering. And yet while she was honest about how it was more of a relief to have it over and done with than anything else, I lied to myself (and one or two confidantes) by turning my first time into an exquisite body-and-soul transforming experience that it never was and wouldn't be until years later with the man I married.

It wasn't because I was inhibited by the classic virgin/whore dilemma or the threat of a bad reputation. And despite my filmstrip indoctrination, I wasn't worried about pregnancy (or STDs for that matter) because I was vigilant about protection. Nor was I still haunted by that first hilarious glimpse at Mr. Rock-n-Cock in Playgirl. No, it wasn't even the capital P for Penis that made me so uneasy about sex and my first love.

Forever...

Katherine and Michael believed in the first-and-only vows of everlasting love. When the newspaper survey asked a question about how the relationship would end, Katherine was deeply offended by the query. B. would have been, too.

He told me many times that I was his female equal, and he was wrong. B. was far more popular than I was, and I took some comfort in my elevated status by association. He was good-natured and charismatic. He was as adept at being the sensitive guy who listened to girls' troubles as he was at engaging in grossed-out guy humor. I was moody, quick to judge, and used sarcasm to shield typical teenage insecurities. His body was amazing, with the carved-instone musculature of a natural athlete, and he had no shortage of girls who would have been more than happy to do anything for him in and out of bed. As for me, if any other guys in high school thought I was hot, I certainly never knew about it. These disparities might have been why we weren't considered for Class Couple in our high school yearbook. I wouldn't have even voted for us.

But I guess we were well matched in the sense that we were considered the male and female Most Likely to Succeed. We were both ambitious straight-A students, three-sport varsity athletes who rounded out our college applications with a long list of extracurriculars. Maybe this was enough for B. He was so convinced that I was The One that he repeatedly reminded me in furtive late-night phone confessions and in tightly folded notes he left for me in the pocket of his varsity jacket — the one that he said I didn't wear often enough. But usually he'd gasp promises in my ear during frenzied sessions of making out (and more): We're meant to be together forever. Less often — but often enough — he told me if I ever broke up with him, he would kill himself. The vein in his forehead bulged, and my bicep turned white in his grip.

Before asking Michael to drop his pants so that she could examine Ralph-the-Penis, Katherine confessed, "I want to see everything...I want to know you inside out." The truth is, I didn't want to know B. inside out. In a way, the less I knew, the better. This emotional detachment was indistinguishable from my physical detachment when we were intimate, an odd not-really-there feeling that I needed in order to cope with this intense relationship for which I was not at all prepared yet couldn't bring myself to get out of. Unlike Katherine, I thought about how our relationship would end all the time. And it never went well.

So what makes Forever still relevant for me isn't the genius nymphomaniac, the famously personified penis, or any other dirty detail. It's what the novel says about love — especially first love — and how it dies.

Katherine bravely ended her first relationship because she wanted to experience physical and emotional passion with someone else. She was no doubt emboldened by the knowledge that someone else was already waiting for her in the form of Theo, the hunky tennis instructor she met during her summer away from Michael. "I thought of pretending," Katherine said after she reunited with her boyfriend and realized she wanted out. "I'm no good at pretending. And anyway, pretending isn't fair." I knew that, too. And yet the good girl in me pretended.

After six months with B., I pretended that I wasn't curious to kiss the cocky actor I met at a summer arts camp. After a year, I pretended that I wasn't intoxicated by the class lothario, a poet/addict who went out of his way to flirt with me in front of B. After two years, I pretended that I wasn't completely taken by a shy, smart sophomore who once dated B's younger sister. For nearly three years, I pretended that I saw a future for us because I was afraid of what would happen in the aftermath of our breakup. But I wasn't very good at faking it, either, and I spent the greater portion of my high school years acting like a bitch, blaming every frustrated attraction on too much PMS or not enough sleep. Why B. put up with this, especially with so many other options available, I'll never understand. Perhaps he was driven by the same fears of what would happen if he stopped.

I'm not sure when or how we broke up, and I would be making it up if I said otherwise. I remember a protracted series of dramatic fights and exhausting crying fits, of jealous flirtations and violent empty threats, and a failed attempt (his) at one last boozy fling for old time's sake. I went to my senior prom with B.'s best friend, an arrangement that indicates we split well before graduation. I cannot recall the final break, and this monumental event is mysteriously absent from the pages of my journal. But I don't think I've blocked out the details as a defense mechanism. I prefer to believe that I've let go of the most bitter memories because I didn't need to hang onto them.

Not too long after high school, I fell in love again. I had my heart broken. I later regretted not sleeping with someone I cared about deeply and then got involved with someone else who should have never been more than just a friend. I withheld empty promises of tomorrow. And finally, I made the only lifelong vow worth believing in.

I moved on. And B. did, too.

I still can't help but wish my mom had let me read Forever from start to finish instead of showing me that lame filmstrip. By the last chapter, it's clear that Katherine and Michael got over each other. Their lost love wasn't a tragedy. It was inevitable. And if I had read more than just the good parts, maybe I would've mustered the courage to break up with B. sooner, sparing us both many tears and much pain in the process.

Then again, maybe not.

Probably not.

We were fifteen, sixteen, seventeen years old and had no clue what we were doing. We were each other's trial and error, as all first loves are. And I'm not convinced Judy Blume's wisdom would have helped one bit back then.

I was at the library to return the book — my husband browsing down the shelves, our three-year-old son grabbing my hand — when I realized that I'd never noticed the ellipses in the title: Forever... Only after a few decades of living, of loving and being loved in return, can you comprehend that Forever... means something very different than Forever. Only then can you understand that any vow uttered by an adoring adolescent is accompanied by invisible ellipses. "Forever...Then. Now."

Copyright © 2007 by Jennifer O'Connell

"Then. Now. Forever..." copyright © 2007 by Megan McCafferty

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Table of Contents


Then. Now. Forever...   Megan McCafferty     1
We Interrupt Our Regularly Scheduled Programming for a Judy Blume Moment   Jennifer O'Connell     16
The One That Got Away   Stephanie Lessing     26
Boys Like Shiny Things   Laura Ruby     36
A Long Time Ago, We Used to Be Friends   Megan Crane     50
Cry, Linda, Cry   Meg Cabot     65
The M Word   Lara M. Zeises     78
Do Adults Really Do That? Does Judy Blume Really Do That?   Laura Caldwell     86
I Am   Erica Orloff     95
Forever...Again   Stacey Ballis     101
Then Again, Maybe I...   Melissa Senate     113
Vitamin K, Judy Blume, and the Great Big Bruise   Julie Kenner     124
It Wasn't the End of the World   Kristin Harmel     136
Freaks, Geeks, and Adolescent Revenge Fantasies   Shanna Swendson     147
Guilty's House   Jennifer Coburn     159
A Different Kind of Diary   Elise Juska     168
Are You Available God? My Family Needs Counseling   Kyra Davis     187
The Mother of All Balancing Acts   BethKendrick     199
The Wienie Girl's Guide to Making Friends   Berta Platas     207
Brave New Kid   Diana Feterfreund     218
Breaking Up Is Hard to Do-Especially with Your BFF   Lynda Curnyn     230
The Importance of ABC's   Kayla Perrin     241
Superfudged   Cara Lockwood     254
Are You There, Margaret?   Alison Pace     266
Read More Show Less

Introduction

Reading Group Guide

Everything I Needed to Know About Being a Girl I Learned from Judy Blume

Edited by Jennifer O'Connell

Survey Says...

Like the young girls and grown women characters in Judy Blume's novels, real women love gossiping about their lives. So here's the skinny on some of your favorite writers from this collection, in their own words!

1. What was your first kiss like?

2. Name three of your oddest jobs.

3. What is your favorite color and why?

4. How many BFFs have you had?

5. What does your kinkiest pair of underwear look like?

6. Name your three biggest fears.

7. Briefly describe a happy memory involving the opposite sex.

8. What was your favorite prank call (that you made or that someone made to you)?

9. Was your teen bedroom a disaster area or clean and pristine? What's your room like now?

10. Have you ever gone skinny dipping?

11. How has your relationship with your mother changed from girlhood, to adolescence, to adulthood?

12. Which sibling got the most attention in your house?

13. Briefly describe the best date you've ever had.

14. Briefly describe the worst date you've ever had.

15. Name your three favorite movies.

16. When you first noticed boys, how long did you think it would be before you got married?

17. What's your funniest bra/breast story?

18. What is the most humiliating thing that happened to you as a child?

19. Were you the bully, or did you get picked on as a child?

20. Who's more neurotic about her children — you, or your mother?

21. Did you ever get caught masturbating?

22. Did you believe in God when you were a teenager? Why or why not?

23. What are your three favoritethings to do with your girlfriends?

24. Where is the most unusual place you've had sex?

Discussion Points

Use the following opportunities to discuss some of Judy Blume's most popular themes with the members of your Book Club.

1. In essays like "Then. Now. Forever." by Megan McCafferty, "The M Word" by Lara Zeises, and "Do Adults Really Do That?" by Laura Caldwell, the authors remember learning about and discussing sex for the first time. Sometimes it's traumatic, sometimes it's funny, but however it happens, it's always memorable. Share the story of how your parents first brought up the "birds & bees," or the time that your class was separated into groups of boys and girls to watch informational films on this biological imperative.

2. Many of the essays in this book, including "Forever...Again" by Stacey Ballis, cite the deep impact that Judy Blume's most banned and celebrated book, Forever, had on their early ideas about love and sex. What was your first experience with love like? Why do you think that attitudes about teen sex have or haven't changed since Forever was first published?

3. Young girls universally struggle through puberty, which often leaves in its wake identity crises and a scramble to label and be labeled as girls seek to order their chaotic, changing worlds. "Boys Like Shiny Things" by Laura Ruby, "Cry, Linda, Cry" by Meg Cabot, and "Freaks, Geeks, and Adolescent Revenge Fantasies" by Shanna Swendson describe the authors' own stories of battered and, ultimately, triumphant self-esteem. What labels were you given as a child? How did these affect your sense of identity and the way you related to others? What, if anything, did you do to shed or strengthen these identities?

4. Sometimes it seems like the female half of the species are burdened with a rebellious and uncooperative body from the moment we become self-aware until...well, it never ends! After reading "The One That Got Away" by Stephanie Lessing, "I Am" by Erica Orloff, "Vitamin K, Judy Blume, and the Great Big Bruise" by Julie Kenner, "The Importance of ABCs" by Kayla Perrin, and "Are You There, Margaret?" by Alison Pace, what body image issues from your past came back to haunt you? What physical attributes do you still battle for control?

5. Women's magazines and evening news channels have made much ado about "friend dates" and other ways that friendships follow patterns similar to romantic relationships. Authors Megan Crane and Lynda Curnyn explore these similarities — particularly the equally dramatic breakups — in their essays "A Long Time Ago, We Used to Be Friends" and "Breaking Up Is Hard to Do — Especially with Your BFF." Have you ever had to break up with a friend? If so, why, and at happened? If not, why do you think your relationships with women have remained unscathed?

6. Moving and making new friends can be a child's worst nightmare — Tony Miglione of Judy Blume's Then Again, Maybe I Won't certainly thought so. So did Berta Platas ("The Wienie Girls' Guide to Making Friends") and Melissa Senate ("Then Again, Maybe I..."). What was it like for you making friends as a child? How has your approach to adjusting to new environments and making new friends changed as an adult?

7. "Are You Available God? My Family Needs Counseling" by Kyra Davis and "It Wasn't the End of the World" by Kristin Harmel touchingly revisit the difficulties inherent in what were once considered "unusual" family circumstances, such as divorced parents and religious intermarriage. Davis writes, "Let's face it, all our families are at least a little dysfunctional." Do you think this is true? If so, in what ways do you think your own family was dysfunctional? What Judy Blume books did help or might have helped you to make sense of the tension broiling around you?

8. In her essay "Superfudged," Cara Lockwood compares her tortured childhood relationship with her younger brother to that of Judy Blume's Peter Hatcher and his brother, Fudge. Do you have any siblings? If so, how has your relationship to each other changed since you were children? If not, how do you think being an only child affected how you related to others in your early years?

9. Children often feel that the world of adults is mysterious and incomprehensible, sometimes because their parents purposefully make it that way! "A Different Kind of Diary" by Elise Juska, "Mother of All Balancing Acts" by Beth Kendrick, and "Brave New Kid" by Diana Peterfreund all share insights about the complexities of child-adult relations. Did you find it difficult to navigate the transformation from child to young adult to adult with respect to your parents' treatment of you? What similarities did you find between these women's stories and your own relationships with your parents? How are your stories different?

10. Jennifer Coburn revisits one of Judy Blume's more serious social topics — racism — in her essay "Guilty's House." Can you relate to the described feelings of "white guilt?" Why or why not? If you are a member of an ethnic minority, what was your response to reading this blunt portrayal of one girl's struggle with political correctness?

11. In her essay, "We Interrupt Our Regularly Scheduled Programming for a Judy Blume Moment," Jennifer O'Connell defines certain poignant moments she believes we all experience as "Judy Blume Moments." Some of these moments include those that "make a girl feel like a princess in a blue cotton nightgown" and "realizing that even as we get older...we'll always be the girls who play in the waves and giggle with our friends." Describe some of your own Judy Blume moments.

What did you learn about being a girl from Judy Blume?

Have each member of your Book Club bring a highlighted passage from her favorite Judy Blume book to read out loud to the group. Then, take turns answering the following questions:

1. Why was this book your favorite Judy Blume book?

2. When you re-read the book, what were your reactions? Did you find that the story, the characters, and the feelings it evoked were the same as what you remembered?

3. Which Judy Blume characters did you most identify with in childhood?

4. Which characters do you most identify with now?

5. Do you think Judy Blume's characters and the issues they face are timeless, or would they seem dated today?

6. Why do you think Judy Blume's books had such an impact on their young readers when they were first published?

7. Of the essays in Everything, which one did you most identify with and why?

Enhance Your Book Club Experience

For extra fun, make photocopies of the author survey questions to pass around to members of your Book Club, or forward it around via email. You can respond anonymously, or share your answers openly.

When you get together to discuss Everything, have each member bring a snack — specifically, her favorite junk food from the age she became a Judy Blume fan!

Judy Blume tackles many universally challenging topics in her books, including the sometimes strained relationships between mothers and daughters. Designate a Book Club meeting to which everyone is invited to bring either her mother or her daughter. Before the meeting, each member should share her favorite Judy Blume book with her guest. When you're all gathered together, go around the room and share which parts of the book reminded you of each other, helped you to better understand each other's point of view, or generally made you feel closer.

Several of Judy Blume's books have been scrutinized, challenged, attacked, and otherwise fought by censors, including Blubber; Are You There God? It's Me, Margaret; Forever; Deenie; and Tiger Eyes. Visit the link below to view a list of the 100 Most Frequently Challenged Books of 1990-2000 and also the 100 Most Frequently Challenged Books of 2005. How many of these books have you or your children read? How do you feel about the efforts to restrict access to these books?

www.ala.org/ala/oif/bannedbooksweek/challengedbanned

Jennifer O'Connell received her BA from Smith College and her MBA from the University of Chicago. She is the author of Insider Dating, Bachelorette #1, Dress Rehearsal, Off the Record, and Plan B. Visit her website at www.jenniferoconnell.com.

Meggin Patricia Cabot was born in Bloomington, Indiana. Her childhood was spent in pursuit of air conditioning, of which there was little at the time in southern Indiana. A primary source proved to be the Monroe County Public Library, where Meggin whiled away many hours, reading the complete works of Jane Austen, Judy Blume, and Barbara Cartland.

Armed with a fine arts degree from Indiana University, Meggin moved to New York City, intent upon pursuing a career in freelance illustration. Illustrating, however, soon got in the way of Meggin's true love, writing, and so she abandoned it and got a job as the assistant manager of an undergraduate dormitory at New York University, writing on the weekends (and whenever her boss wasn't looking).

The first of her many historical romance novels written under the name Patricia Cabot, Where Roses Grow Wild, was published in 1998, followed shortly by its sequel, Portrait of my Heart, and An Improper Proposal, A Little Scandal, Lady of Skye, Educating Caroline, Kiss the Bride, and a novella included in the anthology A Season in the Highlands. Meggin has also published three adult contemporary romances, Boy Meets Girl, The Boy Next Door (a Kelly Ripa pick!) and She Went All the Way.

In addition to her adult romances, Meggin is currently working on many bestselling series of books for young adult readers, including The Princess Diaries as well as The Mediator and All American Girl. Look also for Meg's two historical romances for younger readers, Nicola and the Viscount and Victoria and the Rogue, in addition to her new stand alone novel, Teen Idol. Film rights to The Princess Diaries were sold to Disney, and a feature length film based on the book was released in August 2001. A sequel to the film, based on an original story written by Disney, is scheduled to release in summer 2004. Film rights to All-American Girl also went to Disney. A television series based on Meg's 1-800-WHERE-R-U books is currently being broadcast Saturday nights on the Lifetime network.

Meggin now writes full time, and lives in New York City with her husband and their one-eyed cat, Henrietta.

Beth Kendrick won the Romance Writers of America's Golden Heart Award for My Favorite Mistake. She has a Ph.D. in psychology and an unshakable devotion to the Chicago Cubs. After surviving too many Minnesota winters, she moved to Arizona, where she is working on her second novel (coming soon from Downtown Press). For more information you can visit the author's website at www.bethkendrick.com.

JULIE KENNER begins a new series for Downtown Press with The Givenchy Code. Her novel Aphrodite¹s Kiss was a USA Today bestseller; her other acclaimed novels include Nobody But You and The Spy Who Loves Me. She lives in Georgetown, Texas, with her husband and daughter.

Cara Lockwood is also the author of I Do (But I Don't), which was made into a Lifetime movie, as well as Pink Slip Party and Dixieland Sushi, all available from Downtown Press. She was born in Dallas, Texas, and earned a Bachelor's degree in English from the University of Pennsylvania. She has worked as a journalist in Austin, and is now married and living in Chicago. Her husband is not a rock star, but he does play the guitar — poorly.

Read More Show Less

Reading Group Guide

Reading Group Guide

Everything I Needed to Know About Being a Girl I Learned from Judy Blume

Edited by Jennifer O'Connell

Survey Says...

Like the young girls and grown women characters in Judy Blume's novels, real women love gossiping about their lives. So here's the skinny on some of your favorite writers from this collection, in their own words!

1. What was your first kiss like?

2. Name three of your oddest jobs.

3. What is your favorite color and why?

4. How many BFFs have you had?

5. What does your kinkiest pair of underwear look like?

6. Name your three biggest fears.

7. Briefly describe a happy memory involving the opposite sex.

8. What was your favorite prank call (that you made or that someone made to you)?

9. Was your teen bedroom a disaster area or clean and pristine? What's your room like now?

10. Have you ever gone skinny dipping?

11. How has your relationship with your mother changed from girlhood, to adolescence, to adulthood?

12. Which sibling got the most attention in your house?

13. Briefly describe the best date you've ever had.

14. Briefly describe the worst date you've ever had.

15. Name your three favorite movies.

16. When you first noticed boys, how long did you think it would be before you got married?

17. What's your funniest bra/breast story?

18. What is the most humiliating thing that happened to you as a child?

19. Were you the bully, or did you get picked on as a child?

20. Who's more neurotic about her children — you, or your mother?

21. Did you ever get caught masturbating?

22. Did you believe in God when you were a teenager? Why or why not?

23. What are your three favorite things to do with your girlfriends?

24. Where is the most unusual place you've had sex?

Discussion Points

Use the following opportunities to discuss some of Judy Blume's most popular themes with the members of your Book Club.

1. In essays like "Then. Now. Forever." by Megan McCafferty, "The M Word" by Lara Zeises, and "Do Adults Really Do That?" by Laura Caldwell, the authors remember learning about and discussing sex for the first time. Sometimes it's traumatic, sometimes it's funny, but however it happens, it's always memorable. Share the story of how your parents first brought up the "birds & bees," or the time that your class was separated into groups of boys and girls to watch informational films on this biological imperative.

2. Many of the essays in this book, including "Forever...Again" by Stacey Ballis, cite the deep impact that Judy Blume's most banned and celebrated book, Forever, had on their early ideas about love and sex. What was your first experience with love like? Why do you think that attitudes about teen sex have or haven't changed since Forever was first published?

3. Young girls universally struggle through puberty, which often leaves in its wake identity crises and a scramble to label and be labeled as girls seek to order their chaotic, changing worlds. "Boys Like Shiny Things" by Laura Ruby, "Cry, Linda, Cry" by Meg Cabot, and "Freaks, Geeks, and Adolescent Revenge Fantasies" by Shanna Swendson describe the authors' own stories of battered and, ultimately, triumphant self-esteem. What labels were you given as a child? How did these affect your sense of identity and the way you related to others? What, if anything, did you do to shed or strengthen these identities?

4. Sometimes it seems like the female half of the species are burdened with a rebellious and uncooperative body from the moment we become self-aware until...well, it never ends! After reading "The One That Got Away" by Stephanie Lessing, "I Am" by Erica Orloff, "Vitamin K, Judy Blume, and the Great Big Bruise" by Julie Kenner, "The Importance of ABCs" by Kayla Perrin, and "Are You There, Margaret?" by Alison Pace, what body image issues from your past came back to haunt you? What physical attributes do you still battle for control?

5. Women's magazines and evening news channels have made much ado about "friend dates" and other ways that friendships follow patterns similar to romantic relationships. Authors Megan Crane and Lynda Curnyn explore these similarities — particularly the equally dramatic breakups — in their essays "A Long Time Ago, We Used to Be Friends" and "Breaking Up Is Hard to Do — Especially with Your BFF." Have you ever had to break up with a friend? If so, why, and at happened? If not, why do you think your relationships with women have remained unscathed?

6. Moving and making new friends can be a child's worst nightmare — Tony Miglione of Judy Blume's Then Again, Maybe I Won't certainly thought so. So did Berta Platas ("The Wienie Girls' Guide to Making Friends") and Melissa Senate ("Then Again, Maybe I..."). What was it like for you making friends as a child? How has your approach to adjusting to new environments and making new friends changed as an adult?

7. "Are You Available God? My Family Needs Counseling" by Kyra Davis and "It Wasn't the End of the World" by Kristin Harmel touchingly revisit the difficulties inherent in what were once considered "unusual" family circumstances, such as divorced parents and religious intermarriage. Davis writes, "Let's face it, all our families are at least a little dysfunctional." Do you think this is true? If so, in what ways do you think your own family was dysfunctional? What Judy Blume books did help or might have helped you to make sense of the tension broiling around you?

8. In her essay "Superfudged," Cara Lockwood compares her tortured childhood relationship with her younger brother to that of Judy Blume's Peter Hatcher and his brother, Fudge. Do you have any siblings? If so, how has your relationship to each other changed since you were children? If not, how do you think being an only child affected how you related to others in your early years?

9. Children often feel that the world of adults is mysterious and incomprehensible, sometimes because their parents purposefully make it that way! "A Different Kind of Diary" by Elise Juska, "Mother of All Balancing Acts" by Beth Kendrick, and "Brave New Kid" by Diana Peterfreund all share insights about the complexities of child-adult relations. Did you find it difficult to navigate the transformation from child to young adult to adult with respect to your parents' treatment of you? What similarities did you find between these women's stories and your own relationships with your parents? How are your stories different?

10. Jennifer Coburn revisits one of Judy Blume's more serious social topics — racism — in her essay "Guilty's House." Can you relate to the described feelings of "white guilt?" Why or why not? If you are a member of an ethnic minority, what was your response to reading this blunt portrayal of one girl's struggle with political correctness?

11. In her essay, "We Interrupt Our Regularly Scheduled Programming for a Judy Blume Moment," Jennifer O'Connell defines certain poignant moments she believes we all experience as "Judy Blume Moments." Some of these moments include those that "make a girl feel like a princess in a blue cotton nightgown" and "realizing that even as we get older...we'll always be the girls who play in the waves and giggle with our friends." Describe some of your own Judy Blume moments.

What did you learn about being a girl from Judy Blume?

Have each member of your Book Club bring a highlighted passage from her favorite Judy Blume book to read out loud to the group. Then, take turns answering the following questions:

1. Why was this book your favorite Judy Blume book?

2. When you re-read the book, what were your reactions? Did you find that the story, the characters, and the feelings it evoked were the same as what you remembered?

3. Which Judy Blume characters did you most identify with in childhood?

4. Which characters do you most identify with now?

5. Do you think Judy Blume's characters and the issues they face are timeless, or would they seem dated today?

6. Why do you think Judy Blume's books had such an impact on their young readers when they were first published?

7. Of the essays in Everything, which one did you most identify with and why?

Enhance Your Book Club Experience

For extra fun, make photocopies of the author survey questions to pass around to members of your Book Club, or forward it around via email. You can respond anonymously, or share your answers openly.

When you get together to discuss Everything, have each member bring a snack — specifically, her favorite junk food from the age she became a Judy Blume fan!

Judy Blume tackles many universally challenging topics in her books, including the sometimes strained relationships between mothers and daughters. Designate a Book Club meeting to which everyone is invited to bring either her mother or her daughter. Before the meeting, each member should share her favorite Judy Blume book with her guest. When you're all gathered together, go around the room and share which parts of the book reminded you of each other, helped you to better understand each other's point of view, or generally made you feel closer.

Several of Judy Blume's books have been scrutinized, challenged, attacked, and otherwise fought by censors, including Blubber; Are You There God? It's Me, Margaret; Forever; Deenie; and Tiger Eyes. Visit the link below to view a list of the 100 Most Frequently Challenged Books of 1990-2000 and also the 100 Most Frequently Challenged Books of 2005. How many of these books have you or your children read? How do you feel about the efforts to restrict access to these books?

www.ala.org/ala/oif/bannedbooksweek/challengedbanned

Read More Show Less

Customer Reviews

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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 23 Customer Reviews
  • Posted June 13, 2009

    Judy did teach me all about life, now this book summarizes it all!

    This book put together all my thoughts on the many characters in Judy Blume's books that I read in my youth and reread as an adult. Whether it be Margaret's learning what it is like to "become a woman", Deenie learning to deal with adversity, Ralph, or Sally J Friedman's theatrical ways, I can still go back to the first reads that took place over 30 years ago. Judy Blume helped most girls truly learn what they needed to know.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted October 28, 2008

    more from this reviewer

    Reviewed by Andie Z. for TeensReadToo.com

    Judy Blume is one of the most beloved and well-known authors of our time. She has written countless stories for pre-teens, teens, and adults alike, and millions of readers have been charmed by her lovable characters and easy-to-relate-to storylines. <BR/><BR/>In EVERYTHING I NEEDED TO KNOW ABOUT BEING A GIRL I LEARNED FROM JUDY BLUME, twenty-four of the most popular female authors today, including Megan McCafferty, Jennifer O'Connell, Megan Crane, Cara Lockwood, and Meg Cabot, contribute essays relating their own experiences with Judy Blume. <BR/><BR/>Covering everything from their own "Judy Blume moments" to hiding under the covers with FOREVER..., these stories are intensely personal recollections that offer an insight into the influence that Judy Blume's works have had on everyone who reads them. <BR/><BR/>As a Judy Blume fan myself, I really loved reading this book, and it brought to mind my own memories of reading her novels. Whether you just want to know more about some of your favorite authors today, or, like me, you grew up with Blume and her characters, this book is well worth reading and you definitely don't want to miss it.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted June 6, 2012

    more from this reviewer

    Fantastic and Insightful

    Good book. A lot of reminders about how Judy Blume helped a generatation (mine) get thru a myriad of life issues, questions, etc. I enjoyed the nostalgia, as well as the different perspectives and stories that each author relayed. This makes me want to go back and re-visit some of my favorite titles growing up. I will recommend this read to my friends.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted January 24, 2011

    gladys gutzman

    a very inspiring book

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 21, 2007

    Courtesy of Teens Read Too

    Judy Blume is one of the most beloved and well-known authors of our time. She has written countless stories for pre-teens, teens, and adults alike, and millions of readers have been charmed by her lovable characters and easy-to-relate-to storylines. In EVERYTHING I NEEDED TO KNOW ABOUT BEING A GIRL I LEARNED FROM JUDY BLUME, twenty- four of the most popular female authors today, including Megan McCafferty, Jennifer O¿Connell, Megan Crane, Cara Lockwood, and Meg Cabot, contribute essays relating their own experiences with Judy Blume. Covering everything from their own 'Judy Blume moments' to hiding under the covers with FOREVER..., these stories are intensely personal recollections that offer an insight into the influence that Judy Blume¿s works have had on everyone who reads them. As a Judy Blume fan myself, I really loved reading this book, and it brought to mind my own memories of reading her novels. Whether you just want to know more about some of your favorite authors today, or, like me, you grew up with Blume and her characters, this book is well worth reading and you definitely don¿t want to miss it. **Reviewed by: Andie Z.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
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