Friday, November 25, 2022

Farewell Friday: Just as Long as We're Together

Feel like a should have a "kill your darlings" sort of periodic post where I review really old titles I still have in my library that end up having to be weeded and go to a better place. Farewell Friday, perhaps? It also seems like I should wait until the author has died, but if a book is over thirty years old, do middle school students care? Hmmm. That's what we will investigate. 

Judy Blume is an icon, of course. Middle grade literature would not be what it is today without her seminal work like Are You There God, It's Me Margaret or Then Again, Maybe I Won't, and we all certainly learned a lot from Forever. But looking back, even in 2010 I was mentioning that her books weren't circulating well. I can't say I've missed Tiger Eyes, and am very glad that Deenie is no longer on the shelves. The dated cultural references are just going to confuse young readers, and we're getting to the point where these are too old to be their mother's books. Heading into grandma territory here. 

If you want more relevant books that accurately reflect the sometimes difficult world of today's adolescents, invest in the entire work of Barbara Dee instead. Don't replace Blume's work with fresh copies to encourage new readership. No matter what the covers look like, the content is just too old. 

Blume, Judy. Just as Long as We're Together. 
Published January 1, 1986 by Orchard Books, a division of Franklin Watts
Library copy

Stephanie is into hunks and has a poster of Richard Gere on the ceiling over her bed. Her family has just moved into a new house in the same community where they lived, so she still goes to the same school as her best friend Rachel. In the new neighborhood, she meets Allison, who was adopted by Vietnam by her mother, a famous actress. The three girls start hanging around together even though Allison is a bit odd; she claims that her dog can talk and recounts his exploits with her stepfather. There is a cute ninth grade boy on the bus to junior high, and Stephanie opines that maybe he has hair on his legs because he is sexually experienced. There's some drama over the fact that Rachel doesn't have the same homeroom teacher, but things generally go well. Stephanie's father is living in Hawaii for work, but eventually Stephanie finds out that her parents are having a trial separation. At one point, she has a disagreement with Rachel, but the two make it up and remain friends.

Strengths: This was a perfectly pleasant read, with some friend drama and some funny moments. It's held up better than I expected in some ways, and Blume's style is always very readable. It was interesting and a bit surprising that most of the mothers worked and had very professional jobs. Blume was notable for including information about periods, breast development, and other issues of puberty in her books, and there are several instances of this in this story.

There's not much of a plot. It's the sort of realistic fiction book that starts at the beginning of the school year, but we only get as far as March, where a lot of the school has flu and the book just sort of ends. There were a lot of dated references to clothing styles, actors, products, and technology. My favorite part was when Stephanie wanted her own phone extension in her room, and found a device for $19.95. Her dad wasn't as concerned about the price as he was about her having a phone in her own room. He didn't like that.

What I really think: This book hasn't circulated for a good ten years, and I don't know that there is a point in keeping it. It's an okay story, but not as engaging as books today that would include more modern references. The first chapter was very hard for my students to understand, with the references to "hunks" and Richard Gere. I will probably weed this. 

1 comment:

  1. Anonymous9:44 PM EST

    Thanks for this synopsis. I was trying to remember a book I had read in 6th grade, and all I remembered was the poster of Richard Gere on the ceiling (I had to ask who that was when I read it back in 1990 😂).