HOME SCHOOL BOOK REVIEW
Book: Then Again, Maybe I Won’t
Author: Judy Blume
Publisher: Atheneum Books for Young Readers, reprinted 2014
Language level: 3
(1=nothing objectionable; 2=common euphemisms and/or childish slang terms; 3=some cursing and/or profanity; 4=a lot of cursing and/or profanity; 5=obscenity and/or vulgarity)
Recommended reading level: For ages 12 and up, but I would say at least 16 and up
Rating: * 1 star
(5 stars=EXCELLENT; 4 stars=GOOD; 3 stars=FAIR; 2 stars=POOR; 1 star=VERY POOR; no stars=NOT RECOMMENDED)
Reviewed by Wayne S. Walker
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Blume, Judy. Then Again, Maybe I Won’t (published in 1971 by Bradbury Press Inc., a division of Macmillan Publishing Company, New York City, NY; republished in 1986 by Dell Publishing, a division of Bantam Doubleday Dell Publishing Group Inc., 666 Fifth Ave., New York City, NY 10103). Thirteen year Anthony (Tony) Miglione, who will be going into seventh grade, lives with his father Vic, an electrician, mother Carmella, who works at Ohrbach’s department store, and his grandmother, who had cancer of the larynx and cannot talk but does all their cooking, in the family’s home in Jersey City, NJ. Tony’s older brother Ralph, a teacher, lives with his wife Angie, who is going to have a baby, in the upstairs apartment. An even older brother Vinnie had been killed in Vietnam. Just as Tony must deal with the onset of puberty, other problems arise. Tony’s dad invents an electric cartridge which is purchased by Fullerbach Electronics, and the Migliones move to upscale Rosemont, NY, on Long Island for Vic to manage production of his invention, so Tony must acclimate to a new neighborhood and school. He makes friends with a neighbor boy his age, Joel Hoober, but he finds that Joel engages in shoplifting, and Tony is at a loss to know what to do about it. Tony develops a crush on Joel’s sixteen year old sister Lisa who parades around in a bikini so that Tony notices her curves. Also he feels that his mother and even Ralph seem to be turning into society-climbing snobs. And when a maid is hired to do the cooking, Grandma shuts herself in her room. All of a sudden, Tony starts to become sick with severe stomach pains. He spends some time in the hospital and then begins seeing a psychiatrist. Will Tony be all right? Can he learn how to cope with his difficulties? And what will happen between him and Joel?
Yes, I actually read a Judy Blume book. This author does not have a good reputation with me. My wife, who read some of Blume’s books when younger, and her brother and sister-in-law, who homeschooled their children, had some experiences with Judy Blume books in which chronic bad attitudes and behaviors were expressed by children which were never properly resolved. Our friend Wendi Capehart wrote, “We don’t read any Judy Blume here. I read several of them when I was a kid, and as I recall, nearly all of them had something objectionable.” Another friend, Sally Perz, said, “I read Judy Blume as a child; I remember enough not to allow them in our home. Period. Her adolescent books are bad enough. However, having been of the generation that was targeted for Judy Blume’s books about teenage sex (Forever, Wifey) and having read them all, I will never buy a Judy Blume book or allow my children to read them.” However, since Then Again, Maybe I Won’t is advertised as “a guy’s perspective on adolescent hang-ups,” someone wondered if it might be appropriate for a teen or preteen boy to read as a starting place for a discussion on puberty. Having “been there, done that” myself (though some fifty years ago), I can attest that it fairly accurately portrays the angst which occurs in boys at that age, but it does so from a totally worldly, almost humanistic viewpoint. Oh, religion is mentioned, but it is basically a purely social, even somewhat secularized religion that really has no positive impact on people’s lives.
Here is a catalog of objections. Tony calls Mrs. Buttfield, Angie’s ill-tempered nurse, “The Butt,” and the phrase “My God” is used as an interjection. There are references to smoking cigars, and Lisa smokes a cigarette, although Tony convinces her to quit. Joel invites Tony and another boy to his house when his parents are away, and they freely sample the liquor cabinet. A friend tells Tony if you eat a lot of olives “you make out good with the girls when you’re older.” When Ralph and Angie announce that they’re having a baby, Tony can’t help but “think about what you have to do to get somebody pregnant.” Joel keeps a stash of paperbacks which are obviously sexually explicit. Tony says that when he reads them, “I can feel myself get hard.” He also talks about his wet dreams and even mentions masturbation. And Tony finds that he can see Lisa in her bedroom from his bedroom window, so he asks for a pair of binoculars “for bird watching” so that he can look at her undress, telling the psychiatrist that he has seen her naked. One person described the book succinctly as “the main character using a pair of binoculars to be a peeping tom.” On the one hand, I would not say that the book is totally evil. Yes, Tony makes some mistakes, but he learns a few good lessons about how to make better choices. On the other hand, I’m not sure that the occasional nuggets are worth dealing with all the baggage. For example, at the end Tony thinks that he ought to put the binoculars away so they’re hard to get, but his last words are “Then again—maybe I won’t.”
NOTE: As I read other reviews for this book which said things like, “It’s about a girl who just moved to New Jersey,” and “I felt sorry for Margaret and her friends because they seemed to be so self-conscious and worried about this normal human transition,” I began to wonder if there were two editions of Then Again, Maybe I Won’t, one for boys and one for girls. Finally, I realized that these reviews were actually for a previous Judy Blume book Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret. Blume said that given her earlier novel was about a girl entering puberty making the transition to womanhood, she decided to write one about a boy going through puberty and making a transition to manhood.