This is a book I wish I had first read at the appropriate age. It tells you all about sex in a way I can’t imagine you could have found elsewhere in 1975, when this book was published. (Nowadays, of course, there is undoubtedly a Sex for Dummies and Sex for Idiots and Sex on Audiodisk For People Who Can’t Even Read.)
There’s a thin plot – Katherine and Michael, 17, fall in “love” in the way teens often do – a hormonally-driven attraction with no idea of who the other person even is. This is, in fact, demonstrated by giving the main characters no discernable personalities. This is not a criticism; I think it’s more realistic this way. I certainly had no idea of who my high school crush really was; nevertheless, I wanted to have his children.
After Michael and Katherine date for about five minutes, he wants to have sex. Katherine isn’t quite ready yet, but, afraid of disappointing him, administers “hand jobs” instead. (This brings back the good old days of President Clinton’s dalliance with Monica Lewinsky, and all the arguments about what did and did not qualify as “having sex.”)
Finally, and especially, after Michael says the three magic words, “I love you” and actually seems to mean them even though “love” could be better expressed as “lust” and “you” as “whoever,” Katherine is “ready” and they go all the way. First, however, she does make a secret visit to a Planned Parenthood Clinic to get a prescription for birth control pills. (Although Venereal Disease is mentioned, sexually transmitted diseases were not treated with appropriate seriousness in the 1970’s. The author tries to remedy this omission with a cautionary preface about the need for condoms appearing in the 2007 edition.)
The first several times don’t go so well, and they fumble along and try to stay upbeat. Finally, they get into the rhythm of it, so to speak. The two swear to love each other “forever” and Michael gives Katherine a necklace commemorating that sentiment.
Meanwhile, each of their parents think the couple needs some space. They get jobs for them far away from each other. Katherine, a counselor at her sister’s camp, finds herself falling for Theo. Oops. Michael, alarmed at the sudden lack of mail, makes a surprise visit and finds them holding hands. Oops. Nevertheless, he takes her to his hotel room and tries to have sex with her. He discovers that alas, nothing is forever.
Later, after having broken up that day at the hotel, they run into each other one more time before each leaves for college. Katherine says:
“I wanted to tell him that I will never be sorry for loving him. That in a way I still do – that maybe I always will. I’ll never regret one single thing we did together because what we had was very special. Maybe if we were ten years older it would have worked out differently. Maybe. I think it’s just that I’m not ready for forever.”
Evaluation: While it’s not much on plot, I think this is a really important book. I would want my high school girl to read it.
Published by Bradbury Press, 1975