Thursday, April 10, 2014

Then Again, Maybe I Won't

By Judy Blume. Published 1971.

The tag line on this one kills. He's got problems, y'all!
Tony Miglione is a thirteen-year-old from Jersey City. His life gets turned upside down when his father invents an electrical cartridge and strikes it rich. He’ll be working in New York, so the family is moving to a big new house on Long Island. Tony will miss playing basketball with his friends. But his new room is totes cool, his closet has an automatic light.

Tony finally meets his neighbor, Joel, who’s been away at camp. Joel is polite and calls Tony’s dad “sir”, so Tony thinks he’s a creep, and wouldn’t last a day in Jersey City. But Joel has a hot older sister, Lisa, whom Tony enjoys watching swim and cheerlead. Joel also has a bunch of paperbacks that give Tony erections when he reads them. Tony is quite concerned about his erections, because sometimes they just come out of nowhere. He starts carrying a raincoat to school everyday to cover things up.

Joel is also a shoplifter, makes prank calls, and has some dirt on their maid. Tony’s not so sure he wants to be his friend anymore. He’s made a couple of other friends now that school has started, and the youth group at church. They even play basketball at church.

Tony’s mother decides it’s time for them to get a maid, so they go through a whole slew of them before finding one that works for them, Maxine. And she totally takes charge. She even kicks Tony’s grandma, who doesn’t talk because she has no larynx due to cancer, out of the kitchen. Tony’s grandma has always cooked all the meals. Now she’s so pissed she won’t come out of her room, not even to go to church.

She does finally come on Veteran’s Day, to go to the cemetery with the rest of the family. One of Tony’s brother’s, Vincent, was killed in Vietnam. So the whole family, plus Tony’s other brother, Ralph, his wife, and new baby, make the two-hour trip to the cemetery. I understand things were different back in the day, but the way they pass the baby all over the car just makes me cringe.

Tony’s grandma goes right back to her room after the trip, and doesn’t even come out for Thanksgiving.

Tony has to go to the doctor because he’s been having stomach pains. But the doctor says he just has a nervous stomach and prescribes him some pills.

Tony can see into Lisa’s bedroom from his window, and asks for binoculars for Christmas. But he gets all bent out of shape when he learns she’s dating his youth group leader. She’s seeing a lot of other guys, too.

Tony’s friend from Jersey City comes to visit, and they go over to Joel’s. They proceed to get drunk, and then get sick in the bushes. They figure it’s like fertilizer.

One day Tony has to go to lunch with his father and his father’s boss. There he learns that Ralph, who is currently a teacher, will be joining their company. Tony gets pissed, concerned that Ralph is selling out.

Joel steals some more, a couple of pens this time, and Tony gets so upset he has a terrible case of his stomach pains, and collapses on the sidewalk. He ends up spending ten days in the hospital. He gets lots of presents, and Lisa even visits, but he falls asleep while she’s there. They can’t find anything wrong physically, so they turn him over to a psychiatrist, Dr. Fogel.

Tony ends up talking the entire first appointment, about Joel, his Grandma being miserable, his mother being a phony since they moved, Ralph turning into one, and how great his father is. Dr. Fogel says it was a good appointment. At another appointment, he tells Dr. Fogel about watching Lisa get undressed, but he doesn’t tell him to stop, so Tony likes that.

Tony gets to spend some kind of alone time with Lisa. His mother tasks him with taking his niece for a walk, and Lisa suddenly gets baby rabies and wants to walk her by herself.  Tony won’t let them go off on their own, so he has a nice little walk with Lisa.

Then Lisa gets her license and a car, and takes Tony and Joel for joy ride, and scares the shit out of them. When she stops, she lights up a cigarette. Tony tells her about his grandmother, and it freaks her out enough that she throws her pack out. His grandma never actually smoked, but Lisa doesn’t need to know that.

Tony and Joel go to buy some sporting goods, and Joel steals yet again, this time some golf balls. He gets caught this time, though. Tony is relieved, even though Joel tries to get him to say he was going to pay for them. Tony won’t, though. The storeowners aren’t pressing charges, but Joel is still going to military school the next year.

Joel has another wet dream, but it’s not about Lisa this time. It’s about Corky, a girl his age who has a crush on him. He thinks he might put away his binoculars, but then again, maybe he won’t.

o   When they move, the only things they bring with them are his grandma’s pots and pans. I guess I get wanting all new furniture, but there’s nothing personal you want to keep?

o   I think my favorite quote is: “A very important thing to remember about babies is that if you can’t hear them they’re not so bad.” I’m so with you, Tony.

o   There’s no resolution with his grandma, and that kind of bothers me.

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