Then Again, Maybe I Won't
This coming-of-age novel by Judy Blume is published by Yearling Books, an imprint of Random House Books for Young Readers, and is written for kids ages 10 to 14 years. The age range reflects readability and not necessarily content appropriateness.
Crude or Profane Language
Drug and Alcohol Content
Other Negative Elements
Eleven-year-old Tony Miglione likes living with his family in Jersey City. He has hard-working parents, a brother who teaches junior high and a sister-in-law with a baby on the way. (His oldest brother died in Vietnam before the story starts.) Grandma, mute after cancer of the larynx, joyfully cooks for the family.
The Migliones' financial worries end suddenly when Dad sells his invention, an electrical cartridge, to an electronics company. Tony, his parents and grandma move to a large home on Long Island. Tony gets involved with a youth basketball team at his local Catholic church and meets Joel, who lives next door. Tony discovers he can watch Joel's 16-year-old sister, Lisa, through his window and hers, as she changes her clothes. Tony's voyeurism becomes his favorite activity.
Overall, life on Long Island makes Tony anxious. Mom becomes increasingly concerned with appearances and social standing. She defers to the new maid who insists Grandma stay out of the kitchen. Grandma becomes depressed and rarely leaves her bedroom. Ralph quits his teaching job to work for Dad, which Tony sees as "selling out."
Joel repeatedly shoplifts in front of Tony, and Tony wrestles with his conscience about whether to report the boy. On top of everything else, Tony's hormonal changes plague him. He starts having wet dreams and getting erections, even in class. Overwhelmed with unanswered questions and unspoken concerns, Tony begins to have stress-induced stomach problems.
After witnessing one of Joel's shoplifting sprees, Tony's stomach pains cause him to collapse on the sidewalk. He's hospitalized and tested for medical problems. The physicians find nothing and refer him to a psychologist named Dr. Fogel. With Dr. Fogel, Tony is finally able to speak openly about his stress and confusion. He begins to learn to deal with his anxiety and the changes in life.
Tony's grandma makes frequent visits to the Catholic church in Jersey City. She ceases to attend church after she becomes depressed in their new home. A priest on Long Island still visits her several times and checks in on the rest of the family. Tony gets involved with the church's youth group. He goes to confession once a month, and he's on the church basketball team that plays games against other denominations.
Other Belief Systems
Dad feels the family is getting lucky when things start going their way financially. Joel's maid says God is going to punish Joel for giving her so much grief.
The Lord's name is used in vain several times. Tony's sister-in-law hires a nanny once her child is born. The nanny's name is Mrs. Buttfield, but Tony calls her "the Butt."
Tony's brother and sister-in-law announce they're pregnant. Tony says he knows he shouldn't think about what you have to do to get someone pregnant, but sometimes he can't help it. In Jersey City, Tony's mother sells women's underwear at a department store. He says she watches women try on underwear all day and that he'd like to do that.
After moving to Long Island, Tony frequently spies on Lisa and watches her change clothes. For Christmas, Tony asks for binoculars under the guise of a newfound interest in bird watching. In reality, he wants to get a better view of Lisa. He has wet dreams involving her and fears his parents or the housekeeper will know. Dad tries to have a sex talk with Tony, in which Tony informs Dad he's knows how babies are made. Dad asks Tony if he's sure the friend who told him gave him the right information. Tony says yes, and Dad is satisfied. Dad assures Tony, unconvincingly, that he's there to answer any questions the boy has. He gives Tony a book called Basic Facts About Sex. A gym teacher tells the boys about wet dreams, which he calls nocturnal emissions.
Tony gets an erection at school while standing at the board doing a math problem. He tries to buy time and calm himself down. He finally walks back to his seat carrying a book in front of him. He usually prefers to wear a specific raincoat because it covers his genital area and prevents embarrassment.
Tony goes to confession once a month. He decides he doesn't need to mention watching Lisa because it's not a sin if he's not really hurting anyone. Tony sees Lisa kissing his youth group leader and finds out they're dating. He's disappointed and has dreams about the things they probably do when they're alone together. Mom kisses Dad when he sells his invention, and his sister-in-law kisses Tony on the cheek.
If your children have read this book or someone has read it to them, consider these discussion topics:
Parents may wish to discuss the normal physical changes kids undergo during puberty and how to deal with them in a God-honoring manner.
- What are some ways Tony's family members change after they become rich?
- How does Tony feel about these changes? In what ways does he believe his family members are "selling out"?
- How would you feel if you were him, and what would you do if you suddenly had lots of money?
What does the Bible say about money and wealth?
How do Tony's anxieties and fears affect his everyday life?
- What finally helps him handle them better?
Who can you talk to when you're feeling sad, confused or worried?
What kind of a friend is Joel?
- How does his behavior impact Tony?
- Which of your friends make you a better person?
- Which cause you stress or push you toward negative choices?
Alcohol: Joel gives Tony beer, vodka, scotch, rye and brandy from his dad's stash. The boys drink too much and throw up in the bushes. Tony has a horrible headache the next morning. Another day, the smell of his dad's boss's brandy almost makes Tony sick.
Theft: Joel repeatedly steals from stores and the school cafeteria. It bothers Tony immensely, but he's afraid to say anything.
Smoking: Dad smokes cigars. His brother offers one to Tony after his nephew is born. Mom objects, and Tony says he wasn't about to smoke one anyway because they stink. Lisa smokes cigarettes.
Lying: When Dad's boss calls to ask if he's still sick, Tony continues the lie Dad started and says Dad is getting better. Dad is actually working on and marketing his invention. Tony tells his sister-in-law that her baby is pretty. He thinks it's better to tell a little lie than to tell the truth and have everyone hate you. Tony lies, telling Lisa that his grandma's cancer of the larynx was caused by her excessive smoking. In reality, Grandma never smoked.
Other rude behavior: Led by Joel, Tony and his friends frequently leave a waitress's tip in the bottom of half-empty milkshake glasses. They back off after she yells at them, and they realize they've been compromising her dignity. Joel frequently makes prank phone calls. He invites Tony to come over and read Lisa's diary.
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Readability Age Range
10 to 14
Yearling Books, an imprint of Random House Books for Young Readers