Summary: Ever since his dad got rich from an invention and his family moved to a wealthy neighborhood on Long Island, Tony Miglione’s life has been turned upside down. For starters, there’s his new friend, Joel, who shoplifts. Then there’s Joel’s sixteen-year-old sister, Lisa, who gets undressed every night without pulling down her shades. And there’s Grandma, who won’t come down from her bedroom. On top of all that, Tony has a whole bunch of new questions about growing up. . . . Why couldn’t things have stayed the same? -- Laurel Leaf Books
I sure hope that you aren't tired of Judy Blume books yet because I still have a few more to go this month. I have been on a Judy Blume kick because of Kathy's Shelf Discovery/Judy Blume Mini Challenge! The latest one I read (well actually re-read) is THEN AGAIN, MAYBE I WON'T. Now if you were anything like me and my friends, we referred to this book as the boy version of ARE YOU THERE GOD? IT'S ME, MARGARET.
When I went back and read this book again as an adult, the part that I remember about (how do I say this delicately?) boys maturing wasn't nearly as big of a deal. Evidently, as a kid, I really read into all the controversial parts of this book. Although I'm pretty sure that I didn't really understand most of those parts anyway. I don't recall THEN AGAIN, MAYBE I WON'T as being one of my favorite books as a kid. It's most likely that I didn't think I had much in common with Tony being that he was a boy and all -- I probably was a lot like Booking Daughter in that I liked girly girl books.
I am so glad that I decided to read this one again. I admit that I wasn't looking forward to it like some of the other Judy Blume books, but I really appreciated it this time around. I think some of the finer points and messages were lost on me as a child (but isn't that true of so much of the really good middle grade fiction out there?) As is the case with so many Judy Blume books, THEN AGAIN, MAYBE I WON'T touched upon some huge tween issues such as discovering the opposite sex, dealing with all of the changes your body goes through, losing friends and making new ones, fitting in, and seeing your parents for what they really are.
I am actually very surprised that I didn't relate more to Tony because so much of the story was about his moving to a new (and wealthier) neighborhood. I moved around a lot as a child and hated every minute of it. I always felt like I was trying to fit in and make new friends, and I was always worried about impressing them. I remember that it took a long time to find new friends, and I definitely missed my old ones.
I really liked how this book addressed the theme of change. One of the obvious references to change is Tony and his new hormones, but there was also a great deal of change for Tony and his entire family. It wasn't fully explored in this novel (and I admit that it surprised me a bit), but Tony's older brother was killed in action in the Vietnam War. I know that probably had rippling effects, especially with Tony's mother, but it wasn't really discussed much. Another huge change for the family occurred when Tony's father sold some electronic device for a lot of money. When Tony's family moves from the working class part of Jersey City to a Long Island suburb, he begins to see how money can cause people to act very differently. His parents no longer allow his grandmother to cook meals -- she eventually takes to her room. His brother gives up his teaching job and also moves to the suburbs because he has a family to think of. And his mother is constantly worried about fitting in and copying what the neighbors do. Poor Tony!
And speaking of poor Tony...he internalized everything. And he got so upset by all this change that he actually made himself sick and ended up in the hospital. My heart really went out to him, and I just don't think I had enough compassion at 10 years old to fully appreciate his character.
Guess what? I am highly recommending THEN AGAIN, MAYBE I WON'T -- big surprise, right? It's a wonderful book that explores a lot of important pre-teen issues.
Note: There are a few different covers for THEN AGAIN, MAYBE I WON'T, but I actually read the version of the book that is pictured above.