Deenie by Judy Blume
9th Jun 2010
Blume beautifully captures a teenage girl’s voice, and her growing self-awareness as she moves beyond her mother’s dreams for her and finds her own. Deenie’s back brace plunges her from one of the beautiful people at the top of her school’s social spectrum to a girl who identifies with lonely outsiders like ‘Creeping Crud’, a girl with chronic eczema.
So why is a story about a girl coming to terms with her disability one of the most banned books in school libraries? Because of four lines – literally four – about masturbation. They include “I touched my special place practically every night. It was the only way I could fall asleep and besides, it felt good” and another where Deenie rubs her ‘special spot’ in the shower and gets that ‘special feeling.’ Reading this aged ten, I assumed Deenie’s special place was the bit just behind her knee. I used to stroke that and it did indeed feel good. Thank God I wasn’t alone in my perversion.
Looking back, I was too young or naive to read many of Blume’s novels (especially Forever, where I assumed she’d made up these ridiculous things called ‘erections.’ As IF, Judy!). But I loved how openly Blume talked about teenage dreams and parental demands and the pressure-cooker of high school. She was, and is, controversial because she told us sex could be fun; no-one ever tragically died or got magically pregnant the first time they did it. She was a welcome antidote to more moralistic authors and a more accurate source of sex education than the Just 17 problem pages.
Revisit teenage coming-of-age and filthy knee-touching by buying a copy for just £3.86 on Amazon.
Guest post by Sara Vali