Then Again Maybe I Won't
by Judy Blume


Tony Miglione only CLAIMS to be birdwatching

Judy Blume's Then Again, Maybe I Won't

Book review by Monica Friedman

Ages 11+

Teenager Confronts Class Consciousness, Sexuality, Shoplifting

Most of Judy Blume’s books begin with a great change in the protagonist’s life.

In this case, Tony Miglione’s life is completely upended.

Then Again, Maybe I Won't - Summary

He takes the announcement of his sister-in-law's pregnancy without much interest (except for the visual image of his brother and sister-in-law doing the things that result in pregnancy) but everyone else in their decidedly blue-collar family is suddenly freaking out about money.

  • His dad is an electrician,
  • his brother is a high school history teacher,
  • his mother works in the underwear section of a department store, and
  • his sister-in-law hasn’t even finished college.

For days, something has been going on that Tony can’t parse. His dad is definitely acting strangely, but Tony’s wrong about why.

His dad isn’t sick, or in trouble with the Jersey mob. No, his dad is, apparently, a genius, who has invented something Tony can’t understand, and sold his invention for so much money that the entire family is moving to a mansion in the suburbs.

 Tony likes the life he has, his friends, his paper route, his school, but he has no choice. His parents expect him to give up everything—everything—because they won’t need any of the trappings of their old, working class life now that they’re rich.

Tony is a nervous kid.

  • He gets nervous when the family visits the grave of the older brother he never knew.
  • He gets nervous when he meets the most beautiful girl he’s ever seen.
  • He gets nervous when it feels like his mother and everyone else in the family has gone crazy just because they’re rich.

And he gets especially nervous when his new friend and next-door neighbor, Joel, proves that even the richest kids in the world can be petty little criminals.

Then Again, Maybe I Won't - Review

Other than spying on Joel’s big sister, who changes clothes with the window shades up (he cleverly obtains a pair of binoculars to improve the view by convincing his family that he’s really into bird watching), he doesn’t have any way to cope with the mounting stress.

Aside from the Peeping Tom behavior, a few vague references to dirty paperbacks, and Tony’s nervousness around getting erections at inappropriate times, the story’s main examination of adolescent male sexuality involves his reaction to wet dreams.

Tony suffers vast embarrassment about both the unwanted hard-ons and the unwanted nocturnal emissions, and, unlike characters in other stories, Tony never hears any body-positive message about puberty.

All Tony gets is his father, more nervous than Tony, saying that Tony can talk to him about anything, but never offering any help.

Even the psychiatrist that Tony eventually ends up seeing doesn’t tell him anything useful.

Possibly, this lack of certainty is what makes Then Again, Maybe I Won’t such a realistic story. As its title demonstrates, for most kids Tony’s age, it’s hard to make permanent choices. Tony wants to do a lot of things: tell his mom she’s a phony, tell Joel he’s a thief, tell Joel’s sister he’s in love with her. But, paralyzed by his own conflicting voices, he doesn’t do any of the things he fantasizes about. In other words he’s a normal teenage boy.

More of Monica's reviews.

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