Even the title of Then Again, Maybe I Won’t expresses the contradictory nature of adolescence, the confusing state of simultaneously wanting to be autonomous adult and dependent child, while awkwardly hovering somewhere in between. Judy Blume does a remarkable job of getting inside a teenage boy’s mind and employing a believable adolescent voice to express the worries, fears, and confusion of this difficult age.
Blume thoroughly understands young people, and her juvenile characters ring true. Unlike many adults, she appreciates the seriousness of adolescent concerns. Tony internalizes everyone’s problems, assuming responsibility and worry for events over which he has absolutely no control. He is anxious about money, afraid that at the rate his parents are spending their newfound wealth they will soon have nothing left. He mentally girds himself for the day when the money will run out and worries constantly about his grandmother’s exile from the kitchen and how terrible she must be feeling. He worries about getting caught making crank phone calls with Joel, and he agonizes over whether he should report Joel’s shoplifting to the police. The adults around him, wrapped up in their own concerns, have no inkling of what is going on in Tony’s head. When Mrs. Miglione learns that Tony needs to discuss his problems with a psychiatrist, she responds, “What problems? A thirteen-year-old boy doesn’t have any problems.”
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