The Truth About Forever is Gender Neutral

Sarah Dessen. The Truth About Forever. New York: Penguin Group, 2004.

What is forever? What does it mean? How long is forever?
“Forever was so many different things. It was always changing, it was what everything was really all about. It was twenty minutes, or a hundred years, or just this instant, or any instant I wished would last and last. But there was only one truth about forever that really mattered, and that was this: it was happening” (374). Happening for everyone not just girls but also boys and adults. This story is gender neutral because it focuses on the feelings instead of the typical girl problems and making it relevant for any reader who is trying to figure out who they are or dealing with a major loss.

For Macy, the word “forever” did not have much meaning at the beginning the summer because with the passing of her dad everything seemed so temporary. She finds herself striving for perfection to help her mother stay in control, and to stop herself from breaking down. Macy spends her summer days working at the library with co-workers that hate her, preparing for the SATs, and missing her boyfriend, Jason, who is away at Brain Camp. But with one e-mail her summer takes a dramatic turn and she finds herself working in the middle of the ever hectic WISH catering. Even stranger, she begins to find comfort in the chaos that she used to frown upon. Soon enough she begins to break away from her normal routine and even attends a few parties with her new friends. However, the change that seems necessary for Macy becomes a problem for her mother who worries that Macy is forgetting her responsibilities. Strugglinig between what is expected of her and what she wants, Macy must face her father's death and find a way to help her mother do the same. As the summer unfolds, Macy starts to realize the importance of the here and now. She discovers that forever is not about being safe and perfect, and instead she must live in the moment to feel alive.

Although The Truth about Forever is geared toward young women, it can be used to teach both genders about loss/grief, relationships, responsibility, and self-esteem. This novel addresses topics and real life issues that most teenagers deal with everyday. The Truth About Forever grabs reader;s attention and allows them to see life through the eyes of the characters of the book. It is important to note that this book is a great read for anyone willing to take a little time out of his/her life to participate in the adventure and succession of one girl's journey of find the meaning of true happiness.

Recommendations for Teachers
This is a great book to read in and out of the classroom. The Truth About Forever is a fast paced read that keep readers engaged and ready to learn what happens next. Sarah Dessen writes about more than just a girl falling in love, she writes about real issues in today's modern world. Some of the biggest themes in this book include: love, relationships, responsibility, passions/hobbies, friendships, loss of a parent, and communication. It is important for teachers to engage with their students at their level. Many times students find required reading texts to be dull, boring, and old, but with this book boys and girls alike will enjoy their time learning about Macy and the challenges she faces. Every student will be able to relate to the realistic characters and feelings of emotion tied in throughout this book. Here are a few examples of how this book can be implemented into the classroom:

--------> Loss and Grief:
This novel addresses the topics of loss and grief. Macy is unable to grieve properly over the loss of her father until she realizes the importance of grieving. Delia tells her, “Grieving doesn’t make you imperfect…It makes you human” (284). Macy understands that people need to mourn over a loss in order to move on and continue a healthy life. This could be useful in a high school classroom because students may be going through a similar situation.
  • Teachers could have students compare how Macy dealt with losing a loved one and how they have dealt (or may deal) with losing a loved one.
  • Then, teachers have students compare What Macy did to grieve? and what they are doing (could do) to grieve?
This novel also talks about the importance of friendship. At the beginning of the story, Macy finds herself consumed with her brainy boyfriend, SAT preparation, and perfection. Macy understands that there is more to life than a repetitive, daily routine as she begins to form a friendship with her co-worker, Kristy. Through her new friendship, Macy finds herself breaking free from her perfect world. High school students will be able to recognize the joy of branching out to form friendships as they watch Macy’s new friendship unfold.
Activity:, teachers have students get into groups and discuss their best friend. Teachers could post an array of discussion questions such as:
  1. How did you meet this person?
  2. How long have you known him/her?
  3. Why did you become best friends?
  4. How would your life be different if he/she was not around?

Through this discussion, students will become aware of the importance of a best friend.

"There is never a time or place for true love. It happens accidentally, in a heartbeat, in a single flashing, throbbing moment."

The Truth About Forever deals with one of the most important issues of being a teenager: relationships. At the beginning of the novel Macy is introduced as having a great boyfriend who is smart, committed, involved, and part of the student council. She believes that she is happy with him, but when he leaves for a Scholars camp over the summer Macy begins to find out more about herself and what she wants from life. When she meets a new guy over the summer, she finally realizes just how wrong Jason was for her and that he was more of a safety net than an actual boyfriend. She finally falls in love for someone who is real, someone who has flaws and accepts her as she is.He does not judge her or expect perfection from her, this is something that all teenagers need to realize, people are not perfect and being in a relationship is about two people having a special bond together. Through this novel teachers can talk to their students about the importance of a healthy relationship.
Ask students to get into small groups and create two lists, one with characteristics of a healthy relationship and another with characteristics of an unhealthy relationship. Then reconvene the class and discuss the lists they have created and develop a classroom basis for a healthy relationship.

--------> Communication:

"This was always the problem with my mother and me, I suddenly realized. There were so many things we thought we agreed on, but anything can have to meanings. Like sides of a coin, it just matters how it falls."
The relationship between Macy and her mother is very important in this book and also a great topic to discuss in class. As many students may not see eye to eye with their parents the misunderstanding and change in the mother-daughter relationship could be a chance to practice seeing from a different point of view. Here are some suggested activities:
Role playing: Pretend that you are Macy’s mom and are talking to a close friend, family or perhaps her husband. (pages 219-222)
  • What does she tell them about Macy?
  • What does she tell them about Macy’s Actions?
  • What are her expectations?
  • What is she really worrying about? At home? At work?

Compare and contrast with Media: You can show the movie or perhaps just the major clips of Disney’s Brave and compare the mother-daughter relationship between the movie and the book
  • Is it the same misunderstandings as Macy and her mother?
  • Is this relatable?
  • Why is it so easy to misunderstand?

Real life: Have the students write out miscommunications and disagreements between their parental figure and themselves.
  • Are there any other ways of communication that are easy to misunderstand? (texting, talking to a sarcastic person for the first time)

If you are considering a final project or perhaps just a journal topic (which could be used earlier on during the reader so they can imagine the characters better) you can focus on who/how the student pictures the characters. Ask each student to pick a celebrity to play each part and have them explain why they chose that parson for that part.

About Sarah Dessen

Raised in North Carolina, Dessen was an avid reader and a child with a wild imagination. Like many other writers Dessen worked as a waitress after college, where she was able to pick up a lot of materials for stories, eventually leaving it for a teaching position. Teaching has not only given Dessen more ideas about books but also because teaching gave her the ability to "show people how writing can really change the way you see not only yourself but the world."

sarah dessen.jpeg
Dessen had a strong literary background because of her parents and even some friends. She recalls how, “In high school, I was lucky enough to have a big group of girlfriends that have really inspired a lot of the stories in my books. I’m still close with my friends from that time, so it’s never very hard to put myself back into that place, that voice." Dessen currently resides in her home town which she says is, "a good or bad thing depending on what day you ask me.” Although she did not expect to become a popular young adult author, she has 9 novels which received amazing reviews and are being republished. Recalling what books have done for her, Dessen expresses her hopes for her books, "I think it was because back then books were still somewhat new to me, and when I found an author who seemed to say just what I was feeling, it really struck me and resonated. I hope that my books do that for the people who read them: I think it’s the best thing to which any writer can aspire."

To read more about Sarah Dessen's click here

Other Books by Sarah Dessen

What Happened to Goodbye
What Happened to Goodbye
Lock and Key
Lock and Key

Someone Like You
Someone Like You
This Lullaby
This Lullaby

Along for the Ride
Along for the Ride

Here is an interview with author Sarah Dessen at the 2011 National Book Festival.

Additional Resources:
  • Sarah Dessen Homepage Find out more information about Sarah Dessen and the books she's written.
  • Sarah Dessen Wikipedia Find out about Sarah Dessen's history and works of literature.
  • Sarah Dessen's Amazon Author Page Here is Amazon's big scoop on the beloved author of The Truth About Forever
  • Sarah Dessen's FAN CLUB! Want to talk with other readers about the latest book? Read reviews and get all the inside info on Sarah Dessen? Click this link to be directed to her fan page were you can mingle with fans just like you!
  • The Truth About Forever Interested in reading this book? Check out Amazon's friendly service and buy it online now!
Dealing with grief:
  • Kids Health
    An informational website directed toward young adults about the grieving process, how to cope, and how to care for oneself.
  • Teen Advice
    A page-long website with useful resources and links for teens dealing with a passing of a loved one.
More about relationships:
  • Healthy Relationships Find out more what it means to be in a healthy relationship. Macy was not happy in her first relationship, but then she met Wes. Find out if your relationship is happy and healthy, or something else.
  • Teen Relationships Browse this site for more information regarding the truth about relationships.

--Tricia Haggerty
--Alexis Brady
--Liz Juarez