Chapters 4 & 5

Summary: Chapter 4

Katherine introduces her father, Roger, a pharmacist who is passionate about fitness. When Katherine’s parents go on vacation, Diana’s parents visit from New York City. Katherine’s grandmother, Hallie Gross, is a politically active feminist who supports Planned Parenthood. 

Michael, his friend Artie Lewin, and Erica get together at Katherine’s. Artie, a board game enthusiast, plays backgammon with Erica, while Katherine and Michael hold hands on the couch. After the four go out for pizza, they return to Katherine’s, and Artie and Erica go to the kitchen to play Monopoly. In the den, Katherine and Michael lie down in front of the fire. Michael unhooks Katherine’s bra and tries to unbutton her jeans, but she stops him. Feeling frustrated, Michael asks for a moment alone. Katherine goes to the bathroom, and when she returns, Michael and Artie make a quick exit. Erica sleeps over, and she and Katherine talk about the fact that Artie didn’t try to kiss Erica, and about how much Katherine likes Michael. They discuss their virginity. Erica, who thinks a lot about sex, has decided she should lose her virginity before college. Katherine, more of a romantic, wants her first time to be special.

Summary: Chapter 5

Michael picks Katherine up from her volunteer work at the hospital, and they talk about why she became a candy striper (or, a hospital volunteer) and about Artie’s lead part in his school’s play. Michael invites Katherine to the cast party at Elizabeth Hailey’s house and reassures Katherine that his relationship with Elizabeth wasn’t special. 

At Katherine’s house, they join Jamie, Katherine and Jamie’s grandparents, and some neighbors for dessert. After Michael leaves, Katherine’s grandmother warns Katherine about pregnancy and venereal disease. Katherine comments that her generation is more open about sex than her parents’ generation but that people her age don’t just have sex with anyone. 

Later in the week, when Katherine and Jamie’s grandparents are out, Michael comes over, and Jamie cooks dinner. After dinner, Michael and Katherine get in a playful water fight while washing the dishes. Michael then washes Katherine’s soapy hair and follows her to her bedroom while she changes her wet shirt and bra. At first, he promises not to touch Katherine. Then he says he wants to help Katherine put on her bra and touches her breasts. Jamie interrupts them and later asks Katherine whether she and Michael were having sex, but Katherine refuses to answer.

Analysis: Chapters 4 & 5

These chapters shine a light on how powerful the urge to have sex can be as well as the possible consequences. As Katherine and Michael become more intimate, the power of their desire becomes apparent in several ways. Katherine fears what will happen to her if she has sex not only in physical terms but in terms of how others view and treat her. Her decision to have sex could affect all areas of her life so she understandably continues to put the brakes on their physical connection. Michael expresses patience but also how difficult waiting is. He not only must wrestle with his physical need but also a growing urgency to seal their emotional bond. Alongside these powerful feelings, Blume explores the dangers inherent in sex. Katherine’s grandmother, who has spent her life advocating sexual health, symbolizes the logical, scientific view of teen sex. She elucidates the many sexual dangers that could impact Katherine’s life, from pregnancy to sexually transmitted diseases. That these themes are explored simultaneously illustrates how much is at stake for both Katherine and Michael as they decide whether to become sexual partners.

In Chapter 5, Blume explores generational differences in sexual morays. Katherine’s sister is thirteen years old, but she already believes that her sister’s generation, just five years older, has too many hang-ups about sex. Jamie is comfortable casually referring to sex while Katherine avoids talking about the topic. This elucidates how quickly sexual attitudes change through time. Katherine points out that in her mother’s generation, whether a girl was sexually active was one of the primary indicators of who she was as a person. This pressure is not present to the same extent for Katherine. Though Sybil is judged for being promiscuous, she’s not ostracized as she would’ve been in Katherine’s mother’s time. Katherine struggles with the decision to have sex with Michael, but social perceptions factor very little into her thinking. In describing these generational differences, Blume shows that society is becoming more permissive and open about sex as the years go on.