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Literature / Then Again, Maybe I Won't

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I thought money was the answer — till I got it.
Then Again, Maybe I Won't is a young adult novel by Judy Blume, first published in 1971.

Tony Miglione is an Italian-American teenager whose family moves to an upper-class neighborhood after his father becomes wealthy from an invention. Themes involve class conflict, peer pressure, and the trials of male puberty. (In the latter respect, it is intentionally something of a gender-inverted complement to Blume's preceding novel, Are You There God? It's Me, Margaret..)

This novel contains examples of:

  • Abhorrent Admirer: Tony's skinny and childish looking classmate, Kathryn "Corky" Thomas, has a crush on him and isn't at all shy about letting him know. Initially he wishes she would just leave him alone, but by the end of the novel he decides she's not so annoying after all and even begins to dream about her.
  • Appropriated Appelation: The Hoobers' maid has a Spanish name that Mrs. Hoober finds hard to pronounce, so Mrs. Hoober dubbed her Millicent. She also gets into the habit of calling Tony's mother "Carol" (her real name is Carmella), which Tony's mother doesn't mind, but which infuriates her son.
  • Badass Decay: In-universe, Tony thinks his brother Ralph came down with a severe case of it. Ralph used to want to be a mathematician and was nicknamed "The Wizard," but after his family gets rich, he gives up on math to follow his father in the computer software business (which he doesn't particularly enjoy) and gains weight. He also loses his close relationship and connection with Tony.
  • Bitch in Sheep's Clothing: Joel is good at acting like an upright respectable polite boy, but he's actually a delinquent.
    • Mrs. Hoober who appears to be a respectable and friendly upper-class housewife but as the book goes on she clearly has Mrs. Miglione wrapped around her finger, reveals that she is pretty bigoted (enough to not bother learning her new friend's or maid's names and just nicknames them), and puts up a charade where her family is perfect and are merely sending Joel to military academy because of the academic standing rather than the fact that her son is out of control.
  • Bizarre Taste in Food: Tony Miglione certainly thinks that his new friend Joel has bizarre taste in food; as he says, "He likes some strange sandwiches." His favorite is salami, tomato and mayonnaise, and his second favorite is onion slices on buttered whole wheat bread.
  • Cool Big Bro: Tony's late brother Vinnie (who died in Vietnam), describing him as very unpretentious and is an anchor for Tony to not forget where he came from and what really matters (he figures Vinnie would laugh at the Migliones' new lifestyle).
  • Crusty Caretaker / Servile Snarker: The Miglione's live-in housekeeper Maxine has elements of both. In fact, more often than not, it's she who bosses them around. Yet she displays Jerk with a Heart of Gold tendencies at times, such as when she fixes Tony his favorite chicken dinner after he has a particularly rough day.
  • Dead Guy Junior: Tony's baby niece is named Vincenza in honor of his eldest brother, Vinnie, who died in the Vietnam War. They call her Vicki for short.
  • Downer Ending: Other than Joel finally being caught stealing and sent to military school, none of Tony's problems are solved by the end of the book. He's receiving therapy for his anxiety attacks at least.
  • Dysfunctional Family: The Hoober Family. Father and Mother are often absent from home, sending their kids to camp in the summer and spending time at the country club when they aren't working (Mr. Hoober) or shopping (Mrs. Hoober). Mr. Hoober is implied to be controlling and with a hot temper, which as a result his children are either irresponsible and reckless (Lisa) or manipulative, shop-lifters (Joel). Mrs. Hoober doesn't do enough to correct her children's behavior either, focused on maintaining a perfect image and in the end Joel is sent to a military academy to deal with his behavior.
  • Foreign Cuss Word: The Hoober family's live-in housekeeper, Millicent, speaks only limited English and taught Joel and Lisa how to swear in Spanish. When the Migliones' first live-in maid, Gerta, turns out to be from South America and speaks no English, Tony wonders if she'll teach him to curse in Spanish. She doesn't get the chance, as she doesn't work out and is quickly let go.
  • The Hermit: Tony's grandmother locks herself in her bedroom after her daughter replaces her with Maxine as the family's chef. She refuses to come out for almost anything — even for church or family gatherings — and lets no one in but Tony, who seems to be the only one who understands, or even cares, how she feels.
  • Keeping Up with the Joneses: In Tony's mother's case, it's Keeping Up with the Hoobers, and it becomes an obsession for her. Whatever the Hoobers have, the Migliones must have as well, whether it's a live-in housekeeper or piano lessons for Tony; hurt feelings or inconvenience for her loved ones (especially her own mother, when she gives in to Maxine's demands to be in charge of the kitchen instead of the "old lady") are just collateral damage. When Joel goes off to military school, Mrs. Miglione even considers packing Tony off to military school for a minute. It gets to the point where Tony wonders whether if Joel were in juvenile detention, his parents would ask him if he wanted to be in juvenile detention too.
  • Kids Raiding the Wine Cabinet: Tony, his rich next door friend Joel and his old friend from the inner city, Frankie, are hanging out in Joel's basement when Joel jimmies into his father's liquor cabinet. The three boys get drunk.
  • Language Barrier: Some of the Migliones' first hires as maids can't speak English, only speaking Spanish or French (one is from Haiti, where French is one of the official languages). It takes them a while to find one (Maxine) who does speak English, and Tony's father in the meantime suggests they find one who speaks Italian.
  • Lonely Rich Kid: Applies to Tony regarding his relationship with his family, from whom he becomes increasingly alienated as the story progresses. To Joel as well, as his acting out is partially because he has trouble getting actual attention from his parents.
  • Maid: The Migliones go through five (all of whom are either incompetent, can't speak English, are disliked by Tony's grandmother, or all three) before settling on Maxine, who insists on taking over the cooking chores from Grandma (who is so upset about this that she takes to her room). The Hoobers have one too, but in the exact opposite of Tony's household, Joel more or less has her under his thumb.
  • Naughty Birdwatching: Tony discovers the girl next door likes to undress in front of the window. So he asks for some binoculars for Christmas for "bird watching" from his parents.
  • Nervous Wreck: Tony often gets severe stomach pains, which seem to be triggered by Joel's antics. At one point his pains become so severe that he actually collapses and is rushed to the hospital.
  • Only Known by Their Nickname: The Hoobers' live-in housekeeper is Hispanic, and since Mrs. Hoober couldn't pronounce her real name, she redubbed her Millicent, and the name stuck. By the same token, Mrs. Hoober calls Tony's mother "Carol," since it's easier to pronounce than her real name, Carmella. Tony becomes very upset with his mother for letting Mrs. Hoober do this.
  • Parents as People: Tony's father is a slave to his new job and not particularly happy, his mother has turned into a social climbing phony, his much older brother has turned into a middle aged milquetoast and he and his wife don't get along well. His grandmother is depressed and rarely leaves her bedroom. His maid isn't anywhere near as nasty as he thinks she is, but he can't get around the fact that she replaced his grandmother.
  • Precocious Crush: Tony comes down with one on Joel's older sister Lisa.
  • Prone to Tears: The Migliones' first maid, Gerta, not only can't speak English and isn't very good at her job, but is oversensitive and cries at the smallest things. She doesn't last.
  • Raging Stiffie: Tony is going through puberty, and often gets erections at embarrassing times, such as in school.
  • Real Women Have Curves: Tony believes it. His earlier disgust with Corky is that he "can't stand skinny girls" and finds Lisa Hoober attractive with her beauty and how her body is "all curves". To a lesser extent, he disagrees with his father's assessment that Angie, Ralph's wife, has fat legs and Tony thinks she has nice legs.
  • "The Reason You Suck" Speech: Tony, Joel, and Joel's rich friends get chewed out by a waitress at the diner they get milkshakes from over the way they hide her tip. Tony's the only one who takes it to heart.
  • Smoking Is Not Cool:
    • Tony's older male relatives all smoke cigars, particularly his dad. His brother Ralph even offers him one after baby Vicki's birth, which causes his mother to go ballistic — not that Tony would have smoked it anyway, since Tony hates cigars.
    • Tony's crush, Lisa, smokes cigarettes, and Tony tries to get her to quit by telling her about his grandmother, who had throat cancer and had her larynx removed — embellishing the story by mentioning that his grandmother smoked "like a fiend," although in truth she never smoked at all. It seems to work, as Lisa is so disgusted at the thought of losing her larynx that she swears off cigarettes right then and there, and Tony is pleased to think that he's responsible for her quitting smoking.
  • The Speechless: Tony's grandmother had her voice box removed due to throat cancer (although she never smoked) and as a result can communicate only by writing notes in Italian, which Tony's mother must translate for the rest of the family. However, she does seem to be able to understand English, even if she can't communicate in English herself.
  • The Talk: Tony's dad tries to give him a talk, saying he doesn't really know how to go about it, as he never brought the matter up with his two older sons. Tony assures him that he's learned all about it from school and friends, but his dad gives him a book later, just in case.
  • Tender Tears: Angie, Tony's sweet-hearted sister-in-law who tears up over the news of her pregnancy and having to give up her job, her postpartum struggles, and her splintering marriage.
  • To Be Lawful or Good: Played with — Tony knows that the lawful thing to do about his friend Joel's kleptomaniac habits is to tell on him, but he feels like either telling on him or not telling on him aren't good. It bothers him so much that he begins having anxiety attacks.Eventually Joel gets caught stealing in front of Tony and Tony can't bring himself to help Joel lie his way out of trouble.
  • Troubling Unchildlike Behavior: Tony, his rich next door friend Joel and his old friend from the inner city, Frankie, are hanging out in Joel's basement when Joel jimmies into his father's liquor cabinet. The three boys get drunk. It was the first time Tony and Frankie had done this, but Joel had been drinking enough that he knew well the differences between the various kinds of alcohol.
  • Vomit Indiscretion Shot: During their drinking binge, Tony Joel and Franky realize they're going to be sick and decide to go outside to throw up on the bushes because "it's like fertilizer."
  • You No Take Candle: The Hoobers' live-in housekeeper, Millicent (not her real name, which is something Spanish which Mrs. Hoober can't pronounce), speaks broken English in exactly this way.