‘Girlfriends’ Creator Mara Brock Akil Is Adapting a Judy Blume Book for Netflix

The TV show from Mara Brock Akil will reimagine the main characters of 1975 young adult novel "Forever" as Black teenagers.
Mara Brock Akil, Judy Blume
Mara Brock Akil, Judy Blume
Frazer Harrison/WireImage/Evan Agostini/Getty Images

An adaptation of Judy Blume’s 1975 young adult novel “Forever” has been greenlit by Netflix, the streamer announced Thursday.

The show is the first project to come from Mara Brock Akil’s 2020 overall deal with Netflix to develop new content for the streamer. Akil, best known as the creator of the popular 2000 UPN comedy series “Girlfriends,” will showrun and executive produce the series.

“Judy Blume’s ability to capture the real emotions we experience during the various rites of passage of our youth influenced my life choices and writing voice,” Akil said in a statement on Thursday. “I’m honored to reimagine one of my favorite books, ‘Forever.’ I am thrilled to have the opportunity of a lifetime to partner with a childhood icon and bring this story to my Netflix home, where the idea of your first love being with you Forever is shared with the world through the lens of Black love.”

The original novel “Forever” focuses on Katherine Danziger and Michael Wagner, two high school seniors who meet at a New Year’s Eve party and slowly begin dating. As their relationship deepens and their attraction grows, the two teens, both virgins, are forced to confront their relationships with their own sexuality. The book’s frank discussion of teenage sexuality caused no small controversy when it was released, making the American Library Association’s list of the 100 most-frequently banned books of the ’90s. In 2005, it was the second-most challenged or banned book in the United States.

In the original book, Katherine and Michael were both depicted as white — in a 1978 TV film, they were played by Stephanie Zimbalist and Dean Butler. The Netflix show reimagines them as Black teenagers in the modern day, navigating the experience of being each other’s firsts. Akil will executive produce “Forever” under her Story27 production banner, with Susie Fitzgerald, Erika Harrison, and Blume also executive producing

“We are excited to partner with Mara Brock Akil and Story27 on our first series, ‘Forever,'” Netflix’s vice president of overall deals Renate Radford said in a statement. “Mara’s creative and authentic storytelling allows us to present a fresh take on an iconic coming-of-age love story. We look forward to bringing the series to a global audience.”

“Forever” isn’t the only forthcoming adaptation of Blume’s acclaimed young adult work. In April, Lionsgate will release a film adaptation of her most famous novel, 1970’s “Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret,” about a sixth-grader in a secular household struggling with her religious identity. “The Edge of Seventeen” director Kelly Fremon Craig directs the film, which stars Abby Ryder Fortson, Rachel McAdams, Benny Safdie, and Kathy Bates. Blume served as one of the producers on the film, along with James L. Brooks.

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