Book Review – In the Unlikely Event by Judy Blume
July 23, 2015
In her highly anticipated new novel, Judy Blume, the New York Times # 1 best-selling author of Summer Sisters and of young adult classics such as Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret, creates a richly textured and moving story of three generations of families, friends and strangers, whose lives are profoundly changed by unexpected events.
In 1987, Miri Ammerman returns to her hometown of Elizabeth, New Jersey, to attend a commemoration of the worst year of her life. Thirty-five years earlier, when Miri was fifteen, and in love for the first time, a succession of airplanes fell from the sky, leaving a community reeling. Against this backdrop of actual events that Blume experienced in the early 1950s, when airline travel was new and exciting and everyone dreamed of going somewhere, she paints a vivid portrait of a particular time and place—Nat King Cole singing “Unforgettable,” Elizabeth Taylor haircuts, young (and not-so-young) love, explosive friendships, A-bomb hysteria, rumors of Communist threat. And a young journalist who makes his name reporting tragedy. Through it all, one generation reminds another that life goes on.
In the Unlikely Event is vintage Judy Blume, with all the hallmarks of Judy Blume’s unparalleled storytelling, and full of memorable characters who cope with loss, remember the good times and, finally, wonder at the joy that keeps them going.
On the Plus Side:
- In true Judy Blume fashion, the main characters are very well developed.
- This book is in many ways a unique combination of YA and Adult. Several of the main characters are in their teens, but you still get a good sense of the adult characters as well (although I think Blume is stronger at writing from the teen perspective).
- I like that actual events (airplane crashes) are the backdrop to the fictional story, and I love that Blume is relaying many of her own personal experiences in the telling of the story. There is definitely a realistic feel to the story, and you can imagine yourself being present at that time.
- I appreciate the various depictions of young love – it isn’t always a tidy package, and Blume depicts the highs as well as the lows that can occur with budding romances.
On the Minus Side:
- There are sooooo many extraneous characters throughout the novel, and it takes awhile to figure out who you need to remember and who you don’t. Some of them could have easily been eliminated without detracting from the story.
- I think the book was a little longer than it needed to be. It could have been streamlined a bit, which may draw the reader in a bit more.
- I don’t feel like the ending fit with the characters or with the direction in which the story was moving. I was disappointed with many aspects of the conclusion.
Overall, I enjoyed this book, but I didn’t love it, and for Judy Blume that is a little disappointing for me (I was seriously a HUGE fan in my adolescent years). I haven’t had a chance to read Summer Sisters yet, but I’m hoping to get to that one soon (and I’m hoping I love that one!).
What did you think of In the Unlikely Event? How do you think it compares to Blume’s other works?