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Book Review: Judy Blume's 'In the Unlikely Event'

In the Unlikely Event book cover

Judy Blume is a beloved children’s author, but she’s had her fair share of adult bestsellers as well. Scott D. Southard brings Current State his review of her latest book geared toward grownups.

Judy Blume was always there.

For generations of young readers, her books were like a road map to growing up. No matter your age or the stage of development, there was a Judy Blume book waiting with answers to all your questions. From "Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing" to "Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret," her novels always managed to make you feel a little less alone. Now, Blume is back with a novel for us grownups called "In the Unlikely Event." And it might be the best thing you read this year.

Elizabeth, New Jersey became known as Plane Crash City when it experienced three horrific airplane accidents in the early 1950s. These incidents rocked the city, leading to the closure of Newark airport and wild conspiracy theories. Judy Blume grew up in this city, and she felt those real events first hand. In her new novel, she captures the story of how those tragedies changed an entire community. The plane crashes touch every one of her wonderful characters in some way. Some are inspired to change themselves or find love, while others spiral into depression and darkness. You see a city rise and come together while other relationships crumble. I could not help but be in awe of Blume’s ability to oversee so many characters and so many plotlines. It’s a task that would overwhelm many authors, but Blume manages it with finesse.

One of the central characters, and probably my favorite in the book, is young Miri Ammerman. She is so innocent at the beginning of the story, dreaming about first dances and holiday parties. There are a lot of mysteries in Miri’s past though. Her mom Rusty had her when she was young, never bothering to tell Miri about her real father. Miri ends up looking to her uncle Henry, a local reporter, as her father figure. While her best friend Natalie Osner, who is convinced she is possessed with one of the victims of the crash, has a breakdown, Miri finds her strength during this period.

Besides the wonderful characterizations, another thing I enjoyed about the work is how skillfully Blume incorporates the events of her story and her characters into the actual historical events. From references to music and movies, to the newspaper articles that introduce each chapter, this book is so layered that the lines between fact and fiction become blurred.  Sometimes, when reading historical fiction, I can get distracted wondering what is real and imaginary. But Blume’s writing is so captivating that I didn’t care. I was able to just immerse myself in the book without worrying about what was truth or fiction.

I was enchanted by "In the Unlikely Event." When the book came to a conclusion I was sad to leave that world and to say goodbye to the characters that became almost friends in so short a reading. It’s not surprising that Blume gave us such an incredible novel. She did write the best book we ever read at age 8, and again at 12, and again at 16. It is nice to see she’s still here for us after all these years.

Scott Southard is the author of the new novel "Permanent Spring Showers" and "A Jane Austen Daydream". You can follow his writing via his blog "The Musings and Artful Blunders of Scott D. Southard" at sdsouthard.com.

Current State contributor Scott D. Southard is author of A Jane Austen Daydream, Maximilian Standforth and the Case of the Dangerous Dare, My Problem With Doors, and Megan. Scott received his Master's degree in writing from the University of Southern California. More of his writing can be found at his blog, The Musings and Artful Blunders of Scott D. Southard.
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