September 11, 2015

In the Unlikely Event by Judy Blume [book]

Reading Are You There God? It's Me, Margaret by Judy Blume is as much a part of being a teenage girl as having body insecurities or playing 'Truth or Dare' with a group of people you don't entirely trust. And despite having been written before I was alive, Judy Blume managed to speak to my adolescent self and capture a lot of tumultuous feelings one experiences at that age. Even if I didn't understand what the hell she was talking about with the period belt with clips for sanitary napkins.

Sadly, those sanitary napkin clips make a reappearance in her new book because apparently Judy Blume doesn't know how to write anything for people who use tampons and don't use the clinical term "menstruation." It's not a main part of this book, but the fact that she managed to work the topic in again is something to note.

You know what else Judy Blume managed to work in? Sex. Like, actual sex. Descriptions of sex. It wouldn't be so shocking, except that entire book is written as if it were another YA novel, but added the sex descriptions to appeal to an older audience. It's disconcerting.

Sanitary napkins and sex shock aside, this book is ultimately a trip down memory lane for Blume. The entire project feels more like a detailed diary of her childhood and less like a compelling novel. I understand it's a period piece, but the constant references to 50's music, style and such don't seem to have much relevance to the story itself--just reminders that Judy Blume knows a lot about the 50's.

She also attempts to do a multi-character story, with the perspective jumping around every few paragraphs. Not only is it confusing, but considering many of the characters get only one paragraph before ultimately perishing in a fiery plane crash, it's also unnecessary. The lack of focus only draws attention to the fact that none of the characters are compelling enough to support an entire story.

Historical fiction is always a tricky genre simply because there is always the question of just how factual to make it. Hollywood movies seem to have no difficulty, usually only stealing the basic premise of an event or life and then crafting a plot that creates the most drama and interest. Blume would have been better off going that route. Instead, she felt compelled to stay true to many of the facts of these mysterious plane crashes, leaving no central narrative to hold it all together other than the fact that they happened.

Perhaps the remaining residents of Elizabeth, New Jersey will appreciate this book because it gives them a glimpse into their town's history. But for everyone else, it offers little more than beautiful prose on an unworthy topic.

Final word: Hardly a staple of anyone's literary library. It made for a bummer summer read. Let me know when you get the joke.

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