Review of In the Unlikely Event by Judy Blume

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4 star

This was my first time reading a book by Judy Blume since childhood.  This is a work of fiction, but it is based on a real life event, in 1951 in Elizabeth,  NJ.  In a matter of two months three planes crash into Elizabeth, NJ and nobody knows why.  Although, the speculations fly…spaceships? zombies? sabotage?

My favorite character in the book, Miri Ammerman, has some different thoughts about what happened.  Miri, sees the first plane crash and goes to the sites of the next two crashes, reads the newspapers and comes up with a reoccurring theme in all of these crashes that no one else seems to recognize. Throughout the book, Miri’s voice is often not heard as she is only a 15 year old girl in the 1950’s.  However, Miri never lets this stop her.  As a reporter for her school newspaper, Miri writes about her thoughts on these plane crashes, but the school principal will not allow her to put the article in the school paper.  This doesn’t stop Miri from getting her thoughts out there.  She prints the article herself and hands it out to her classmates the next day, much to the dismay of the school principal. Miri wishes for change in her family, closer to the life of her best friend Natalie, which she gets, but not exactly how she planned.  I never saw this coming!  Miri goes through many ups and downs in her young life, not just these awful plane crashes, but young love, a best friend who struggles after the crashes, family changes…all of this out of her control.  Somehow, Miri manages to stay in control and learns the importance of thinking for herself.  The wisdom that comes out of this young, 15 year old girl was amazing to read.  You will laugh with Miri and cry with her too.

While, this book is based on these tragic plane crashes, the reader learns a lot more about each one of Judy Blume’s characters.  The impact of the crashes on each of their lives is only one aspect of the complex, well developed characters within the pages of In the Unlike Event.  In true Judy Blume form, controversial topics are all over this book and characters in a way that is truly Judy Blume.  She delves into the topics with openess, honesty and in a realistic manner.  You will cheer on some characters, like I did with Miri.  At times, you will see such realistic, but flawed moments with characters, such as Miri’s mom Rusty, Miri’s best friend Natalie, Natalie’s father Dr O and Mason (Miri’s first love).   Many of these situations will keep you guessing as you turn the pages.  By the end you will rejoice with some of the events in each characters lives and be saddened by other events.  Did living in Elizabeth NJ change the course of their lives?

I was pleasantly surprised by this book.  It took me until about the middle of the book to fall in love with the story.  I liked it from the beginning and wanted to keep reading, but by about the middle I knew I couldn’t wait to see where it all went.  As the story proceeded, I couldn’t put it down!  I just wanted to know what happened with each of the characters whose lives I felt a part of with each turn of a page.

If you were a childhood fan of Judy Blume, like I was,  In the Unlikely Event is a must read.  Historical fiction fans as well as those who enjoy a book that tugs at your heart strings would also enjoy this book.  In a talk and book signing I attended for In the Unlikely Event (see my previous blog post about the event), Judy Blume said this was a story she had for a long time.  She was just waiting for the right time to share it.  Although this is a work of fiction, Judy Blume grew up in Elizabeth, NJ and lived there, as a young girl, when these planes really crashed into her hometown. She says that this may be her last novel.  😦   Being in her late seventies, this may very well be her last. I certainly hope that this is not the end of her amazing novels that withstand time and generations, but if it is I’m glad to have read it.  This book and it’s characters will stay with me.  If In the Unlikely Event,  is the last novel from Judy Blume, it will be a great end to her legacy.  I believe this book will travel the generations in a similar fashion to her children’s books.

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