Last June my girlfriend A (a different one – I’ve got so many friends with the first letter of their name being A) and I got tickets to see Judy Blume at the Historic 6th & I Synagogue. They’ve always got so much interesting stuff going on, and since A and I both freaked out about seeing one of our favorite YA authors – if you’re a woman age 25 and up, you likely inhaled all her books – but this was an event with a twist. The book she was promoting at the time was not another kids book. Instead, she was doing a question and answer session with Linda Holmes, host of NPR’s Pop Culture Happy Hour, using Linda’s questions, and some of those submitted by the audience. There was a signing that followed, but you would not believe the line, so A and I left and got noodles afterwards.
Well, it turns out that this book is based on a real event that happened in Judy’s life when she was a preteen. Growing up in Elizabeth, New Jersey, there was a 58-day period where three planes crashed into various places around the city. This book follows the intertwined stories of many of the people who saw the crashes, who died in the crashes, who helped survivors, who were journalists and writing about it at the time – all in a fictionalized way. It’s a fascinating portrait of a town in crisis, and while the main character – Miri Ammerman – is just a girl of 15, she has to deal with a lot of adult problems and issues. Things that make sure that while Judy Blume is best known for writing YA…this is definitely not a kids book. The book deals a lot with adult lives, and adult choices, and the adult consequences of those choices. It’s more about the experience of being an adult and looking back on that cusp-of-young-adulthood life.
It also helps that it’s a good book, and surprising enough to keep you interested and engaged. There were two twists that made me just stop and go “woah”, one of which I was not expecting at all. Me telling you that this book is about the plane crashes will not dampen your experience of it. I had known going in that there were multiple crashes involved, and for some reason had thought it was two instead of three, so when the third plane went down, I was still amazed. It’s a fast book, one that you’ll want to keep reading to see what’s going on, how the characters are reacting…and just what happens. There is a lovely bow on the story at the end so that you do feel satisfied about knowing what happens to characters.
If you’re looking for a beach or vacation read, this would be a good choice. Since the book is only a little more than a year old, you can feel like you’re on top of current literature. You also get to tap into your youthful love of Judy Blume, and if anyone gives you a hard time about the authorship of the book, you tell them a) Judy Blume is awesome b) It’s not YA, and c) so what if it were?
Interested in seeing some what I saw at the Judy Blume talk last year? Take a look at the video below!
Details: In the Unlikely Event by Judy Blume. First published 2015 by Knopf.