Tag Archives: YA

IN THE UNLIKELY EVENT by Judy Blume

As you may have heard, Judy Blume is back this summer with a new book, her first for adults in over 15 years. In The Unlikely Event takes place in 1952 (when Blume was a teenager), in her hometown of Elizabeth, NJ. It is based on real events: three unrelated incidents of planes taking off or landing at Newark Airport and crashing in the suburban town of Elizabeth, all within a six-week period. While the characters are fictional, Blume based her book on both her memories of that scary time in her life and on extensive research done over the last 5 years.

The story is told mostly by classic Blume protagonist Miri Ammerman, a 14 year-old Jewish girl living in the suburbs. (Hello, Margaret, Sally, and Deenie!). Miri witnesses the first crash, and her last year of middle school is punctuated by the second two crashes as well as her first boyfriend, the sudden appearance of her father, and the loss of her best friend. In The Unlikely Event also has a host of other narrators: Miri’s family, her best friend’s family, people on the planes, people on the ground, and others in the community. Some reviewers have complained that there are too many characters to keep straight, but that didn’t bother me.

So, people seem to have loved this book (despite the confusing parade of narrators). I wish I had, but I didn’t. It read like an old-fashioned Judy Blume book to me, not like adult fiction. I found the characters to be pretty two-dimensional. They had flaws, some unexpected, but they were still pretty shallow. The dialogue was often predictable and cliched, and momentous things kept happening within very short time periods. One man lost his wife in the first crash and was paired off with another within a month. Miri’s father appeared in her life, causing her great angst, but the two of them never had a real conversation. An entire family broke apart within the course of a few weeks. It all felt rushed and oversimplified. I think I would have enjoyed the book more if I had read it when I read the rest of Judy Blume’s books, but I read too much else these days and this just didn’t compare.

I also thought that Blume’s treatment of the crashes was underdeveloped. Blume didn’t spare the grisly details, but I was still left wondering more about how the crashes impacted air travel, tourism and the local community.

The last chapter jumped ahead 30 years, when Miri was in her 40s and more mature. Unsurprisingly, that’s the chapter found the most satisfying. I liked learning how her life had turned out, and I thought Blume wrapped things up pretty realistically.

I am definitely in the minority. (I feel sort of traitorous even writing this review!) Most reviewers loved In The Unlikely Event, so if you’re a Judy Blume fan, give it a try. I should also note that the book does reflect the time period pretty well, and the naivete and girlishness of many of the characters may be pretty accurate for the 50s.

I listened to In The Unlikely Event on audio. The narration did not help the cause, as I found the narrator’s voice and diction pretty much spot on for a 14 year-old girl. That was fine for Miri’s sections, but it exacerbated my frustration with the (lack of) maturity of the other characters.

Sorry I am not more positive about this book – I really wanted to like it.

Summer Reading: A Crowdsourced Recommendation List

Summer is already a few weeks in, so I am a little behind, but here is a list of summer reading suggestions collected from my Facebook friends and people who follow the EDIWTB Facebook page. There’s a mix of fiction and non-fiction, new and not-as-new, and even some YA and poetry thrown in. Wherever I’ve read the book that was recommended, I’ve linked to my review too.

Enjoy, and happy summer reading!

Fiction

All The Light We Cannot See, Anthony Doerr

Big Little Lies and The Hypnotist’s Love Story, Liane Moriarty (see my reviews of other Moriarty books What Alice Forgot and The Husband’s Secret)

The Circle, Dave Eggars

Attachments, Rainbow Rowell

A God In Ruins, Kate Atkinson

Elena Ferrante’s Naples series, starting with My Brilliant Friend

The Sound Of Glass, Karen White

The House of Hawthorne, Erika Robuck

Wolf Hall, Hilary Mantel

The Shore, Sara Taylor

The Collected Stories, Breece D’J Pancake

The Sunlit Night, Rebecca Dinerstein

Movie Star By Lizzie Pepper, Hilary Liftin (on sale 7/21) 

Simon vs. The Homo Sapiens Agenda, Becky Albertalli 

The Storied Life Of A.J. Fikry, Gabrielle Zevin

Some Luck and Early Warning, Jane Smiley (reviewed here and here)

The Girl On The Train, Paula Hawkins (reviewed here)

The Children Act, Ian McEwan (reviewed here)

The Night Circus, Erin Morgenstern

The Narrow Road To The Deep North, Richard Flanagan

Euphoria, Lily King

The Snow Child, Eowyn Ivey

Station Eleven, Emily St. John Mandel (reviewed here)

Americanah, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

Redeployment, Phil Klay (reviewed here)

Fourth Of July Creek, Smith Henderson

Beach Town, Mary Kay Andrews

Summer Secrets, Jane Green

The Daddy Diaries, Joshua Braff

The Cake Therapist, Judith Fertig

Girl Of My Dreams, Peter Davis

The Secret Of Magic, Deborah Johnson

A Court Of Thorns And Roses, Sarah Maas

Star Craving Mad, Elise Miller (out 8/4)

Nonfiction

Destiny Of The Republic: A Tale Of Madness, Medicine And The Murder Of A President, Candice Millard

Dead Wake: The Last Crossing Of The Lusitania, Erik Larson

The Skies Belong To Us: Love And Terror In The Golden Age Of Hijacking, Brendan Koerner

All The Truth Is Out, Matt Bai

The Real Thing: Lessons On Love And Life From A Wedding Reporter’s Notebook, Ellen McCarthy

Paper Love: Searching For The Girl My Grandfather Left Behind: Sarah Wildman – non-fiction

An Invisible Thread: The True Story Of An 11-Year-Old Panhandler, A Busy Sales Executive, And An Unlikely Meeting with Destiny, Laura Schroff

The Wright Brothers, David McCullough

The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, Marie Kondo (reviewed here)

Devil In The Grove: Thurgood Marshall, The Groveland Boys, And The Dawn Of A New America, Gilbert King

Country Driving: A Chinese Road Trip, Peter Hessler

The Three-Day Promise, Donald Chung

Young Adult

I’ll Give You The Sun, Jandy Nelson

The Stellow Project – Shari Becker

One Thing Stolen, Beth Kephart

 

Poetry

The Robot Scientist’s Daughter, Jeannine Hall Gailey

Ohio Violence, Alison Stine

Banned For Life, Arlene Ang

Vessel, Parneshia Jones

Classics

To Kill A Mockingbird, Harper Lee

Peyton Place, Grace Metalious

The Martian Chronicles, Ray Bradbury

The Age Of Innocence, Edith Wharton

Lizzie Skurnick, Author of SHELF DISCOVERY, on Blog Talk Radio 9/23

If you're reading this blog, chances are you're a reader. (Or you're related to me and read this blog out of obligation). And if you're a reader now, chances are, you were a reader when you were younger. I know I was. (My mom has a lot of pictures of me from when I was about 8-14 years old where I have my nose stuck in a book.) I wish I had kept a list of all of the books I read back then, or even kept all of the books themselves. But I do remember some of them – the Judy Blume books, of course, and The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe series, and the Madeleine L'Engle books, and so many others that I read and re-read. Collectively, they made a big impression on me back when I was impressionable, and they got me to love reading. Young Adult, or YA, seems to be a much bigger genre now than it was when I was a young adult, but there were still a lot of great books around back then.

Lizzie

Lizzie Skurnick, who writes a column about YA books for the sharply funny blog Jezebel, has written a book called Shelf Discovery: The Teen Classics We Never Stopped Reading. Amazon calls it a "spastically composed, frequently hilarious omnibus of meditations on
favorite YA novels [which] dwells mostly among the old-school titles from the late '60s
to the early '80s much beloved by now grown-up ladies."

If you want to hear more about Shelf Discovery, Lizzie will be interviewed on Authors on Air on Blog Talk Radio on Wednesday, September 23 at 3 PM EST. If you've never tuned into Blog Talk Radio, it's a channel of talk
shows that you can listen to online or by phone. If you do want to
listen in to the show about Lizzie and Shelf Discovery, you should register for Blog Talk Radio in advance, so that you can call in or write in with a question. Registration is free. Here is more information about Wednesday's show.

I can't wait to read Shelf Discovery and revisit some of my favorite YA books, and I am looking forward to the show.