In the Unlikely EventJuly 29, 2015
by Judy Blume
I knew nothing of Judy Blume’s work before picking up this book. (I know, I know. Just about every woman I’ve said this to has looked at me as if I muttered I was completely in the dark about Jesus, automatic steering, or personal computers.) And I think there’s a good reason why I was unfamiliar with Blume’s writing: I’m not her intended audience. But I was interested in this book by the true historical phenomenon at its center: Over the course of several months spanning 1951 and 1952, three planes fell from the sky and crashed into Elizabeth, New Jersey. When I heard that, I thought of a Hindenburg-ish-type narrative. Rather, the book revolves around a group of teenage girls, their families, and the interwoven three-degrees-of-separation-ness of their lives. While the crashes are the galvanizing incidents, the novel is of how these girls and their families cope—or not. Throughout is a coming-of-age story, teen romance, cultural identity, adultery, family secrets. While the book beautifully captures the nuanced, frazzled nature of youth, it failed to capture me. I couldn’t curl up inside these girls, their lives, their dramas. And it has nothing to do with the book having a female perspective; I’ve enjoyed many novels with strong female protagonists. I liked Girl, Interrupted tremendously. I’ve given the book to my assistant, Annie, to find out what she, a Blume fan, has to say. I’m moving on to The Catcher in the Rye to see if maybe I’ve just got a thing about coming-of-age stories.