Saturday, December 5, 2015

Book Review: In the Unlikely Event

In the Unlikely Event by Judy Blume

Goodreads Summary:
In her highly anticipated new novel, Judy Blume, the New York Times # 1 best-selling author of Summer Sisters and of young adult classics such as Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret, creates a richly textured and moving story of three generations of families, friends and strangers, whose lives are profoundly changed by unexpected events.

In 1987, Miri Ammerman returns to her hometown of Elizabeth, New Jersey, to attend a commemoration of the worst year of her life.

Thirty-five years earlier, when Miri was fifteen, and in love for the first time, a succession of airplanes fell from the sky, leaving a community reeling. Against this backdrop of actual events that Blume experienced in the early 1950s, when airline travel was new and exciting and everyone dreamed of going somewhere, Judy Blume imagines and weaves together a haunting story of three generations of families, friends, and strangers, whose lives are profoundly changed by these disasters. She paints a vivid portrait of a particular time and place — Nat King Cole singing “Unforgettable,” Elizabeth Taylor haircuts, young (and not-so-young) love, explosive friendships, A-bomb hysteria, rumors of Communist threat. And a young journalist who makes his name reporting tragedy. Through it all, one generation reminds another that life goes on.

In the Unlikely Event is a gripping novel with all the hallmarks of Judy Blume's unparalleled storytelling.

My Review:
Ultimately, I enjoyed this book, but it had way too many characters. The story centers around a series of plane crashes in Elizabeth, New Jersey in 1951 and 1952. I didn't realize until I read the author's note that Judy Blume grew up in Elizabeth, and she was in eight grade when the crashes occurred in real life.

This book is historical fiction. The central character is Miri, a 15-year old, living with her mother, uncle, and grandmother in Elizabeth. Everyone in the town is impacted by the crashes. Uncle Henry is the town reporter, Miri and her mother witness the first crash, Miri's best friend communicates with one of the victims of the first crash, etc.

A LOT of other people are showcased as well. This book alternates perspective every few pages. It's all in third person, thankfully, but the cast of characters is extremely large. I actually took notes in the first chapter and came up with a list of 13 people. Some were never mentioned again after that chapter. And many more were added as the book progressed.

I think Blume was trying to make the reader feel attached to the characters who would die in the crashes to make it more personal, but it just bogged down the central story. I didn't really care about many of the characters, and I ended up anticipating more crashes, so the cast list would shrink, as horrible as that sounds.

Later in the book I got into the story more. I really liked the story of Miri, who is experiencing her first romantic relationship and the end of a very close friendship. Blume's insight into the adolescent female mind definitely shines in this book. It reads like YA at times.

I enjoyed the historical elements of this book and ultimately got into the story of Miri and her family, but there were just too many characters to make this a great book. It reminded me of The Casual Vacancy by J.K. Rowling. Good story in the end, but too much of a struggle to get there.

My cheat sheet of characters from chapter 1.

My Rating: 3 Stars
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  1. Oh I think all the characters and switching of POV would be too much for me. I haven't heard too many great things about this one anyways. I am glad you ended up enjoying the story though!