Applause! Judy Blume, the author whose classic books led us step by step through adolescence and beyond, is back. Here’s what we know about her newest novel, In the Unlikely Event (Knopf). We know it’s set against the backdrop of a real-life series of three plane crashes in the early 1950s in the author’s hometown of Elizabeth, New Jersey.
And that it’s about three generations of families and strangers whose lives are forever changed by tragedy and circumstance. We also know it’s Judy’s first adult novel in way too long—15 years. And since she basically helped us grow up in every conceivable way, we love her, and trust her, and can’t wait to read her words again. Bottom line: We will read anything Judy Blume ever writes. And here’s why.
OUR COMMUNITY’S FAVOURITE JUDY BLUME BOOKS
When I was a freshman, but still in junior high school, one of my friends borrowed Wifey from the library. We had all cut our teeth on Judy Blume’s teen books, so we felt we were grown up enough to read about—gasp!—SEX. We passed the book around our lunch table, giggling like the school girls we were when our guidance counsellor walked by. She took the book away and called us all into her office. She told us how inappropriate the book was for girls our age because the boys might get a hold of it and it would make them have impure thoughts—which would lead to them touching themselves. All I could think about for the rest of the day was my study hall partner and how he would act if he read the book. This was the same guy who announced to the study hall that I had grown boobs over winter break. Needless to say, we still read her books. We just made sure we didn’t get caught! -Kathleen Walker
Judy Blume was my lifeline and source of all information about puberty. I read Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret, countless times. I remember the light purple cover and keeping the book in my nightstand. I read it with my camp flashlight under the covers at night. I understood Margaret’s countless dilemmas. My friends were all versions of Nancy, Gretchen and Janie. The only difference was I had a female teacher and not a Miles J. Benedict, Jr. equivalent. Don’t forget the Jr. I wanted to have my own Pre-teen sensations group. I had girly lunches with my cool grandmother, too. I wanted a training bra to cover my flat chest. I had a secret supply of pads, just in case. Oh Judy, you understood me and made me feel so normal. You knew about awkwardness, the worries of not fitting in, wanting to be liked, thinking my family were the only weird ones in the world. Upon reflection, you captured that tween (as we call it now) sympathetically and with love and humour. I downloaded a copy the other day to give to my 10-year-old daughter, who is having ‘the talk’ in two weeks. Before I gave it to her, I read it again and recaptured all those hopes and worries which I now see in my daughter. So tomorrow she is going to meet Margaret. And I hope she loves her as much as I still do. Thank you, Judy. -Yitka Graham
I was Margaret’s age when I read Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret. She turned twelve and that’s the stage I was at, too. I remember connecting with Margaret and what she was going through. I didn’t have my period yet. I didn’t have boobs yet. I was still a skinny, flat-chested kid. I informed my mom that: Margaret is twelve and she wears deodorant. The next day, deodorant magically appeared in my bedroom. Who knows how long I would have gone without it had it not been for Judy Blume. So, thank you, Judy. I’m sure those around me thank you, as well. -Jacki Yovanoff
Way before the cult of Mean Girls and ubiquitous bullying on the Internet, there was Blubber by Judy Blume. I don’t even need to pull out the well-worn cover to recall the names of the characters that populated my adolescence because they were unforgettable, and I counted them among my friends. There was Jill, who narrated the story, skinny half-Jewish Jill, who didn’t realize just how desperately she wanted to be liked by Queen Bee Wendy and her minions. And there was Linda, aka Blubber, who made the unfortunate choice to do her oral report on a whale. And then there was Jill again, who learned as I did as I read, what happens when you follow or stray from the pack, and do or don’t stand up for what’s right. These were the deepest lessons, the ones that taught me about conscience before I realized, pre-social politics and raging hormones, that I even had one—and that it would soon become my strongest ally. -Randi Chapnik Myers
Upon reflection, Judy Blume books were three things to me: 1. Badges of honour and measures of my intellect—for my mom. I cannot tell you how many times I would hear her, in her best attempt at humility, boasting about her firstborn finishing “all the Judy Blume books by the time she was SIX! Can you believe it??? SIX!!!”. 2. My guilty pleasure—before I was old enough to know or understand what a guilty pleasure was. Little did said Mom know that I secretly read the adult novels found on her nightstand, also at six (or seven). What else was I supposed to read? I had exhausted all of the age-appropriate books. Hide Forever from your little girls! 3. Preparation for my future role as Go-To-Girl. Judy Blume taught me everything I needed to know about menstruation, bullying, lust, sex, pee pees and vajayjays and so much more, allowing me to impart the same knowledge on my unsuspecting classmates and friends, or as some mothers accused, facilitating my corruption of their young children’s minds. -Stacie Ikka
All of the above, but I think that I loved Deenie more than any of the others (well, other than Are You There God because I needed to know the things that Margaret had to tell us). Maybe it was because of Deenie’s struggle with her own dreams and how they conflicted with her parents’ expectations. It might have been my fascination with her diagnosis of scoliosis and the brace she had to wear. Or it might have been that Judy Blume just knew what we teenaged girls we were thinking and feeling as we approached womanhood. Blume’s books basically informed my adolescent experience. PS Honorable mention to Starring Sally J. Freedman As Herself. So much. – Mara Shapiro Tell us: Which of Judy Blume’s books was your favourite and why?