By Rachel Lu
Illustration by Sandra Moore
The simple mention of author Judy Blume is enough to trigger the memory of a turtle-swallowing Fudge or an all-inquisitive Margaret for readers everywhere. Blume’s books have been revolutionizing the themes of children’s and young adult literature for over four decades now with 28 different titles. Our generation and many before grew up with these renowned coming-of-age novels, but Blume has recently shifted her focus toward a new audience: those who have come of age, better known as adults.
Judy Blume’s first successes were children’s book series’ derived from her own children’s experiences. The ‘Fudge’ and ‘The Pain and the Great One’ series’ became praised for their realistic and hilarious depictions of elementary-age home life. And as Blume’s children began to mature into young adults, her books followed the same pattern; becoming ‘Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret’ and ‘Deenie.’
This time, she continued using witty dialogue as her characters famously tackled the topics of sexuality, puberty, and masturbation. But Blume had entered uncharted territory as the issues she addressed were unseen in middle-school books of the 1970’s and 80’s. Parents Against Bad Books In Schools sought to ban these titles, wary against amoral content and corruption. Still; her contemporary books, undeterred by the new age of censorship, prompted honest discussion about issues identifiable with teens.
Fast forward: today Blume is writing books with more mature themes aimed at adults such as ‘Summer Sisters’ and her most recent, ‘In the Unlikely Event’ (2015). These new books are without a doubt, completely adult; but Blume doesn’t steer away from the innovative exploration of adolescence she became acclaimed and criticized for.
‘In the Unlikely Event’ follows fifty-year-old protagonist Miri’s journey in Elizabeth, New Jersey during her adolescence. It is told through flashbacks from 35 years back by more than ten different characters as Miri’s community is influenced by three plane crashes within two months. This new book is Blume’s most historical up to date, set in her hometown and based on real events. Through the eyes of teenage Miri and other generations, Blume once again presents thought-provoking ideas on the issues of teen pregnancy, feminism, and untimely death.
Judy Blume and her books have both inevitably grown up. And that isn’t something to mourn-because Blume triumphs by continuing to do what she does best, showing readers how to grow up no matter the age.