Posts Tagged ‘Judy Blume’

unlikelySure, some of you are headed back to school and work, and you have my sympathy. But others are headed out to the pool or back to the beach to savor what has been a summer for the books. There have been so many that I actually lost track of what I’ve reviewed. I wonder what I was doing in June that was so important that I forgot to write about Judy Blume’s  In the Unlikely Event (Knopf Doubleday, digital galley), a novel that thoughtfully explores the impact of a series of plane crashes on the townspeople of Elizabeth, N.J., in the winter of 1951-52. As usual, Blume’s writing is assured and accessible, her sympathetic characters flawed in familiar ways. The story is studded with period details: hats and gloves, wood-paneled rec rooms, cocktails and cigarettes. I quite liked it.

darkdarkMaybe I was distracted by a couple of thrillers I read back-to-back, S.J. Watson’s Second Life (HarperCollins, digital galley) and S.K. Tremayne’s The Ice Twins (Grand Central, digital galley). Watson’s follow-up to Before I Go to Sleep features a woman who goes on an online dating sight in attempt to solve the murder of her sister and becomes caught up in an erotic affair. I remember reviews commenting on the surprise ending. Didn’t surprise me. Neither did Tremayne’s implausible tale of a grieving mother on a remote island puzzled as to the true identity of her surviving twin daughter. For some eerie psychological suspense, I recommend Ruth Ware’s In a Dark, Dark Wood (Gallery/Scout Press, digital galley), in which a crime writer tries to remember the events of a girls’ weekend at the secluded Glass House after waking up in a hospital. There was snow. And there was blood.

lakeroadWare’s writing reminded me of Sophie Hannah when she’s at the top of her game. Alas, Hannah’s latest, Woman With a Secret (Morrow, digital galley), is kind of a mess, with an unreliable narrator narrating too much of the story of a murder of a controversial columnist. Detectives Waterhouse, Zailler and crew have a difficult time sorting out all the many unpleasant suspects, and the narrative is stuffed with tiresome e-mails, Twitter exchanges and online rants. Really didn’t care for Naughty Nicki and her secret cyber affairs. Secrets from the past, of course, are a staple of beach books. In Karen Katchur’s atmospheric The Secrets of Lake Road (St. Martin’s digital galley), a missing girl at a lakeside resort stirs up Jo’s carefully guarded memories of her high school boyfriend’s drowning 16 years ago. But Jo’s daughter, 12-year-old Caroline, about to leave childhood behind, steals every scene she narrates. Wendy Wax temporarily abandons her beachside setting in A Week at the Lake (Berkeley, review copy), but she’s still writing about female friendships, loyalty and betrayal. Emma, Mackenzie and Serena all have show-business connections and secrets, which give their story a glossy, dishy patina.

moviestarReal stars, including Clark Gable and Martina Dietrich, appear in Peter  Davis’ first novel of 1930s Hollywood, Girl of My Dreams (Open Road, review copy), but the focus is on a young screenwriter in love with a glamorous actress — the improbably named Palmyra Millevoix — who is also pursued by a studio tycoon. The tale of this triangle unreels with an overlay of nostalgia for celluloid dreams. Feel free to speculate as to which contemporary stars inspired celebrity memoirist Hilary Liftin’s Movie Star by Lizzie Pepper (Viking Penguin, digital galley). It’s to Liftin’s credit that this faux memoir is more than tabloid fodder as young Lizzie recounts her courtship and marriage to mega-star Rob Mars, whose attachment to a cult-like spiritual group interferes with their relationship. Living a seemingly luxurious life for all the world to see, Lizzie has to decide if she’s going to become the heroine of her own story.

lawyerSometimes in summer, a girl just wants to have fun, which is when I read Susan Mallery’s Fools Gold fluffy romances. She offered a trilogy this year: Hold Me (Harlequin, digital galley), in which secret singer Destiny and Olympic skier Kipling work search-and-rescue together; Kiss Me (Harlequin, digital galley), the love story between city girl Phoebe and cowboy Zane; and Thrill Me (Harlequin, digital galley), where Maya returns to town and runs into former flame Del.  Court and spark. But the book I fell hard for was Lee Robinson’s engaging Lawyer for the Dog (St. Martin’s Press, digital galley), in which 49-year-old Charleston attorney Sally Baynard is appointed by a family court judge — also her ex-husband — to represent a miniature schnauzer in a custody dispute between a divorcing couple. Trying to figure out what’s best for adorable Sherman also means Sally has to figure out what’s best for her dementia-afflicted mother and for her own heart. Will it be the ex-husband, the Johns Island vet, or maybe a dog all her own? There’s real substance beneath the fluff; call this one more than puppy love.

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Before I forget, I want to thank everyone who responded to the last post, “Mother, may I read this book?,” about the Central Florida mother who wanted to keep public library copies of the Gossip Girl books and spin-offs out of the hands of minors. Many of you thanked your own mothers for giving you the freedom to read and make up your own mind. Others suggested that sitting down and discussing the books might have been a more productive act than “stealing” them. One reader noted that she’s against banning books but did think Gossip Girl was pretty trashy.

And that reminded me that I should have given a shout-out to Judy Blume, the best-selling author of teen and tween books and also one of the most censored authors in the United States. In the 1980s and ’90s, such Blume books as Are You There, God? It’s Me, Margaret and Forever… were among the most frequently challenged books in schools and public libraries. Then came J.K. Rowling and the Harry Potter books, and the censors went wild over Harry in a bad way. Blume was one of the first to step up and speak out on behalf of Rowling and against censorship.

I remember writing about her speech to booksellers at their annual convention ten years ago. She noted that if kids didn’t love Harry Potter so much, the censors wouldn’t be out in such force. “It’s because they are so popular that there’s this idea there’s evil lurking in them,” she said, adding that this notion comes from “adults who want to control everything in kids’ lives,” especially what they read.

The book banners were againt Harry Potter because of its scenes of witchcraft and wizardry, moments of violence and “disrespect for authority,” as one censor stated. They went after Blume”s books  because she wrote candidly about having periods, growing breasts, making out and, in Forever…, going all the way. Sex!

That’s why some adults called Blume’s books “trashy.” But one parent also challenged Superfudge because a character said there wasn’t a Santa Claus. Any book can become a target for censors, and Blume added that no matter what you say, there are going to be people who will never change their minds.

“I tell them,   ‘This might not be the right book for your child, but it may be just the right one for another.’ ”

You said it, Judy. Thank you. And thanks for writing all those great books. I still read them. I guess the mom against Gossip Girl missed out.

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