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Literature / In the Unlikely Event

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In The Unlikely Event is a 2015 Adult novel by Judy Blume, based on the real-life plane crashes that happened in her childhood.

Elizabeth, New Jersey seems to be an idyllic place. Then three plane crashes occur, in rapid succession. The accidents and their consequences have a massive impact on the town, which starts questioning why the flights from Newark Airport are so dangerous, and how they can bear this pain.


Tropes for this book include:

  • Abusive Parents: Mason's dad once chased him around with an axe.
  • Ambiguous Disorder: Natalie suffers a gradual nervous breakdown when her idol Ruby dies on the plane; she starts believing that Ruby is speaking through her. One doctor diagnoses her with anorexia since she stops eating and starts pulling out her hair without realizing it. By the end of the book, with therapy, she moves on to have a successful career as a performer.
  • Author Avatar: Natalie's father is a dentist and her mother is a homemaker (like the author's parents were).
  • Badass Bystander: Mason and his friends when they pull people out from the wreckage during the third crash.
  • Be Careful What You Wish For: At one point Miri wished before realizing how horrible it was that Natalie's mother Mrs. Osner would die in an accident so that her mother would marry Dr. Osner and she and Natalie could be sisters. By the end of the story, Dr. Osner leaves his wife for Miri's mother Rusty, and Miri hates it.
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  • Big Brother Instinct: Jack when he learns that his brother Mason has been in an affair with Polina, a woman at the children's home.
  • Bittersweet Ending: It takes about thirty years, when Miri has a teenage daughter and three grown boys, but eventually she finds herself about to live with the crash and with her family and Mason for the damage they've caused. She becomes a successful journalist like her uncle Henry.
  • Calling the Old Man Out: Miri and Natalie to their respective mother and father after learning the two have been having an affair.
  • Can't Get Away with Nuthin': The one time Miri breaks school rules, to spread her censored news story about the crash, she nearly gets expelled.
  • Coming of Age Story: For many characters, including Miri, Natalie, and Christine.
  • A Date with Rosie Palms: There's a passing mention of this by Miri.
  • Dating What Daddy Hates: Christine is Greek, and her boyfriend later husband Jack is Irish. Her family has to be assured that they are Just Friends.
  • Deliberate Values Dissonance: Everyone blames Mason when it's revealed one of the employees at his foster home has been molesting him, even though he is a child and thus has been subject to statutory rape.
  • Double Standard Rape: Female on Male: Single mother Polina, who is an adult with a baby, molests underage Mason and eventually attempts emotional abuse in their relationship while he's still seeing Miri. This would be statutory rape, but when the secret comes out everyone is furious with Mason for cheating on Miri. Mason was a child and being emotionally manipulated.
  • Epic Fail: Miri's father does this twice when she visits him and his new family towards the end, and his new wife Adela refuses to have nothing to do with Miri. By that point they agree it's better to stay apart.
  • Forgiveness:
    • At the end of the book, about thirty years later Natalie forgives her dying father for cheating on her mother with Rusty.
    • Eventually Miri and Mason forgive each other and themselves for what happened with Polina.
  • Foster Kid: Mason, who lives in a children's home.
  • Good Adultery, Bad Adultery: Mostly bad:
    • Mason has an affair with Polina, one of the women working at his foster home, while dating Miri. This is statutory rape.
    • After Ms. Osner refuses to move to Vegas for Natalie's health, Dr. Osner rekindles his affair with Rusty, Miri's mother. Miri catches them in bed together and is horrified.
    • This nearly happens at the end when both Mason and Miri are married to other people, but they decide to hold off from acting on their impulses. Their choice would have been portrayed sympathetically if they had gone through with it.
  • Happy Marriage Charade: Miri finds this out about Natalie's parents, to her horror.
  • Hypocrite: Something Miri calls out her mother for doing, warning her about jumping into a relationship with a guy when she's been sleeping with Dr. Osner, who is married with three children.
  • Jerkass: Principal Royer, who wants to expel Miri for writing about the horrific realities of the plane crash.
  • Karma Houdini: Polina for performing statutory rape on Mason.
  • Mass "Oh, Crap!":
    • The town every time the planes hit, for good reason.
    • Miri's high school when a kid pulls a fake drill and shouts "April Fools!" in May.
  • Oh, Crap!: Polina when she kisses Mason in front of Miri and belatedly realizes that Miri is Mason's girlfriend.
  • Took a Level in Jerkass: Natalie to Miri after the latter fails to stop Dr. Osner and Rusty from getting married. She's never called out for this.