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Literature / It's Not the End of the World

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It's Not the End of the World is a young adult novel by Judy Blume, published in 1972.

Karen Newman isn't happy with her life. Her sixth grade teacher has married and gone from, in Karen's eyes, nice to nasty. Meanwhile, Karen's parents have been arguing more and more every day, until her father moves out and announces that they're getting divorced. What follows is months of Karen trying to cope and seeking, unsuccessfully, to help her parents reconcile, while her brother deals with the news in his own way.

This book contains examples of:

  • Accidental Misnaming: Karen's grandfather is called Garfa by the entire family. Similar to Beezus in the Ramona series, he got that nickname when Karen's older brother Jeff was unable to pronounce "Grandpa" as a toddler.
  • All Love Is Unrequited: Karen has a crush on Gary, a boy in her class, and is devastated when he moves away. Her best friend Debbie has a crush on Karen's big brother Jeff, who is openly rude to Debbie, calling her "fat and ugly" to her face, which doesn't dissuade Debbie at all.
  • Annoying Younger Sibling: Karen has one in Amy, who is forever telling jokes and riddles and is often the only one laughing at them. It starts to become sadder with the divorce because Amy was used to being her father's favorite and can't handle the changes coming.
  • Bittersweet Ending: Karen is able to come to terms with the divorce, knowing that her parents are much better apart rather than together. Sadly, though, she, her mom, and her siblings are going to have to move because of the court law but at the very least they're supporting each other.
  • Bratty Teenage Daughter: Jeff is a gender flipped version, becoming moody and withdrawn as well as mean and spiteful toward his mother and sisters up until he runs away.
  • Dysfunction Junction: After the divorce is announced, everything seems to be falling apart with Karen being emotionally distraught and trying to solve everything, her older brother Jeff becoming more withdrawn and moody until he ends up running away, and her younger sister Amy is distressed at the loss of her father and has nightmares that everyone else in her family will disappear too. The letter that Karen gets from Garfa after her father goes to Nevada to get the divorce finalized implies that not only does her father miss her terribly but Garfa feels quite depressed about the divorce. Only Karen's mother seems to be happy about everything but it's revealed that even she was just putting up a front to try and be strong for the kids.
  • Great Big Book of Everything: Karen's friend Val, whose parents are also divorced, owns a book for divorced children which she considers the authority on the subject and quotes from as though it were the Bible.
  • The Hermit: Jeff, the eldest child and only son, becomes increasingly moody and withdrawn as the story progresses, spending most of his time in his room.
  • Ignoring by Singing: Variant in that it's not singing, but another kind of noise — Karen tries to block out one of her parents' arguments by covering her ears and screaming as loud as she can. Her father is finally forced to give her a slap to end the outburst.
  • Loyal Animal Companion: Karen's cat Mew is this. With her parents fighting and her siblings being an absolute mess, Mew is Karen's only reliable family member. After her father accidentally sits on Mew and calls her "damn cat," Karen starts her Freak Out and screams about how he never liked her (meaning the cat and not her mother).
  • Middle Child Syndrome: Poor Karen is definitely feeling this. Her parents have each chosen a favorite child (Ellie's is Jeff, Bill's is Amy) and the only family members that she feels she can depend on during the messy divorce proceedings are her grandfather Garfa, who lives in Las Vegas, and her beloved cat Mew.
  • Missing Child: Karen wonders if her parents would reconcile if she or one of her siblings went missing, since she's seen TV shows where that happened, and even wonders at one point which of her siblings would make the best kidnap victim. She is disabused of that notion when her older brother Jeff runs away, which not only fails to bring her parents back together, but results in one of their worst fights ever.
  • My Beloved Smother: Debbie's mom tells her daughter to wear several pairs of underpants when she goes ice skating so that she won't catch a kidney infection from sitting on the ice. Karen reflects that her friend's mother is overly concerned about diseases.
  • The Omniscient: Karen's friend Val. Val explains it's because she reads The New York Times cover-to-cover every Sunday.
  • Only Sane Man: Uncle Dan seems to be one of the few voices of reason who doesn't seem overly biased about the situation.
  • Parents as People: They really go out of the way to show how dysfunctional things are between Ellie and Bill. Ellie has a strong dependence on her older sister, Ruth, and has a hard time taking an authoritative role. Bill dedicates a large amount of time to working at the furniture store that he inherited which leaves him often unable to spend time at home.
  • Parental Favoritism: Karen is shocked when she learns that her parents have been having marital problems more or less since six-year-old Amy was born, causing her to theorize that the root of the discord was that her father made Amy his favorite and her mother retaliated by making oldest child Jeff her favorite. Karen remarks she's glad to be no one's favorite.
  • Practically Different Generations: Karen's Aunt Ruth is ten years older than her mother and seems to act more like her mother than her sister, especially when it's pointed out by Karen's father that her mother never grew up and is "Ruth's baby."
  • "Ray of Hope" Ending: It's Not The End of the World is the most depressing of Judy's middle-grade books, with Karen having to accept that her parents are getting divorced and her family may have to move, per the court law. Even so, she strives to make the best of things and accept life as it is.
  • Relationship-Salvaging Disaster: Averted. Jeff runs away after an argument and it's heavily implied he did it to force his parents back together in a reconciliation. Unfortunately it ends up not only failing but leads to a huge fight that causes Karen to realize that her parents really can't get along anymore.
  • The Runaway: Karen's brother Jeff runs away and is missing for several days, apparently out of hope that it would bring his separated parents back together and force them to reconcile. It fails, as Karen's parents instead end up having one of their biggest fights ever, and Karen is forced to finally admit that her parents not only won't reconcile, but are better apart than together.
  • Sadist Teacher: Karen believes Stern Teacher (and former Cool Teacher) Mrs. Singer is also a Sadist Teacher, because she never gives Karen a break on anything (including forgetting lunch money and giving her a bad grade on a book report for which she hadn't read the book). Karen's friend Debbie rightfully points out that Mrs. Singer's behavior is reasonable and that the teacher doesn't appear to have any vendetta against Karen.
  • Stage Mom: Debbie's mom is a comparatively minor example, who pushes her daughter into everything from tennis lessons to drama lessons.
  • Stern Teacher: Mrs. Singer, Karen's teacher, is one — she won't loan money to kids who forget their milk money and she gave Karen a D on a book report for which Karen had obviously not read the book. Remembering what a Cool Teacher Mrs. Singer used to be before she got married and looking at her parents' relationship, Karen decides it's getting married that made Mrs. Singer Take A Level In Jerkass and vows to never get married.
  • Took a Level in Kindness: After coming back home from running away, Jeff becomes less antagonistic toward his mother and sisters.