Tuesday, June 3, 2014

It's Not the End of the World

By Judy Blume. Published 1972.

Ok, y’all. I love Judy Blume. Fiercely. I really do.


I did not love this book. I hadn’t read it before, so maybe that has something to do with it. Maybe I would have liked it when I was younger. But, there’s not a single character I like in this book.

Right. So. Twelve-year-old Karen, along with big brother Jeff and little sister Amy, are not having the easiest time at home. Their parents are constantly fighting, and their mother has a tendency to throw things, from a sponge to a cake. Not actually at anybody, but still. Karen gives every day a rating in her day planner, and she hasn’t had an “A” day in months.

One night, their father just doesn’t come home, and their aunt and uncle take them all on a long drive and to lunch. There, their mother explains that they’re separating, and their father is moving his stuff out right now. Karen runs out of the restaurant, upset.

Karen doesn’t want to tell anyone, not even her best friend, Debbie. But Debbie already knows. Karen’s Aunt Ruth told her mother at the store. Probably not really your news to be telling there, Aunt Ruth.

When their father moves into his new apartment, the kids go over to visit him. They’ll be seeing him twice a week. He also confirms that they’re not just separated, but actually getting divorced. Nice. Then he tells Karen there’s a girl that lives below him that’s Karen’s age, and she lives with only her mother, because her parents are divorced, too. Yay! See kids, going through a traumatic event is a great way to make new friends!

So Karen goes downstairs and meets Val. Val’s dad lives on the other side of the country, and never sees or contacts her. But she seems ok with it. She’s got this great book that’s helped her, The Boys and Girls Book About Divorce. Wow, creative title. It holds such gems as, “Fathers who live close by but do not visit and fathers who live far away and hardly ever write or call either do not love their children at all, or they love them very little.” WHAT EVEN IS THIS? WHY WOULD YOU TELL CHILDREN THIS? And this is never disputed or anything, it’s just stated as fact. But Val seems all good with it.

Karen is not handling things so well, though. She keeps trying to think of stupid ways to get her parents get back together. She thinks if they’ll just see each other, they’ll realize they miss one another. And her grandfather comes into to town to try to make them see sense, and when that doesn’t work, he asks Karen to keep working on it. What?

Of course, nothing works.

And then Karen’s all worried about money, too. Jeff kind of has an idea about alimony, and tries to explain it to her. And then her dad confirms this. But nonetheless, her mother plans to get a job, and start taking a class. Everyone acts as if this is the worst idea of all time. I don’t understand what’s going on. And then even after she does get a job, they’re careful about money. Amy wants a doll, and when her mother tells her it will have to wait until her birthday, Amy pitches a fit, and says she hates her. So her mom slaps her. Nice.

Through all this, Jeff’s just been getting douchier and douchier, yelling at his mom and just randomly leaving for the night. Dude’s fourteen. Not ok. And Karen’s yelling at her that, because her mother is trying to figure out what to do with her life, especially after the kids are gone, that all she cares about is herself, and she never thinks about Karen. Jesus. I know kids are totally self-involved, but still.

Apparently, the divorce proceedings aren’t going quickly enough, so one day Karen’s dad announces he’s going to Las Vegas for six weeks, to get a “quickie” divorce there. Is this still a thing? Being able to do that in Nevada? Anyway, Karen freaks out, worrying that the reason he wants to get divorced so quickly is so he can get remarried right away. Her mother calms her down though, saying it’s just because he can get away from his job right now.

One night, Karen’s mother takes the kids out for dinner. Jeff orders fried shrimp, even though he doesn’t like shrimp. And when he tries them, what do you know, he doesn’t like them. His mom all, I told you so. He gets mad, they yell at each other, and he walks out. They assume he’s just gone to the car, but he’s not there. They look all around for him, can’t find him, and decide to go home. They try calling all his friends, but nobody’s heard from him. They finally call his dad, and he comes right over. Karen is disappointed he doesn’t go straight to kiss her mom. Sigh. He says they need to call the police, even though their mom doesn’t want to get them involved. What?

A policeman comes over, takes down the information, and says these kids usually go to New York, and he’ll see what he can do. He’ll be in touch. And that’s it. He leaves. Seriously?

And then Karen’s parents get into a huge screaming fight, and something gets broken, of course. Karen finally can’t stand it anymore, puts her hands over her ears, and starts screaming herself, and doesn’t stop until her father slaps her. A lot of that going on. But this at least finally convinces Karen that her parents shouldn’t be together.

So Jeff is missing for like, three days. Finally Karen goes over to see one of his friends, and tells him how she thinks Jeff might be dead. He says with certainty that he’s not dead, but he won’t say anymore.

That night, Jeff calls. He won’t say where he is, but he’s coming home. Karen’s mom won’t let her stay up, though. Why the fuck not? But she watches from upstairs, and sees him come home.

The next morning, their mother tells Karen and Amy that he’s back. They ask where he was, and she doesn’t know. She says he’s back, that’s all that matters, and none of them are going to ask him any questions. What the fuck? So since they don’t know, we don’t know. There is no resolution to this plotline. We just get Jeff telling Karen never to run away, because it stinks. Ok then.

Then Karen’s mom says they’re moving. She’s not sure where yet, maybe somewhere else in town. Maybe Florida. Either way, Karen’s going to have to change schools. Then they get KFC, Amy tells a joke, and Karen call it a “B+” day.

And then that’s pretty much it. That’s the book.

I don’t exactly know what this book was trying to accomplish. I guess it’s just so kids knew they weren’t alone? That divorce sucks, and there’s really nothing you can do about it? So suck it up, because “it’s not the end of the world”? I don’t even know.

o   Karen is aghast at the fact that the divorce book cost $7.95. I laugh. But then I run it through an inflation converter, and that’s $43.68 today. So, ok. That is a lot. And it’s WAY too much for the shit that book is spewing.

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