August 8, 2014

Are You There God? It's Me, Margaret by Judy Blume

Are you there God? It’s me, Margaret. I just told my mother I want a bra. Please help me grow, God. You know where.
-from Are You There God? It's Me, Margaret by Judy Blume

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Judy Blume's classic YA novel Are You There God? It's Me, Margaret is a coming of age story chronicling the 8th grade school year of Margaret Simon after she moves from New York City to the New Jersey suburbs. This book was first published in 1970, so it has a nostalgic quality of that time period where private things were kept a little more private and subjects like body image and sexuality were not front page news. Margaret's school year consists of making new friends, maintaining familial relationships, and most notably, which religion she fits into. Throughout the novel Margaret sends prayers off to God asking for guidance in everything from religion to growing into her new bra.

I honestly cannot remember if I had already read this book before, but whether I had or not, I do remember anecdotes from the book being a staple in growing up. From the simple prayer introduction, "Are you there God? It's me, (insert your own name)", to the exercise cadence, "We must, we must, we must increase our bust!", this novel was the original Guide to Growing Up Girl. I'm sure other books preceded it that took on the responsibility of educating girls through fiction, but none stand out to me as much as this one.

This story focus a lot on being comfortable with the changing female body which, from an adult perspective, is hilarious. But Blume is able to step down from the dramatic irony of being an adult into the sock-less shoes of a preteen girl, stripping us down to Margaret's vulnerability in an honest way. My favorite story was that of Margaret's friend lying about starting her period because she wanted to grow up so badly; it mostly reminded me of how ignorant I was as a preteen girl and how I wish that period would have never come at all (Am I right, ladies?)! Similarly, buying pads at the drugstore was such a terrifying yet exhilaratingly taboo experience at age 12 and it was fun for Blume to remind me of such a time in my own life.

In addition to physical changes, Blume also articulates the emotional struggle of a preteen. Margaret maneuvers through familial relationships with ignorance to the complications made by adults. For instance, through Margaret's narrative it's suspected that her parents have a strained relationship with her grandmother, but Margaret maintains her relationship with her grandmother nonetheless. This brings attention to all the ways we as adults can complicate relationships instead of simply just loving someone. It's so much easier said than done to view things through the eyes of a child, but Blume gives us the vehicle necessary to try.

The most heavy subject of this book is religion. Margaret's father was born Jewish and her mother was born Christian, but neither of them practice any religion and have given Margaret the opportunity to make the decision on her own. Despite her daily, easy prayers, Margaret struggles to find God in the temple or the church where she experiments by worshiping with various friends and family. The irony is that she becomes so frustrated with being unable to find God when she's known him all along. I think there is a lot of dialogue here for what Blume is saying about religion versus faith.

Overall, this book touches on everything that can affect a preteen girl's life physically, emotionally and spiritually.  Seeing these things through the refreshing eyes of a preteen girl in the 1960s-1970s gives the reader a new outlook on the experience of growing up. I guarantee this book will remind you of what it felt like to go through this most vulnerable stage of life while giving you insight on the simplicity of life.

Bottom Line: A must read for any girl or woman, although chances are you've already read it! 5/5 Stars.

1 comment:

  1. I actually have not read this! I think I read some other Blume book, but just recently. I'm guessing it's because my sister didn't have a copy and it was just never really on my radar, despite hearing so much about it. At some point I will have to pick it up!


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