Are You There God? It’s Me Margaret is one of those books that fits into the ‘teenage fiction’ category – not quite 9-12, not quite young adult. Judy Blume is one of the authors who started writing about young teenagers, way before ‘young adult’ even existed. I cannot possibly write a ‘book review’ of Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret because it’s one of those books that (at least, it felt like) everybody except me had read – it’s a classic! But here’s my thoughts on reading it as a 25-year-old girl who never got the opportunity to read it as an actual pre-teen. Yes, I’d never read a younger Judy Blume, I’m sorry! I only read Summer Sisters, her adult novel, last year. Published in 1970, Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret seems to be Judy Blume’s most famous novel and as she visited the UK a couple of months ago (I’ll write the blogpost soon, I promise!), it seemed only right to pick this one up first.
Margaret Simon likes long hair, tuna fish, the smell of rain and things that are pink. At 11-years-old, she’s just moved from busy NYC to the quiet suburbs – Farbrook, New Jersey – where she’s faced with a whole bunch of awkward new firsts. I was surprised to see how relevant and current Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret still is, but yet it’s unsurprising because growing up is difficult, whether it’s 1970 or 2000, when I turned eleven.
I can see how Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret would feel pretty life-changing to young girl growing up, unable to talk about the challenges of puberty and worries of getting your first period. (It’s odd to think how controversial this was in the 1980s, when it became a ‘banned book’). It’s incredible to discover a book where the main character is going through something you’re going through, something that you couldn’t talk to other people about. I only had teen magazines! It reminded me of all the things I used to worry about as a 11 to 14-year-old and how the worrying doesn’t stop, but the things you’re worrying about just change. I enjoyed the realistic banter between Margaret and her new best friend (and neighbour) Nancy, and the challenges of dealing with Nancy’s older brother Moose and his friend Evan (especially when you mix school gossip into the equation), plus seeing her deal with between torn between her parents and her Grandma.
I assumed Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret would be a religious novel, likely one of the reasons why I hadn’t picked it up until now, because of the title and the fact that it’s American (and the US edition emphasises that aspect of the storyline a little bit more), but how wrong I was! Margaret’s parents are technically Catholic on one side and Jewish on the other, but neither actually follow a religion. Margaret is unsure what she believes in, so tries out both before she makes a choice (which she doesn’t find easy), meanwhile talking to her own private God, instead of ‘Dear Diary’, about the trials and tribulations of being a young, new and uncertain.
Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret is timeless in its ability to show young girls that they are not alone. I love the new US editions of her books (check out the tagline: ‘Growing up is tough. Period’) – bringing them to fans of YA contemporary fiction (and contemporary romance), who may never have picked up Judy Blume before. I already have Forever, which will be my next Judy Blume!
Publisher: Atheneum Books for Young Readers (US) Macmillan Children’s Books (UK)