Monday, November 2, 2009

Book Report: Are You There God? It's Me, Margaret

Summary: Margaret Simon, almost twelve, has just moved from New York City to the suburbs, and she’s anxious to fit in with her new friends. When she’s asked to join a secret club she jumps at the chance. But when the girls start talking about boys, bras, and getting their first periods, Margaret starts to wonder if she’s normal. There are some things about growing up that are hard for her to talk about, even with her friends. Lucky for Margaret, she’s got someone else to confide in . . . someone who always listens. -- Random House

Boy did I have a hard time picking my six books for the Shelf Discovery Challenge! One book that I knew that I definitely wanted to re-read, though, was ARE YOU THERE GOD? IT'S ME, MARGARET by Judy Blume. I remember this novel as one of my very favorites, and I was more than a little curious to see what I'd think of this book now that I'm an adult (and a mother of a pre-teen!) I can tell you that I still absolutely loved it! There is no doubt that this book which was written almost 40 years ago stands the test of time.

I probably read this book at least five times as a young girl (and that was almost 30 years ago); and I still vividly remember certain parts of the book like "I Must, I Must Increase My Bust" (I think all of my friends and I did that at every play date and sleepover for a few years. Here are some words of wisdom: Be careful what you wish for!) And I could definitely bring to mind when Margaret got her first period. But what I found so odd about re-reading ARE YOU THERE GOD? IT'S ME, MARGARET is how much I didn't remember. This book covered so many deeper issues besides bras and first periods!

I guess I might have been a little young to pick up on the religious parts of this book; however, when I re-read this book, I realized that there were some very deep spirituality issues. Margaret's mother was Christian and her father was Jewish, but she grew up without any formal religion in her life. When Margaret moved to her new town, she discovered that all of her friends went to some sort of church or Sunday school. To make things more confusing for Margaret, her grandparents pressured her to follow their own beliefs. I loved how Margaret spoke with God on a regular basis, and I was sad when she realized that she didn't really know how God and religion fit into her life. She really began to question her spirituality and beliefs -- at eleven years old Margaret was facing a spiritual crisis! I knew that ARE YOU THERE GOD? IT'S ME, MARGARET was banned from lots of schools and libraries, but I always assumed it was because of the "period" talk -- not because of Margaret's struggle with her spirituality. I have to admit that I saw parts of ARE YOU THERE GOD? IT'S ME, MARGARET in an entirely new light. I found it so interesting that Ms. Blume tackled the religion issue in a middle grade book, and I appreciated how well she did this.

I don't know if there has ever been an author like Judy Blume. I usually don't list her among my favorite authors, but I think I need to re-visit my list. She is absolutely amazing! I am just in awe of her writing and character development; but more so, I think I really appreciate how she tackles everyday issues with such insight. Her characters and her stories are so real, and I love that young girls can find Ms. Blume's books and know that their feelings are natural and that they aren't alone!

I think young girls today will still relate to Margaret, and I can't wait for Booking Daughter to read this book. I am so anxious to hear her thoughts about Margaret. I have a feeling that she won't really understand the desire to grow boobs or start your period yet because she's still a little young. However, what I think she will appreciate about this novel are Margaret's feelings and insecurities. I think she will relate to Margaret's desire to make new friends as well as her desire to just fit in. And, I also think she will totally "get" the whole friend/enemy thing!

In SHELF DISCOVERY: THE TEEN CLASSICS WE NEVER STOPPED READING, Meg Cabot wrote an essay about ARE YOU THERE GOD? IT'S ME, MARGARET. (If you haven't read this one yet, it's a definite must-read!) As I read Ms. Cabot's words, I found myself nodding my head over and over again. Ms. Cabot managed to express in only the way she can so what I wanted to say about this novel. Now, I'd like to think that I have a great deal in common with Ms. Cabot and that we think alike; but what I think is more likely the case is that ARE YOU THERE GOD? IT'S ME, MARGARET manages to capture those feelings that every pre-teen girl experiences in some form or another. The uncertainty of growing up versus the excitement of growing up, the curiosity of the changes going on in our bodies, discovering boys for the first time, figuring out how we fit in, and even managing female relationships!

Note: The cover of the book at the beginning of this post isn't the one that I actually read. I posted the purple one because it's the one I owned (and loved) as a pre-teen!

14 comments:

bermudaonion said...

I didn't read this as a child. I was 12 when it came out and I think I probably thought I was too old for it or something. When I read it recently, I adored it! I could really relate to Margaret because she is just so real.

A Bookshelf Monstrosity said...

I also had a tough time choosing the six books for the challenge. I eventually let random.org do it for me :)

I can't believe this book is almost 40 years old! Blume definitely stands the test of time.

Tracie Yule said...

I read this book when I was a pre-teen and I loved it. I remember really relating to Margaret and it was one of the first books that I felt really spoke to me.

I never thought about reading the book as an adult. I bet my perception of it would be different. Great pick :)

Ash said...

I didn't read this as a kid but I am for Shelf Discovery. I'm very excited after your review!

Jen - devourer of books said...

I probably read this 10-15 years ago and I didn't remember the religion/spirituality stuff at all either. I loved the essay in "Shelf Discovery" though!

rhapsodyinbooks said...

Interesting about the possible reasons for objections to this book. I too thought the period stuff was the problem, but I bet you are right about the religion. Very perceptive!

Fiona said...

I also remember this book fondly. I do remember taking notice of the spiritual issues and finding them interesting, as well as all the bra and periods stuff!

writergal said...

Thanks for bringing back that memory of "I must increase my bust!" Wow. Forgot where that came from. Judy Blume really touched on a lot of issues. I don't think I ever wanted big boobs but have them now (and don't like them either).

Marg said...

I remember reading this book when I was in my early teens, or maybe before. The only reason I remember it so well is because I am Margaret, so it seemed the perfect book for me!

Nicole (Linus's Blanket) said...

Ha! I asked Kathy about the "must increase my bust" part. I thought it was this one but I have read so many teen books it could have easily have been another. This is too much fun! I am enjoying these reviews.

Beth F said...

I also didn't read this as a child (I was a junior in high school, I think!). But I did read it about ten years ago or so and I loved it. And yes,Blume did an awesome job with this novel.

Cyndi said...

Judy Blume was definitely one of the strongest influences in my life. I loved her books and how she was able to really identify through her characters what I was going through as a young girl.

Cyndi
cyndi124.blogspot.com
Take Note

Dawn @ sheIsTooFondOfBooks said...

I didn't read your review because this is on my Challenge list, and I want a fresh re-read of it (is that a contradiction?!)

I must have read this a dozen times when I was a kid ... it will be fun to see how it stands the test of time in my mind.

VanessaS. said...

I'm looking forward to re-reading this before my 9 year old reads it. It was a favorite of mine growing up! Recently, my mother gave me a box of books that I had as a child and wouldn't you know it that the purple cover version was in there!