Today I thought I’d review ‘Are you there God? It’s me, Margaret’, a brilliant Judy Blume classic! I loved Judy Blume throughout my childhood and this author was introduced to me by my mum, who also loved her writing as a young adult.
For those of you that don’t know her, Judy Blume writes books for young people, mainly girls, and they cover important topics and issues that are relevant to young girls, as well as being funny and interesting to read. So when I recently re-read this book, I thought it was the perfect book to review.
Most of Blume’s books are set in the 1970s and 1980s, but the things they talk about are still relatable. Even though some of the issues in this book aren’t completely relevant to today’s society- such as the issue of wearing suspender belts with pads- the way Blume writes the novel still makes the issues relatable to all generations. I personally love the fact that this book is set around the time when my mum was growing up and I think the way Blume makes the issues relatable to all audiences is a great quality of her work.
‘Are you there God? It’s me, Margaret’ is about a young girl who moves to New Jersey, and the book follows her worries about fitting into her new society, on top of the other worries of a girl about to hit puberty in 1970s America. Throughout the book she has the typical anxieties of her age: When will my period start and what if I’m the last of my friends to start? When will I start growing boobs and what if I’m the last to start? What do I do with boys and what if I’m the last to have a boyfriend?
Clearly, she has a lot of worries about being behind other people her age, which I can totally understand. Girls share everything and so if you’re the last in your friendship group to start your period, they will know. The fact that Blume uses a cliquey group of girls, all around the age of 12, also exaggerates the problems Margaret has and her worries concerning her growth.
But Blume shows that it really doesn’t matter who starts when and I think for a young girl reading this, it is incredibly comforting. As an example, in the book, one of Margaret’s friends says she starts her period, and it turns out she’s lied, showing how not everything that people say is real and people will always try to be more grown-up than they actually are, which is what I found when I was growing up. This is an important issue for girls growing up today, as well as during the 1970s.
I also enjoyed the parts in the book where Margaret confronted her religious conflict, as I thought it was good how Blume showed the wide range of problems girls have to battle with. The reason for the title of the book is because Margaret questions her atheism and, coming from a Jewish dad and a Christian mum, who married despite their different religions, she often feels confusion surrounding her religious beliefs, and therefore often asks God for guidance on certain problems in her life.
I thought this aspect of the book was interesting in terms of revealing the confusion of a young girl, trying to come to terms with her identity. The fact that she lives in a very religious area also reflects issues about Margaret feeling like an outsider and suggests that this novel has many coming-of-age ideas behind it.
“Are you there, God? It’s me, Margaret. We’re moving today. I’m so scared, God. I’ve never lived anywhere but here. Suppose I hate my new school? Suppose everybody there hates me? Please, help me, God. Don’t let New Jersey be too horrible. Thank you.”
Although there’s not a lot of action in this book, the ideas that are expressed are so interesting and important for girls that are beginning to start puberty and the use of a group of friends who are quite competitive shows the struggles for girls around this kind of age, with characters such as Nancy in particular showing the cliquey attitude of teenage girls.
Overall I enjoyed re-reading this book, as I thought that the ideas it covered were important, and Blume managed to incorporate humour and serious moments, as well as discussion of personal issues, in a way that is accessible for young people from all generations.
Obviously, when re-reading this I was above the age of the girls in the book, but I still found the ideas about jealousy and that worry of being left behind very pertinent for girls my own age. Judy Blume really does have a knack with writing teenage fiction that relates to the modern reader, despite some details obviously referring to the context of the 1970s.
If you’d like to read more about Judy Blume’s aim to write relevant books for teenagers, and speaking out against censorship.
Have you read ‘Are you there God? It’s me, Margaret’? Have you read any books by Judy Blume? What was your favourite young adult book when you were younger?
Happy reading x
Picture c/o: imgarcade