“During my chocolate parfait I whispered, ‘I’m wearing a bra. Can you tell?’ ‘Of course I can tell,’ Grandma said. ‘You can?’ I was really surprised. I stopped eating. ‘Well, how do you think it makes me look?’ ‘Much older,’ Grandma said, between sips of her coffee. I didn’t know whether to believe her or not so I believed her.”
If you have ever wondered what girlhood is like, read Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret. You will laugh and cringe as Margaret and her gal pals negative the sixth grade. Judy Blume’s coming of age girlhood story is #11 on Time’s Best 100 YA list. I am slowly making my way down the list! This is a somewhat spoilerish review, the plot is not a secret since the book was published in the 70s. This was my first time reading Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret. I loved it.
Margaret is 11 years old and just moved into a new house. As soon as she walks in the door, a neighborhood girl, Nacey, invites her over to play in the sprinkler. From this, their friendship is born.
So much happens during the school year! The girls start a secret club, they make a cute boy list, attend a dinner party where they play party games (like spin the bottle and two minutes in heaven), Margaret faces family drama, talks to God, and learns a lot about life.
The girls form a secret club with school friends called the Four Pre Teen Sensations. They meet weekly to talk about everything from how to “grow” your breast, menstruation, boys, religion, and the excitement of everyday pre-teen life. Their club has rules which they follow.
“Gretchen’s rule was, the first one to get her period had to tell the others all about it. Especially how it feels. Janie’s rule was, we all had to keep a Boy Book, which was a notebook with a list of boys’ names in order of how we liked them. Each week we had to change our lists and pass the Boy Books around.”
The girls get ahold of a Playboy magazine to study the woman body and an anatomy book to look at the male body. Only for Margaret to discover that we all have the same insides, which she finds gross, and she wouldn’t mind growing into a Playboy body. The club is humorous. Nacey, the best friend of Margaret, is the leader and somewhat of a problem starter. Blume does not dig deep into Nacey as a character, but I promise we all have had a Nacey in our life.
Beyond the silliness of pre-teen experiences, Blume tackles heavy topics like body image, puberty, religion, and inappropriate relationships. The girls chit chat about menstruation, breast, and adolescence has a whole. They are excited and nervous to grow up. Blume does a wonderful job approaching puberty in a way that is not only relatable but fun to read. This is one of the few books I can think of where the characters openly talk about growing up while offering silly tips.
Laura, a girl in Margaret’s class, has large breasts for her age. I assume a womanly figure as well. Rumors start to float around about Laura and Margaret finds herself believing them and jealous she has not developed as quickly. Margaret confronts Laura in a way that only pre-teens do. She learns that it isn’t any easier having to wear a bra than it is choosing to wear one to fit in. There are various hints their first-year male teacher notices Laura more than the other students and what she wears catches his eye along with the boys in their class. Blume leaves it up to the reader to form an option about the teacher.
Margaret’s parents choose to not practice religion. Her parents were raised in different religions, one Jewish and one Catholic. Neither family approved of the marriage, so they eloped and decided to let their daughter choose her faith when she felt ready.
Her paternal grandmother came to accept the marriage, I assumed, and has a strong bond with Margaret, but reminds Margaret that she is a Jewish girl. Margaret does not like this but accepts that her grandmother’s faith is a part of who she is. Sadly, her maternal grandparents have not done the same. I enjoyed Blume’s take on families and religion. The situations she crafted felt natural, real, and a reminder there is not always a happy ending.
Like with most books that go against the grain, there is controversy surrounding Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret. After reading the book I can see how some readers might find the topics uncomfortable, but not enough so to make a fuss.
Are You There God? It’s Me Margaret is an enjoyable and relatable read for young and old readers. If you have not read it yet, I highly recommend you do! It is a tad dated, but the situations and drama still ring true in today’s world. In 2018, it was announced Are You There God? It’s Me Margaret will be made into a movie but I have not found a release date.
Have you read any of Judy Blume’s work? Have you read Are You There God? It’s Me Margaret?