As we found out in the last JAotM post, Judy Blume writes books that are so realistic and address all the ins and outs of growing up. But the Fudge series is primarily narrated by Peter, a MG boy!
But never fear, because Judy Blume also has many books that have MG girls as the narrator! From Blubber to Starring Sally J. Freeman as Herself, Mrs. Blume definitely makes sure to address what it means to be a growing and changing girl.
Today, I want to delve in and discuss her most popular (and also most banned) work, Are You There, God? It’s Me, Margaret .
Though this book was first published in 1970, Judy Blume has written a timeless story that is still relevant today! (Well, except for the “belts”, which I had to actually look up to see what they were lol). As I was reading this book, I thought back to my own late elementary school experiences and my friend group and was amazed at how similar it was to Margaret’s! I remember pretended to be in a secret club with my friends and having rules that we had to follow. And the BOYS! Oh yes, that is what we talked about all the time, much in the same manner as Margaret and her friends do. I can imagine that many of you have had similar friend experiences during your 10-12 years old times. After almost 45 years, this book is still relevant! That is the definition of timeless.
I also remember the dynamics within my friend group at this age. We were all so vulnerable and wanted to appear in control and “cool.” Margaret experiences some insecurities when the girls make it a rule to wear a bra at the meetings. And when it seems like all of her friends are getting their periods, Margaret feels like she is almost inadequate in some ways. All of these feelings that Margaret experiences throughout the course of this story are so very real. At some point, everyone has felt inadequate and insecure, especially around peers. The hardest lesson you have to learn as you grow up is how to be okay with who you are, no matter how everyone else is around you. That is a major part of growing up, and it starts right around this age. This is the story of Margaret beginning her “growing up” from a child to a young woman, and she finds it difficult. She feels alone. She is searching for answers. And that is okay! That is what growing up is all about, even still today.
I can see why this book ended up on the banned list. Among other life changes, Margaret is actively seeking the answer to “Is God real?” Religion is such a taboo subject, especially within the context of schools. But this book is far from being preachy and pushy. And while the idea of searching for God is central to the story, there isn’t a lot of religious detail. Yes, she goes to church. Yes, she goes to temple. Yes, she goes to confession. But that is the extent of it. The more important theme is not religion, but trying to fill that void of loneliness that each of us feels at some point in our maturation (a lot of times around the 10-12 years old age). Honestly, I found this searching that Margaret does for her school year project to be realistic, especially for the age she is.
Honestly, I wish I had had a little more time this month to read a couple of her other girl-centric works to see if they, too, are as timeless as Margaret. Judy Blume has truly captured the essence of what it means to be a girl and grow up, and everything in Are You There, God? It’s Me, Margaret is just as applicable today as it was when it was first published.
Judy Blume, you have set the bar high in the Juvenile Fiction World for being 100% real. Thank you for what you have done for MG fiction.