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April 23, 2013 / ljbradburn-Smith

Are you there God? It’s me, Margaret by Judy Blume

Are you there God

This is the first of my favourite childhood reads, that I have reviewed, which is probably partly due to there being a funny incident related to it, in my adult life, and largely due to how much I loved it when I was growing up.

The ‘Margaret’ incident occurred, last year, when a friend, at work, mentioned the name Margaret and I said “Are you there God? It’s me Margaret” (always having books on my mind, of course). Rather than thinking I was quoting a book title, they thought that work was getting to me and that I had finally (and humorously) cracked! I tried to explain (I don’t think they heard me because they were laughing so loudly) but despite my best efforts, since that day, Margaret has become a, slightly creepy, not-so loved, persona that I adopt when I want to scare the girls in my office. You know your job is tedious when you resort to being creepy to keep yourself entertained!

The book itself couldn’t be further away from my accidental creepy Margaret. Judy Blume’s 12-year-old protagonist, Margaret, is coping with starting a new school, growing up and finding her place in the world. This is a classic coming of age story, in which the author explores everything from religion and family conflict to bust size and periods.

Blume captures the struggles of a girl, approaching puberty, who is desperately trying to make sense of what her body is doing and the mixture of emotions she suddenly feels. I remember going through a phase, at this age, when I used to come home from school and was so exhausted that I would fall asleep face down on my bedroom floor, for a couple of hours, every day! Some would call it lazy (and weird, as I didn’t even make it to the bed) I call it hormones 😉

The title, of Blume’s young-teen novel, perfectly captures her protagonist’s confusion, as she tries to decide between the religions, of her parents. Margaret is torn between the Jewish and Christian sides of her family and feels pressure to make a decision, from her Grandparents, in particular, who each try to encourage her to choose their respective faiths. It becomes apparent that what Margaret really wants is for someone to help her understand this new world she feels stranded in.

Through her personal talks, with God, the reader is privy to all of Margaret’s body, boy, family and friendship worries, that she is too embarrassed to talk to anyone else about. Important issues, for young teens, such as new schools, first bras, liking members of the opposite sex and fitting in with friends, are all avenues that Blume explores, with a comforting honesty. Her descriptions of the fears surrounding being judged, and not fitting it, that are particularly prominent at this age, are told in such a way, that any young reader will probably sigh in relief at finding someone, who seems to understand what they are feeling.

When I was growing up, I was lucky enough to have parents that I could talk to, about everything, but I can imagine that for young girls, who don’t, that this book is an invaluable source of information. It was certainly a great comfort to me. As it was originally published in 1970 there is even an updated version, which swaps the old-fashioned sanitary belt for modern pads which is probably much less terrifying to read (those things did not sound comfortable and terrified me until my mum explained that I didn’t need to worry about them anymore!). It just goes to show how relevant everything else, that Judy writes about, still is.

Blume’s writing is extremely accessible whilst also being poignant. Her ability to create such believable, genuine characters, that young girls, in particular, can really relate to, is a wonderful gift and I am sure has helped many people, who read her books, to feel less alone. She has a knack for taking a serious subject and bringing a new perspective and even humour to it. She was criticised, by some, for exploring subjects such as menstruation, divorce, teen sex and bullying, in her various novels, but praised by so many more for her honest and informative depiction of the ups and downs of life and growing up. Blume writes with such understanding that you can’t fail to love her books. For me they remind me of my mum, supportive, warm and always there for you.

On another note, I am also convinced that being blessed with slightly larger than average assets is down to the fact that I faithfully practised Margaret’s ‘I must, I must, I must increase my bust’ technique, for hours at a time, so thanks Judy! Ben says thanks too 😉


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