Thursday, September 30, 2010

Are You There God? It's Me, Margaret - Judy Blume

Summary:  Margaret Simon, almost twelve, likes long hair, tuna fish, the smell of rain, and things that are pink.  She's just moved from New York City to the suburbs, and she's anxious to fit in with her new friends, so when they form a secret club to talk about boys, bras, and getting their first periods, Margaret is happy to belong.  But none of them can believe Margaret doesn't have a religion.  And Margaret can't tell them the truth: that she can talk to God anyway, about everything that's on her mind--including Philip Leroy, the best-looking boy in the sixth grade.

Margaret is funny and real.  So are her most personal thoughts and feelings.  (Summary from back of the book and image from

My Review:  After reading this quick novel, I'm not surprised it made the Banned Book list.  In the very first chapters there is mention of Playboy, kissing boys, having a period, and some examples of teenage attitude towards authority figures.  Considering the protagonist is a twelve year old girl and the audience for the book would be the same, it fits that parents would take issue with some of the subject matter.  I'm not sure at twelve I would have been ready for some of what this book addresses.  But, I also know I was quite sheltered--something I have no issue with, I might add.  I'm sure at that age I would have breezed over the part with Playboy, thinking I'd figure it out later while most likely forgetting to check up on it.

But, that's not all I can see parents taking issue with.  The simple fact that Margaret talks to God throughout the story is enough for some parents to grow leery.  Margaret even gets testy with God towards the end of the story and again, I can see parents being concerned with her attitude.

Here's my overall feeling on the book: while I don't agree with some of the messages, it really isn't a horrible book teaching girls awful things.  For many American homes I think this behavior and confusion about religion for a teenage girl would be authentic and therefore meaningful reading.  If my daughter chose to read this book I know I'd make sure to have some discussions about Margaret's experience and her struggles.  I'd also hope to be able to have meaningful conversations about kindness and compassion, which are topics brought up briefly and could be more thoroughly explored.  Margaret is a good girl with a conscience truly trying to understand the world around her and fit in.  Her experience being new at school, I can only imagine, would validate many girls struggling through the same experience.  It could even make your child more aware of how easily she is swayed by the desire to fit in rather than do what they know is the right thing to do.

The writing is very basic and therefore not challenging, but is accessible to the lower YA grades where this book is probably most applicable.  I'm not sure I'd steer my students in the direction of reading this book, but I also wouldn't tell them not to read it.  I think it could be the right fit for the right student.

Rating:  3.5 Stars

Sum it up:  A pre-adolescent girl's struggle to adjust to and reach her teenage years.

1 comment:

MindySue said...

I read a book called "My Little Red Book" that was a collection of women telling stories about getting their periods for the first time ( the review is here ) and in it there was a surprising number of women who credited almost all their knowledge of puberty, periods, etc. to the book "Are You There God, It's Me Margaret". Thanks for the review Kari!


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