Before I start this review I must admit that I am a little embarrassed to admit that I am 25 years old and had just finished reading Judy Blume’s famous novel, Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret.
But I’m not embarrassed for the same reasons most other 25 year old women may be.
It’s not because of the content of the novel or the fact that it’s young adult written for pre-pubescent pre-teens.
It’s because it’s written by Judy Blume, my all-time favorite writer who is 90% of the reason I decided to become a writer, and I’m 25 years old and just now getting around to reading it.
I always wanted to read this novel. I know that this is a very controversial book that was widely banned especially when it was first released back in the 1970’s. I have read every single one of Judy Blume’s other books, some as many as three or more times. Somehow this book always ended up on the back burner and I never ended up getting to it as a child.
But when I saw it on display at the Margaret Heggan Library two weeks ago, I know I couldn’t ignore it any longer. I had to check it out and see just what this book was about.
I was a little nervous to read this novel. I had such high opinions of Judy Blume. The only novel of hers I read and didn’t like was “Wifey”. Wifey read like an old-school version of 50 Shades of Grey — it was just trashy. I expected more from my favorite writer. But I forgave her for that. If Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret ended up being trashy, would I be able to forgive her again, or would it permanently change my opinion of my favorite writer?
I have heard many different stories over the years about the content of this novel and why it was banned. The most common story I heard is that it was very sexual and focused heavily on female masturbation for young girls going through puberty. In reality, this novel contained not a single sentence about masturbation.
It was a coming of age novel that discussed changes that 12 year old girls go through regarding their bodies and puberty in general, of course, but there was nothing “explicit” about it. It really didn’t even mention sex at all. For the young adult audience that Blume was writing for, it was perfect. It was insightful, informative, easy for her target audience to relate to, and not over the top or trashy. I don’t have kids, let alone a 12 year old daughter, but if I did I would be more than okay with having her read this novel. In fact, I’d encourage it.
As I read through this novel, I remembered and reflected a great deal on my own pre-pubescent late elementary/early middle school days. There were the constant rumors, the cattiness, the gossip about boys, the general curiosity about the world and the changing of bodies and life in general. And for some, even the bigger issue that Blume so openly and boldly chose to discuss: the declaration or even outright questioning of religion.
I had a very hard time understanding why this book was banned. Have things really changed that much since it was first published in the 1970s? It doesn’t seem that way. I mean sure things are much more sexualized now with 50 Shades of Grey (don’t think for an instant 12 year olds aren’t reading that, I can pretty much guarantee you that they are, whether their parents know about it or not).
But was it really horrific in the 1970s to mention about female bodies changing, girls liking boys and the comments that boys made about their female classmates bodies, choosing a religion, and all of these topics that come in to play as a general part of growing up? It seems strange to me. This was life and Blume did a great job demonstrating a very realistic view of it that any normal woman (or Blume’s target audience — 12 year old girls) can connect and relate to.
Sure, the book is a little awkward to read, but that’s the point. Being a 12 year old girl is an awkward event.
Maybe people criticized this book because they didn’t want to accept the truth and reality of what their preteen daughters were really thinking, experiencing, and going through at the time.
What can we say? Truth hurts sometimes.
Or at the very least, the truth can be awkward.
Regardless, Blume captured it all exceptionally well and earned 5 out of 5 stars from me.