Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret

Posted 2 July, 2015 by Trish in Reading Nook, Review / 22 Comments

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Are You There God? It's Me, Margaret

TitleAre You There God? It’s Me, Margaret
Author: Judy Blume
Published: 1970 | Pages:
Genre: Fiction (Young Adult)
Rating: Can’t believe I waited until 33 to read this one

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In Short: Margaret is almost 12, entering the sixth grade, wants a more robust bust, and isn’t always sure God is listening.

Why I Read Are You There God: More appropriately, why didn’t I read this sooner? More on that later. I read this for Kerry’s Summer of #BlumeALong.

Thoughts in General: I don’t read a lot of Young Adult fiction–there have been a few books that I’ve enjoyed, but for the most part it takes me back to a time in my life that I didn’t love experiencing the first time and don’t really care to experience a second time, even vicariously. However, I noticed as soon as I started Are You There God that I was reading more through a lens of a future mother to preteen girls rather than when I was a preteen.

Ok, my reading did make me reflect back to when I was 11 and 12 and making all sorts of discoveries about my body and self, but it made me think more about how I want my daughters’ discoveries and experiences to be different from mine.

I want my daughters to feel that they have an open door conversational policy with me. I want them to know that they can ask me anything and I’ll give them as straight of an answer as I can. As the oldest child, I felt uncomfortable asking my parents about taboo topics. This meant that before the digital age I was rarely in the know and often embarrassed about my lack of knowledge or my misunderstanding of it.

I want my daughters to embrace their bodies. While I am never 100% satisfied by my size and shape, I am very careful how I talk about beauty and weight in front of my girls. We talk about healthy eating, but never dieting (which I don’t do anyway). We talk about exercise to make our bodies strong, never to make us slimmer. Make-up is a tough one for me–while I do wear a bit (usually only on my eyes/brows as I have very light natural coloring), I don’t want my girls to think they need to wear make-up to look or feel beautiful.

I want my daughters to be able to question the world and faith without any shame. I don’t use this word often because it makes people uncomfortable, but I am an atheist (why even pretend at this point that I’m agnostic because it sounds nicer). This was one of the parts of Are You There God that hit me the hardest as Margaret is trying to decide if she wants to follow her Jewish or Christian heritage. She attends temple and church and at one point becomes so confused and lost that she calls quits on all of it. While I want my girls to have a strong moral upbringing (one does not need church for this!), I also want them to be able to talk and question beliefs openly.

I want my daughters to form healthy friendships that do not hinge on Queen Bees. This one is just wishful thinking. Some days I try to figure out what horrible thing I did in a past life to have to live through girl drama with three little girls when I lived through girl drama hell for so many years. I want my daughters to be Confident. Strong. Wise. Independent. Loving and Kind.

Has this post turned into a true confessions post? Perhaps. While the book itself was kind of a ho-hum read in my mid-thirties, it did give me a lot of pause for the events my daughters will be experiencing in the next 10 years. Amazing how when you’re in the moment these little life changes are so incredibly huge–it’s too bad there are some things we can’t experience through hindsight. I know it would have made my life so much easier.

“If you ask me, being a teenager is pretty rotten–between pimples and worrying about how you smell!”

Oh Margaret…if only that was the worst of it!

Bottom Line: If you are an 11-12 year old tween, now is the time to read this one! (Do I have any 11 year old girls in my audience–heaven help me!!). It’s a timeless classic for a reason…though what you get out of the book might depend on the time you choose to read it.

Have you read Are You There God? Did you have a favorite coming of age story when you were younger (or as an adult?)

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22 Responses to “Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret”

  1. I don’t have daughters, at least not yet, but I really want to read this book. Everyone just say it’s amazing!

  2. What a coincidence! You’ll never guess what I just finished reading two nights ago! Yep, “Are You There God? It’s Me Margaret.” I bought a copy to give to my granddaughter this year (she turns 13 at the end of the month), but wanted to read it first since I’d never read it. It’s a little dated (published in 1970) and I had to laugh at the occasional remark about a boy being a “drip.” I don’t know why I didn’t read it when I was growing up (I was 9 when it was published, so it would have been perfect timing), but I actually didn’t even hear about it until many, many years later. I’m glad to finally know what the book is all about, but I’ve decided against the gift idea for my granddaughter. She’s had her period for over a year now and I don’t think the book will reveal anything she hasn’t already learned since she started. With that said, I will leave it on the bookcase in the guest room just in case she’s curious and wants to read it. ;)

    Excellent post, as usual, Trish! Nodding my head about being an atheist (and loved the aside about not claiming to be an agnostic). I love the honesty in your posts and hope someday to meet you.

    Happy belated Canada Day!

  3. My daughter is 11 and I’ve debated recommended this one to her. It made a strong impression of me as a young girl, but I have a feeling it must feel pretty dated now (maxi pad belts, anyone?) May need to reread it again and see. She usually reads books about dragons so it may be a hard sell, anyway. ;)

  4. This was one of my favorite books as a pre-teen, something I read and reread endlessly. A couple of years ago, I discovered that my roommates had never read this, so I recommended it. I don’t think it was as life-changing for them as it was for me, but at least they got to read and appreciate it.

  5. Ti

    When I read it with my daughter last year, she thought it was a little boring. I remember learning so much from it when I read it on the school yard. We passed around a dog-eared copy and it felt so scandalous. My daughter was like… So? I remember how wearing a bra was a big deal. These days, not at all. One day she went to the store with me and along with the stuff I had in my cart she threw in some bras. I had a conversation with her about her not needing an under wire but I was met with a cool gaze.

  6. Oh, honey! I’m with you on this one. It’s probably the reason why I haven’t gone back and read this one. I do like YA but I can understand why someone might shy away from it. Goodness knows I have no fond memories of that time period.

    As for your wishes for your girls, I am here to tell you that you can have all that and more. Start early on instilling those messages. Holly will be 11 in a month, and she is one of the most confident, selfless, and happy girls I have ever met. She recognizes drama but doesn’t get caught up in it. She knows the Queen Bees and knows how to stay in their good graces without capitulating to them. She is not afraid to demonstrate her affections for others. She asks questions of the status quo and loves to have intense discussions on hot topics. As for body image, I started having frank conversations with her about puberty when she was 7/8. Now? She can talk about anything and does without getting embarrassed. She tells me everything but knows I respect her privacy. It is one of the most fulfilling relationships I have with anyone. I know she is still young, and we are still facing the rougher teen years. However, I know that she is entering that phase with a rock-solid foundation of self-confidence, love, and support. All of those wishes you have for your girls CAN happen. Good luck!

  7. I read this one when I was a young teen. I enjoyed it but I liked the Linda Berman series better. Probably cause we share a name.

  8. That’s a blast from the past! I like your way of handling things with your daughters, making eating healthy and exercise a positive for health rather than diet. Kids absorb so much by observing and we need to be good examples for them. A+ to you.

    It’s refreshing to hear one state they are atheist without expecting a shit-storm from folks. I have never said agnostic because it felt like a cop out, even though it may have saved me an uncomfortable conversation here and there :-) When our son wanted to attend a church youth group with a friend we certainly took him. He needed to be exposed to a religious setting and make up his own mind. You are right, a strong moral upbringing is set by example. Great post, great review.

  9. Flora

    I devoured this book 30 years ago, and I can’t wait until my granddaughter is old enough to read it.

  10. Oh my gosh, how I loved his book Seriously, I bet I read it 20 or 30 times as preteen. (Not exaggerating.) And of course, I read her other books too, but that was the one I loved with a passion. So when my mom saw Wifey at the store, she bought it for me just assuming it was another kids’ book. Ha! It was decidedly not the Judy Blume for kids type of book. But it sure made 8th-grade a little more interesting as my friends and I passed it around. :P

  11. I read this when I was around 10 or twelve and was much more impressed by Tales of the Fourth Grade Nothing by the same author. LOL

    The make-up issue . . . I was talking to my daughter the other day about her friends at school. V is the one who sleeps all the time. W always wants to be Spiderman. O is beautiful because she wears make-up. O is only 4 1/2. So. This opened up a conversation about beauty and make-up that I didn’t think I would be having with my daughter just yet–and I’m sure we’ll be having it again. I wear very little make-up. Eyeliner and that’s about it. Maybe lip gloss or lipstick on the rare occasion.

    It sounds like (no surprise, I know) we want the same things for our girls.

    Great post, Trish!

  12. This was THE book to read freshmen year. The best lesson my parents ever taught me: be a leader not a follower. It has served me well and continues to today.
    If I had girls or kids my philosophy would be the same as yours. Keep showing them how strong you are and your girls will be fine )

  13. I am looking forward to reading this with my daughter in a couple of years even though like you there is so much that I worry about with my daughter that I don’t with my boys. With my boys it is easier and I don’t really have an explanation why. I still worry about them as they grow and things like bullying but girls are harder in my opinion. Girls can just be mean and I don’t want my daughter to experience that. Great post Trish!!

  14. I’ve been around long enough to have read Judy Blume’s books when they first came out. My mother read Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing to me and my brothers; we loved it. After that, she figured Judy Blume was safe for me to read on my own so I read them all until I was probably 15 or 16 and moved on to “adult fare” mostly fantasy.

    I never noticed the more controversial parts of the book. I was very interested in the parts about religion, and ended up an atheist, like you did. I also wonder if I have any YA readers, since I do review YA.

  15. I will never forget the bust-increasing chant. Hilarious. This is definitely a memorable read and while not awesome at 30, it certainly made an impression on me when I was a kid.

  16. Such greay reflections, Trish! Your little brood is so lucky to have such a thoughtful and loving momma. I too found the passages where Margaret struggled with religion the most powerful, and it reminded me a lot of my upbringing! Funnily enough, I hardly remembered those parts at all from my first readings.