The book Are You there God? It ’ s me Margaret, by Judy Blume (1970), takes on a humorous and insightful journey through the pubescent stage of twelve year old Margaret Simon’s life. We hear all her private thoughts about what goes on in her life and what she would rather happen in her life. While Blume’s book, Are You there God? It ’ s me Margaret, is an profound and comical read for pre-teen girls, I believe that students in fifth grade and higher should be able to read the book. While the language of the book is simple for the reading level of a third grader (Titlewave), the content is too mature for them and should be selected for older, preteen students who understand and are in the midst of going through those stages in life. Margaret’s issues are presented in a straightforward and blunt manner. She is conflicted between choosing her own religion, but just ends up talking to God. She talks and prays to Him daily about whatever is on her mind. The issues of boys, kissing, and sexuality are present throughout the book (Blume 1970). Margaret is infatuated with her body and is constantly thinking about when her body is going to develop like her other friends. She prays to God for her menstrual cycle to start and for her chest to grow, all typical pre-teen girl thoughts (Blume, 1970). However, these controversial life experience’s that Margaret goes through and documents (Blume, 1970), are seen as inappropriate for some readers, but as reassurances to older readers.
According to Kiefer and Tyson (2014), a contemporary realistic fiction book should allow the reader to relate to the characters and the situations that are presented in the book. In Blume’s (1970) book, Are You There God? It ’ s Me Margaret, the readers go on a personal journey with Margaret and experience all the trials and tribulations of being a sixth grade girl in a new school. Margaret is honestly portrayed as a happy-go-lucky pre-teen who has to move to New Jersey with her mom and dad. We hear her quirky thoughts about how unfortunate it is to have to be uprooted from the place that you know and to start fresh in a school with new people and have to deal with growing up all in the same year. Throughout the book the controversial themes of believing in God and having a defined religion, as well as going through puberty, beginner bras and getting your first menstrual cycle, are clearly discussed in detail. Blume writes straightforwardly about what is going on through a middle school girls’ life and how exciting, but nerve-racking it can be.
In the book (Blume, 1970), Margaret constantly talks to God in times of need, questioning His powers and praying for her body to start developing naturally like all of her new friends. After meeting up with her friends and reciting their group chant-exercise of “We must-we must-we must increase our bust!” (p. 72), Margaret comes home and convinces her mother to go to the store to buy her a bra. She then prays, “Are you there God? It’s me, Margaret. I just told my mother I want a bra. Please help me grow God. You know where” (p. 37). Margaret finds a certain solace in talking to God, and I think many middle school girls can relate to that feeling when they talk to someone older who they know will not judge them. Margaret is also focused on getting her period. Margaret makes friends with a few girls in her new class and, in typical middle school fashion, they develop a girl group with secret names, books, and a period pact. These girls are all very credible middle school girl characters. In her girl group, there is the ‘leader’ Nancy, who does not have a problem bragging about her development and knowledge about periods.
Margaret also is faced with the choice of believing in God from a Jewish or a Christian standpoint. Margaret blatantly tells her new friends about her parents’ scandalous elopement and how they decided to not raise her a certain faith over the other, they would let her decide what she believes when she is old enough. She tells God her deepest thoughts, but feels comfortable when talking to him, begging Him to make her be “normal” (p. 100). She even prays to have Him help her find her religion, “I’m more confused than ever…Which religion should I be? Sometimes I wish I’d been born one way or the other” (p. 94). Throughout the book, Margaret tries out different churches in her journey of trying to find God. After each service, Margaret prays to God and tells him what she liked, but always that she did not fully feel His presence. It is not until she gets her period when she realizes that, “I know you’re there God. I know you wouldn’t have missed this for anything!” (p. 149). I believe this is an honest portrayal of how a middle school girl would feel if she was going through the process of believing in God, or anything.
I feel as if Blume does an excellent job in representing the true experience of a curious middle school girl going through puberty and trying to find her true beliefs. While this book does present controversial issues that maybe some middle-school girls would be uncomfortable reading about, it shows young girls that they are not the only ones out there that are experiencing these thoughts (Syzmanski, 2007). Through Margaret’s experiences and prayers, middle school girls can read this and make their own connections with some of the issues they are faced with and see how Margaret handles them. This book fulfills Kiefer and Tyson’s (2014) description on a contemporary realistic fiction book because it shows the reader another perspective that might seem comforting for the age group.
There are themes throughout the book that are controversial for some readers. Any children’s book that deals with religious beliefs always attracts both positive and negative attention (Brewbaker, 1983). She prays to God daily because she finds comfort in telling him all her secret thoughts and asks Him for guidance as she struggles with choosing her exact religious beliefs. After attempting a Catholic church ritual of confession, that did not live up to her standards, Margaret prays, “I looked for you when I wanted to confess. But you weren’t there. I didn’t feel you at all. Not the way I do when I talk to you at night. Why God? Why do I only feel you when I’m alone?” (Blume, p.120). Margaret’s parents, being raised in two very different religious households, chose not to raise her a certain way. Instead, they decided to let her choose her religion when she is old enough. However, contradictory to her parents’ decisions, Margaret is faced with two sets of grandparents who believe it is important she choose a religion and sometimes take matters into their own hands (Blume 1970). The book highlights the fact that “Margaret finds that pressures from loving grandparents, Jewish on one side and Christian on the other, can make the business of choosing a religion pretty distasteful” (Brewbaker, 1983). Other controversial issues that are presented in the book (Blume 1970) are boys, first kisses, and expressions of sexuality. Margaret’s new friend Nancy brings up the fact numerous times that boys are only interested in “pictures of naked girls and dirty books” (p.11). Margaret even brings her dad’s copy of Playboy to one of her girl group meetings to look at the centerfold’s chest (Blume, 1970). Another controversial issue that is prominent in the entire book is female body development: “Menstruation lies at the center of Margaret’s world and her thoughts are monopolized.
- Quote paper
- Phyllis Economy (Author), 2015, Children's Literature. The Controversy in Judy Blume's "Are You There God? It's Me Margaret", Munich, GRIN Verlag, https://www.grin.com/document/367240