Hi there! Although I said I was planning on reviewing ‘The Remarkable Journey of Miss Tranby Quirke’ by Elizabeth Ridley next, I felt like reviewing a brilliant Judy Blume book! I loved Judy Blume through my childhood and, like with Daphne Du Maurier, this author is one that my mum introduced me to, and she also loved her writing when she was younger, with this being one of her favourite books. For those of you that don’t know her, Judy Blume writes books for young people, mainly girls, and they cover important topics and issues that are relevant to young girls, as well as being funny and interesting to read.
Most of Blume’s books are set in the 1970s and 1980s, but the things they talk about are still relatable. Even though some of the issues in this book are ‘out-dated’, such as the issue of wearing suspender belts with pads, the way Blume writes the novel still makes the issues relatable to all generations. I personally love the fact that this book is set around the time when my mum was growing up and I think the way Blume makes the issues relatable to all audiences is a great quality of her work.
‘Are you there God? It’s me, Margaret’ is about a young girl who moves to New Jersey, and the book follows her worries about fitting into her new society, on top of the other worries of a girl about to hit puberty in 1970s America. Throughout the book she has the typical anxieties of her age: When will my period start and what if I’m the last of my friends to start? When will I start growing boobs and what if I’m the last to start? What do I do with boys and what if I’m the last to have a boyfriend? Clearly, she has a lot of worries about being behind other people her age, which I can totally understand. Girls share everything and so if you’re the last in your friendship group to start your period, they will know. The fact that Blume uses a cliquey group of girls, all around the age of 12, also exaggerates the problems Margaret has and her worries concerning her growth.
But Blume shows that it really doesn’t matter who starts when and I think for a young girl reading this, it would be incredibly comforting. As an example, in the book, one of Margaret’s friends says she starts her period, and it turns out she’s lied, showing how not everything that people say is real and people will always try to be more grown-up than they actually are, which is what I found when I was growing up. This is an important issue for girls growing up today, as well as during the 1970s.
I also enjoyed the parts in the book where Margaret confronted her religious conflict, as I thought it was good how Blume showed the wide range of problems girls had to battle with. The reason for the title of the book is because Margaret questions her atheism and, coming from a Jewish dad and a Christian mum, who married despite their different religions, she often feels confusion surrounding her religious beliefs, and therefore often asks God for guidance on certain problems in her life. I thought this aspect of the book was interesting in terms of revealing the confusion of a young girl, trying to come to terms with her identity. The fact that she lives in a very religious area also reflects issues about Margaret feeling like an outsider and suggests that this novel has many coming-of-age ideas behind it.
“Are you there, God? It’s me, Margaret. We’re moving today. I’m so scared, God. I’ve never lived anywhere but here. Suppose I hate my new school? Suppose everybody there hates me? Please, help me, God. Don’t let New Jersey be too horrible. Thank you.”
Although there’s not a lot of action in this book, the ideas that are expressed are so interesting and important for girls that are beginning to start puberty and the use of a group of friends who are quite competitive shows the struggles for girls around this kind of age, with characters such as Nancy in particular showing the cliquey attitude of teenage girls.
Overall I enjoyed re-reading this book recently, as I thought that the ideas it covered were important, and Blume managed to incorporate humour and serious moments, as well as discussion of personal issues, in a way that is accessible for young people from all generations. Obviously, when re-reading this I was above the age of the girls in the book, but I still found the ideas about jealousy and that worry of being left behind very pertinent for girls my own age. Judy Blume really does have a knack with writing teenage fiction that relates to the modern reader, despite some details obviously referring to the context of the 1970s.
Overall Rating: 4/5
About the author:
Judy Blume was born in New Jersey, USA, in 1938 and this is where many of her books are set. When she published her first novel in 1960 she was seen as one of the first authors to approach delicate issues and some of her novels were banned, due to their discussion of ‘taboo’ subjects. Blume has received praise for addressing the often unspoken worries of subjects such as menstruation and masturbation, as well as teen sex and birth control. She is married to the former Professor of Law, George Cooper, and has a daughter, Randy, who was born 1961. She also has a grand-son, who the cute character Fudge is based on. Fudge appears in books such as ‘Tales of a Fourth-Grade Nothing.’
Other books by this author:
‘Iggy’s House- a great comment on racial issues during the 1970s and 1980s.
‘Forever’- this one is more suitable for older readers and tackles the delicate issues of first love and sex in a way that is very realistic, rather than simply glossing over the details.
‘Tiger Eyes’- again, the protagonist of this one is a little older than Margaret, but the love interest aspect of the novel is great.
I hope you’ve enjoyed reading my review, let me know your thoughts on this author, or any of her books in the comments below!
Currently reading: ‘The Moonstone’ by Wilkie Collins