Are You There God, It’s Me Margaret
by Judy Blume
The story of the coming of age of Margaret Simon begins when she and her family transition from an apartment in New York to the suburbs of New Jersey. All throughout the novel Margaret is confronted with, and learns about body issues (puberty), religious issues, conformity, and the way in which she views others. As soon as Margaret moves in she meets her neighbor Nancy Wheeler, another eleven year old in her class. Nancy invites Margaret to join her secret club “The Four Preteen Sensations”, where the girls must abide by special rules such as not wearing socks with loafers, keeping a “favorite boy book”, reporting when they get their period, and wearing a bra (which are all training bras except for Nancy’s AA). They also learn exercises to “increase their busts”. During Margaret’s first day in New Jersey she also develops her first crush on the fourteen year old boy that cuts their grass.
Margaret’s friends have trouble understanding why it is that she is of “no religion”, and Margaret must explain that her parents are of different faiths and therefore she was never subjected to a particular religion. This inquiry however provokes thought in Margaret and inspires her to attend church and temple (however, she never completely chooses).
A menstruation film at school gets the girls talking about periods, and Margaret becomes preoccupied with getting hers. She feels left behind when two other girls report getting theirs, even though one of them lies. Margaret learns about being judgmental when she argues with the “loose” girl of the class, Laura Danker. After having a fight with her grandparents, Margaret acts out by buying feminine products without actually needing them.
Throughout the novel, Margaret talks to god and asks him for help with things. After her religious upheaval, Margaret stops going to God in prayer but resumes when she (at long last) gets her period!
This novel is frequently deemed “a good read”. For obvious reasons the book is targeted at elementary and middle school girls, I however found myself wanting to continue reading it in its entirety. The novel has inspired and taught many young readers, and is recommended to anyone looking to see the start of a bold yet beneficial type of writing, as well as the start of something “dangerous’.
Why is this book “dangerous?”:
Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret is currently listed at number sixty-two on the ALA’s top 100 most frequently challenged books. The reasoning for this is based on its frank treatment of sexuality, and its dealings with religion. Author Judy Blume states that she believes that censorship grows out of fear, and because fear is contagious, some parents are easily swayed. Book banning satisfies their need to feel in control of their children’s lives. This fear is often disguised as moral outrage. They want to believe that if their children don’t read about it, their children won’t know about it. And if they don’t know about it, it won’t happen.