Judy Blume's Are You There, God? It's Me, Margaret
Book review by Ramona Davis
Growing up, fitting in, and the conversations an 11 year old girl has with God
Margaret is an 11 year old girl starting the sixth grade with many issues.
She has just moved to New Jersey from New York City, leaving behind her paternal grandmother who doted on her, and has spent most of her life without a religious affiliation because of her parents' interfaith marriage. To make matters worse, she is coping with issues of becoming a pre-teen (periods, bras, kissing and boys), brought out by the group of girls she befriends in her new town.
What helps her get through her issues is, believe it or not, talking to God. Whenever Margaret needs help, feels lost and alone, or is angry, she begins her prayer with “Are you there, God? It's me, Margaret.”
Even though Margaret has been raised without a specific religion, the conflict of what to become seems hardest for her when faced with choices like joining the Y or the Jewish Community Center like her friends, or when her maternal grandmother pushes being a Christian on her (at which point she tells God that she doesn't need him because he is making things hard on her).
When Margaret is given a year long study project in school by her teacher, Mr. Benedict, she decides to do it on religion, hoping that it will help her decide what she wants to become. During her studies she visits the Jewish Synagogue with her paternal grandmother, and the churches of two of her friends. When she upsets a classmate, she follows her to a Catholic church (the fourth church Margaret visits for her project) and steps into a confessional but can't find the words to say more than “I'm sorry.”
At the end of the school year, Margaret is still no closer to deciding what religion she wants to become and while her classmates have turned in booklets on their subjects, she turns in a simple letter explaining how hard it was for her to complete her project. Feeling like she let her teacher down, she runs out of the classroom in tears.
Are You There, God? It's Me, Margaret ends with Margaret starting her menstrual cycle just as she is ready to leave for summer camp. She realizes that God hasn't left her alone at all, and she ends the book saying, “Are you still there God? It's me, Margaret. I know you're there God. I know you wouldn't have missed this for anything! Thank you God. Thanks an awful lot...”
Are You There, God? It's Me, Margaret was always one of my favorite Judy Blume books. I could relate to Margaret in so many ways through this book. I started a new school and lived in a new town almost every school year, wondered if I was going to be a normal girl in the ways of developing like the girls I saw in my classes, and grew up without a religious affiliation (my parents are of an interfaith marriage). Many of my daily conversations with God started off “God? It's me. Ramona,” and I would ramble from there. Even reading Are You There God? It's Me, Margaret by Judy Blume now, I can still relate to Margaret.
I think Ms. Blume did an excellent job of interlacing religion, a mildly controversial topic, into this coming of age book about growing up, fitting in, and figuring out where you really belong.
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