What can I say about this book, really? It was very short, and mostly about stuff I couldn’t really relate to much. Definitely a lot more cheerful than the last book I read, that’s for sure (American Pastoral, for those of you keeping track at home).
Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret by Judy Blume
It has actually taken far more time for me to figure out what to say about this book than it took to read it, which only took an hour and a half. Margaret is an almost-twelve year old girl who moves from New York City to the bucolic New Jersey suburbs. While she misses her grandma who remains in town and can only see her occasionally, Margaret makes a bunch of new friends, forms a club, interacts with boys and starts to notice changes in her body, all over the course of Grade Six. Like I said, this book is definitely not aimed at me, but I can’t say I didn’t enjoy reading it.
Margaret’s biggest character trait is that she talks to God on a regular basis, asking his advice about things that occur in her life. She undertakes a school project over the year to try and see if she likes the Jewish approach to worship, or the Christian way, as her parents never imposed any specific dogma on her growing up (they were both sort of refugees from either side, as the mother’s Catholic family seems to have sort of disowned her for eloping and marrying a Jewish guy). There is a frankness about different approaches to religion that I didn’t think I’d see from a book published in 1970, but again, what do I know really. I can’t say I’m any great scholar when it comes to YA fiction in the broader sense, much less those books designed specifically for girls anyway, so my base of knowledge is not quite there to see if this is indeed out of the ordinary for the time period.
While the portrayal of girls at that age seems pretty spot on, with the caveat that it’s been twelve years since I was the same age, the boys in the book are presented as being inscrutable, primal forces that completely confound girl culture at every turn. The girls in Margaret’s club (the PTSs, or Pre-Teen Sensations) pass around “boy books” at their meetings, keeping a running tally of which boys they like in the class. Margaret’s afraid to put the one she actually likes in there though, as he’s a friend of Nancy’s dickweed older brother, so she follows along with the rest of them and puts the prettiest boy in the class at the top of the heap every time. The handsome guy, Philip, turns out to be kind of a douche, though.
A lot of the other parts of the book are about these young girls beginning to become young women. This was handled pretty tastefully, I found, and some parts were actually pretty funny; my favorite part of the whole book was when the girls had to skip gym class and watch a video about the changes in their bodies, which Margaret figures out pretty quickly to be more of a commercial for a specific line of feminine hygiene products being shilled for by a visiting “authority” – she vows to never buy anything by that company. I also liked how funny the kids thought it was that the grownups were telling them all this stuff they already “knew”, which of course I remember feeling as well (and, obviously, they don’t really know everything, they just think they do).
So yeah, probably the perfect book for a young girl growing up, and for parents of a young girl who need to remember what it was like at that age. Since I fall into neither of those categories I can’t say I absolutely loved it or anything, but I can see that it’s probably the best of its type. Here’s what Grossman has to say about the book, I must admit that I really had no previous knowledge of teen girl literature from the era to base my reading of the book on, so some of the revolutionariness he remarks on may not have rubbed off on me.
4. An American Tragedy
Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret
Total Pages read: 1917 pp
Next up on the Resolution Project: Bernard Malamud’s The Assistant (1957). Still waiting on the Dreiser book at number 4, so I’m going to forge on ahead.