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Are You There, God? It's Me, Margaret - Judy Blume

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Genre: Junior Books / Author: Judy Blume / Paperback / 128 pages / Book published 1980-11-07 by Macmillan Children's Books

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      06.08.2010 09:30
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      A Judy Blume book

      Another great classic from Judy Blume is this one. With her books it is hard to have favourites as they are all so good but, in particular I really enjoyed this one because it really was so well in tune with how young girls are and it was nice to read about it in a way that made it more normal for most of us girls to have worries like this.


      The author:
      Judy Blume is an American author who wrote man young adult books, children's books and also a few adult books. Her books have been translated into 31 languages which is a staggering amount and to this day she has sold more than 80 million copies of her books which shows just how popular they are!



      The plot:
      Margaret has just moved from New York to New Jersey and is wondering if she will fit in her new school, be able to make friends, start to grow in the chest department, be able to actually kiss a boy properly and ever be able to see her beloved grandma now they have moved. As soon as Margaret has moved in she makes friends with one of her neighbours Nancy who invites her to be part of her club and Margaret hopes she can fit in and make friends with the other members, Janie and Gretchen. As the school year progresses Margaret is constantly trying to keep up with everything and try to feel like a normal pre teen but, it is so hard when she isn't sure what she should and shouldn't be doing so she tries to talk to God every night before bed, as she feels he might be able to help her if nobody else can.


      Characters:
      Margaret is such a good character as she is very well written by Judy Blume. She really is exactly how so many, many young girls are at that age and because of this it was such a easy book to relate too when I was reading this when I was younger. Margaret tells the story by sharing her thoughts and feelings and has the same worries as many other girls but, doesn't always want to come right out and say certain things to her friends in case they think she is a silly little girl who hasn't started to grow up yet. Margaret also worries because she is different to her friends in other way such as religion and wanting to try and decide if she should be part of religion as even though she talks to God, she only does so because she feels he is the one person she can really say things to and have no judgement from.
      Margaret's grandma features in this book and even though not a character that tells any part of the story I thought it was quite nice how we see them interact together as you can really tell they have a good relationship and in a way it is her grandma that she feels she can be a bit more open with and she does mention her a lot in the book.



      Price:
      I have had my copy of this book for donkeys years and when this was back on sale it is advertised as £1.50 for a brand new book! However, you can pick many up on Ebay from the £1 mark upwards depending on if you are buying an old version or one of the more modern covered copies that have been released.



      Overall opinion:
      I really enjoyed this book because it was another great book that connected well with me as a younger reader. Over the past couple of days I have been reading a lot of my old books like this and even now I still enjoy the frankness of the way Judy Blume manages to bring across exactly what the lead character is thinking, feeling and also worrying about! This is reflected very well when they talk about periods and how they all presume one girl will start hers first because she acts more grown up and not really thinking about the fact that nature isn't like that! This is made even more clearer when it comes to light that one of the girls lies about starting her period to be seen as the first and almost keep her status as top girl when in reality it wouldn't have made a slight bit of difference.
      I would highly recommend this book for any good collection of Judy Blume books and even if you are an older reader it would bring back memories of being that young. I think it is also a great book to keep that you could pass on to your own children if you had any that they could then also enjoy.

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      • More +
        08.07.2010 17:56
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        A skilfully written, subtle, entertaining and empathetic novel for pre-teen girls

        BACKGROUND:

        When I was twelve years old I fell in love. This love was not, however, directed at any boy. It was not a romantic thing I speak of; it was, in fact, a case of literary love. Yes, when I was twelve years old I fell head over heels in love with the wonderful books of Judy Blume, and I never looked back.

        From the ages of approximately twelve to seventeen my literary world revolved almost entirely around coming-of-age novels by the likes of Judy Blume and Paula Danziger. It all began one day when I saw an article about this writer for girls my age called Judy Blume. I decided to give this book she was talking about a go and I was instantly smitten.

        These books not only provided me with countless hours of entertainment but - as a wannabe author myself - they probably inspired and influenced me more than any other writer to date. Regardless of how many books I read, from innumerate genres and authors, I doubt that I will ever find an author who touches my life as much as Judy Blume did back then.

        There was something magical about her books; as though they had been written by somebody who had actually taken a look at the inside of my brain and accessed my innermost thoughts. When I was twelve and contemplating becoming a teen, Margaret, the first of Blume's characters I became acquainted with, was right there beside me, going through the same things. It felt like getting to know a new best friend.

        What I found amazing about these books was how honest they were, how realistic they were and how simply they were written. The books reflected all my own thoughts and feelings that I was hesitant to share with anyone else and presented characters who were just like me and my friends; girls who seemed so real that it was almost impossible to believe sometimes that they were fictional, and that the words that I was reading and the girls who I identified with so intensely were being written by an adult the same age as my mum.

        Long after I should have passed the stage of being young enough to connect so strongly with the situations and feelings of these girls, I still reserved a huge place for them in my heart that lasts to this day. So rereading this book and writing this review is a bit like reconnecting with a long lost friend. Allow me to introduce you to her...




        THE PLOT:

        Eleven year old Margaret has just been transplanted, against her will, from New York to New Jersey, leaving behind all the things she loves - including her fussy but caring Jewish grandmother who her mother claims to be a bad influence.

        Things aren't as bad as they seem, however, as Margaret instantly finds herself with a new set of friends in the shape of know-it-all Nancy and her down to earth sidekicks, Janie and Gretchen. Margaret soon becomes a member of the girls' exciting secret club, the Four PTSs (short for Pre-Teen Sensations), which has two things on its mind: periods and boys... both of which Margaret has absolutely no experience of!

        Suddenly faced with a plethora of confusing problems, including her burgeoning feelings for older boy Moose, her initiation into the embarrassing world of bra shopping, and her dread of being the last of the girls to start her period, Margaret finds that there is only one person she can talk to: God. Despite her confusion over which religion she should choose, if any - with her family all pushing her in different directions - Margaret finds great solace in pouring out her daily woes to God. But will he ever answer her heartfelt plea and give her a helping hand in the boob department? Or is she destined to look like a little kid forever?




        WHAT I LIKED:

        Judy Blume - who has, to date, written twenty eight books, nine of which are centred around a young female protagonist - certainly knows what she is doing. There is little to criticize about her books, which capture what it is to be a young girl perfectly.

        One of the significant things that appeals to me about this novel is the simplicity of the text. Blume relies less on events and plot twists to engage the reader and keep their attention, but more on building a relationship and empathy between the character and the reader. She does this by writing the novel in a chatty, colloquial style, which gives the reader access to Margaret's innermost emotions and feelings in a way that seems as though she is chatting to them as a friend. It is a really effective style of writing for this novel, as although there are few major plot twists in this style of novel, the reader is drawn into the book because they care about the central character and feel as though they are a part of her world.

        This connection between the reader and narrator is achieved through the detail and honesty that Margaret shares. Margaret does not censor her feelings throughout the novel and shares all her thoughts seemingly as they come into the head, whether they are seemingly trivial or important to what is going on around her, as they are all important to her.

        For instance, Margaret does not just discuss the obvious effects of her move to New Jersey - such as starting a new school and being away from her devoted grandmother - but she talks about seeing shadows on the wall of her new bedroom when she is falling asleep on the first night in the house, of keeping checking whether they are still there as she tries to drift off to sleep, and of the noises that the new house makes.

        This evocative description of Margaret's feelings is really effective as the details not only make Margaret seem more real and alive, but they make her seem familiar to her audience. Lying in bed and listening to the noises of a house or fearing the shadows lurking in the corners of a room is something that most people have experienced, whereas moving to a different city might not be. Blume therefore employs the technique of bringing universal and familiar feelings and emotions into a perhaps unfamiliar situation, to allow the reader to empathise and connect with Margaret.

        Blume also repeatedly uses quirky, charismatic details - and the inclusion of minutiae - to bring the character of Margaret to life and lift her off the page. Margaret's thoughts are frequently disconnected to what is actually going on around her, but instead centred on her own interpretations of what is happening. She describes what is going on in terms of her own emotions rather than as a flat description of locations and events.

        For instance, when Margaret's grandmother comes to visit her unexpectedly, rather than commenting too much about what a surprise this is or stating how she feels about her grandmother, Margaret reveals her affection and bond with her grandma more subtly and evocatively by spending a paragraph talking about her grandma's teeth; how she looks when she smiles and how she used to entertain Margaret in her younger years by removing her false teeth. Here Blume uses the method of showing rather than telling to reveal Margaret's feelings for her grandmother.

        Margaret also reveals unique details about herself through the situations or locations she is put in. When she describes places, instead of just using objective descriptions of pieces of scenery, Margaret describes her own thoughts and memories in relation to what she sees around her. When she is visiting the Lincoln Centre, for instance, Margaret describes how she loves the fountain in the middle of the centre more than the concerts; how she loves to watch people walk by and how she once saw a model having her picture taken there in a summer dress in the freezing cold and "That's when I decided not to be a model. Even if I did get beautiful some day."

        Rather than just describing the details of a location or situation, Blume uses her description to give away key details of Margaret's character. Every place or situation Margaret describes gives you some insight into her personality, making her seem real and alive; not just a passive narrator.

        The use of minutiae and the inclusion of such an observant narrator also fits in well with a novel about an eleven year old girl, and makes the novel slightly humorous - especially when read in hindsight. The book is littered with unusual observations, from beginning paragraph: "I knew what the weather was like the second I got up. I knew because I caught my mother sniffing under her arms," to the description of the new house: "The new house is on Morningbird Lane. It isn't bad... Also, there is a very nice brass knocker." I liked this as these perceptive yet trivial observations are exactly the sort of observations that kids do make!

        Going back to the characterisation, the characters are certainly the best thing about this novel. Margaret, in particular, seems authentic and real, but even the minor characters have their own clearly defined personalities. Margaret frequently reports little details about the characters that bring them to life, such as the way her grandmother travels all the way from New York to New Jersey with an abundance of heavy shopping bags full of food because "No place has delicatessen like New York!" Or the way her dad adamantly insists on cutting the grass in the garden himself, then inevitably ends up sulking behind a sports magazine after having been forced to hire a gardener subsequent to nearly cutting off his hand in his attempts.

        Even the way Margaret describes the boy she likes is unique. There is no "tall, dark and handsome" referred to or any of the usual clichés; instead Margaret states: "I liked the way he sang as he worked. I also liked his teeth. I saw them when he smiled at me. They were very clean and white and one in the front was a little crooked." She gives him character and makes him seem real.

        One of the main things that I like about this book, though, is that it details so effectively the real problems that many girls of Margaret's age face; the small but universal problems that seem so big at the time. Judy Blume easily gets inside the mind of many a young girl and effectively presents the agonies and drama of what it is like being one. This is what ultimately makes this novel so compelling and comforting when read as a young girl (or slightly humorous when read as a bigger one).

        Margaret reveals the angst of being an eleven year old with charming naivety and gentle humour. One of my favourite examples of this is when Nancy impresses on Margaret the imperativeness of not wearing socks to school (telling her that the other girls might not want her in their secret club if she wears them). Margaret dutifully and fretfully obeys these directions, despite her mother - who, as Margaret deplores, does not understand what it is like being a young girl - insisting she is "dumb" to go without socks when she has to walk three-quarters of a mile to school. When Margaret finally gets to school she states that her mother was in fact right and "my feet hurt so much I thought I wouldn't make it through the day." She also states that: "As it turned out, half the girls had on knee socks anyway." I love this example as it demonstrates perfectly how, at that age, things like wearing a pair of socks can becomes such a big deal, and how your mother never, ever understands... but how she is nearly always right!

        Margaret's desire to fit in, and her relief that none of the other girls have started their periods yet (which she states would be "awful") is also indicative of an eleven year old girl. So much of being an eleven year old girl is about putting on an act to fit in and avoid ridicule or rejection, and this is something that Judy Blume subtly presents throughout this novel.

        An example of this is when the girls are told they are required to keep Boy Books as part of their involvement in the secret club, where they list the boys they fancy and swap notes each week. Margaret compiles her own list by looking for boys that she feels the others would approve of, as she states: "Moose would be number one in my Boy Book if only I was brave enough, but what would Nancy think?" In fact, the girls' secret club itself perfectly represents the exclusivity and uniformity that most eleven year old girls long for.

        This is one of the best things about this novel; that it revolves around ageless themes that are meaningful and common to all girls in our society: growing up, friendships, boys, family and relationships. Blume explores deeper themes - such as Margaret's quest for religion and her relationship with God, and the girls' prejudice against a fellow classmate which is found to be unfair and unfounded - but these are always alongside the backdrop of universally "girl" problems that unite most eleven year olds.

        I think that Margaret sums this idea up perfectly when her teacher tells the class to come up with a project on something meaningful to them. Margaret states: "I didn't know anything meaningful that I was willing to share with Mr Benedict. I mean, I couldn't very well come up with a year-long study about bras and what goes in them." I found this humorous and insightful as Blume clearly demonstrates exactly what is meaningful to many an eleven year old girl. It is also poignant as Margaret may not have been able to do her project on "bras and what goes in them", but Blume herself - knowing that this is what is meaningful to many girls Margaret's ages - has seemingly taken on this project herself, in the process of writing this book. She does what Margaret longs to do: she writes a book based around "bras and what goes in them"; a book which will undoubtedly be, and has certainly been, meaningful, insightful and comforting to eleven year old girls everywhere.




        WHAT I DISLIKED:

        After my long explanation of what I like about this book, I will cut this section short. In truth, there is really nothing that I dislike about the book. If you are not an eleven year old girl, or not somebody who has ever been an eleven year old girl, then I am sure there may be plenty of reasons you may not enjoy this book. But I, myself, cannot find anything to dislike.

        I guess my only problem is that Judy Blume never wrote a sequel, as Margaret is such a likeable character that I always thought that I would like to see a bit more of her. Who knows, maybe one day?




        RECOMENDED FOR... pre-teen girls. Or anyone who has ever been a pre-teen girl!

        READ WHEN... You need a reassuring reminder that growing up will happen at its own pace, and you are not the only one going through the agonies of growing up. Or, if you are older, when you fancy a nostalgic look back at those painful, embarrassing, wonderful pre-teen years!

        SIMILAR BOOKS... Any of Judy Blume's other books, particularly 'Just as Long as We're Together' or 'It's Not the End of the World'. Similar writers to Judy Blume also include Paula Danziger and Rachel Vail. Alternatively, if you are an older reader (i.e. not a pre-teen girl), I would recommend 'Summer Sisters' by Judy Blume, which is a book for adults, but written in a similar style.

        IF IT WERE FOOD IT WOULD BE... Ben and Jerry's ice cream. Comforting, sweet, enjoyable and a cut above the rest.

        IF IT WERE A COLOUR IT WOULD BE... light pink. Gentle, girly and subtle.

        IF IT WERE A SEASON IT WOULD BE... Summer. Bright, full of warmth, and you never want it to end.

        MARKS OUT OF 10 FOR:
        WRITING STYLE- 10
        PLOT- 10
        CHARACTERS - 10
        UNPUTDOWNABILITY- 10
        OVERALL BOOK- 10
        RECOMMENDED? - Yes! I would recommend this to any young girl.

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