Are You There, God? It’s Me, Margaret Stands the Test of Time

Judy Blume novels were a staple when I was growing up and I was lucky to have a mom who didn’t censor what I was reading (she could have been a bit more careful with that copy of Cujo) like the moms of a few of my classmates because Are you there God?  It’s Me, Margaret was on the list of contested books and I loved it. I vividly remember a cottage visit where she stood up to an aunt who thought it wasn’t appropriate for me and I was so relieved that she was defending a book that I thought was about any kid my age. Blume’s characters all seemed so real, like they were going through the same things we were, and many of their experiences are imprinted on my memory as if I saw them happen right in front of me. The news that a feature film was being made about this novel from many people’s formative years made me feel a bit of unease. Could they do it well? Blume has had different levels of success with adaptations of her work – there is a recent article about this in the New York Times (free to access with your library card!) – and I really wanted to see Margaret Simon and her friends represented correctly on the big screen.

It’s not that I want them to be locked into a time capsule from when the book was originally written (in 1970) because the book has continued to be popular with readers through the five decades since it was published. I hope that the film walks the tightrope of staying true to the original story but brings in some modern elements as well – making it seem like a home for all of the readers who have loved it. This story has been popular for 50 years because women who read it themselves have passed it along to others who they think might benefit from the themes of coming-of-age, spirituality, puberty, family, and friendship. An almost-12-year-old girl moves to a house in New Jersey from an apartment in New York and once a reader meets her, they are hooked and can’t let go! That time in life is one of upheaval and change for everyone, even if we aren’t moving house, so having Margaret’s voice as a guide was like a balm. It was the honesty on the page that kept this book on heavy rotation (for me and for so many others – it was on the NYT best seller list and also, because many people, like my aunt, had concerns about themes of religion and sexuality protested against it just never stopped being in the public conversation). It packs quite a punch for just 171 pages.

I placed a hold on one of our WPL copies recently and it was like instant time travel. I had forgotten how much I enjoyed the voice of her grandmother and the pleasures of Margaret’s friendship with Nancy, Gretchen, and Janie. Having the chance to experience those ‘firsts’ with them was incredible. I had forgotten a few of the more cringeworthy moments and laughed when I read about Nancy’s awful older brother and that terrible class dinner party near the end of the book. Check out the trailer for the film – starring Rachel McAdams, Kathy Bates and produced by James L. Brooks – to plan your trip to the theatre (it debuts on the 28th of April) or just pick up the book and travel back in time yourself.   

Photo credit: Glamour Magazine