Title: Marbles: Are You There God? It's Me, Margaret
Author: Judy Blume
Publisher: Atheneum Books for Young Readers
Source: Personal purchase
If anyone tried to determine the most common rite of passage for preteen girls in North America, a girl's first reading of Are You There God? It's Me, Margaret would rank near the top of the list. Adolescents are often so relieved to discover that someone understands their body-angst that they miss one of the book's deeper explorations: a young person's relationship with God. Margaret has a very private relationship with God, and it's only after she moves to New Jersey and hangs out with a new friend that she discovers that it might be weird to talk to God without a priest or a rabbi to mediate. Margaret just wants to fit in! Who is God, and where is He when she needs Him?
Even though I never got around to reading any of her work, Judy Blume has been a very familiar name to me. My American friends kept nagging me about not having read this book. I came across it last June when I was in the States; I bought it and finished it in about and hour and a half on the plane ride back home.
I've always enjoyed "coming of age" stories. Even my favorites are mostly of this genre: Little Women, Jane Eyre, The Perks of Being a Wallflower, Catcher in the Rye... Are You There God? It's Me, Margaret tells the story of Margaret who comes of age while questioning life, family, friends and, of course, God.
Margaret has to move from the lively, busy New York to their new home in New Jersey and therefore has to get used to her new neighborhood, new school and new life. First of all, moving to New Jersey means she won't be able to spend as much time with her grandmother as she would like to, as she's used to. Judy Blume doesn't go over-the-top like most YA authors, which is something I really liked about her. Margaret, for example, gains a circle of friends like most kids do, and just like them, questions the choices her family makes as well as talking to God about things she cannot tell anybody else.
The only thing about Margaret that may not be considered "ordinary" is the way her parents haven't taught her about God or religion. Her mom is Jewish, her father is Christian. When they decided to marry, their families threw a fit, which is the reason why they wanted Margaret to make up her own mind when it comes to religion. Margaret realized she's missing something when she has to choose between the Christian and the Jewish gyms. While continuing her conversations with God at night, she starts gathering information about the two religions.
While Judy Blume has Margaret explore, she doesn't take a side, doesn't tell the reader what she thinks is right or wrong. She handles everything completely from Margaret's point of view, her innocent eyes and her curiosity about life itself. So, kudos!