In April 2023, Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret will premiere in theaters. Author Judy Blume penned the classic Young Adult (YA) novel in 1970, and it has been a staple in literature and the hearts of fans since.
Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret was a groundbreaking novel of its time. The 1970s saw a rise in YA novels, from The Great Gilly Hopkins (1978) to Bridge to Terabithia (1977). Judy Blume had a great impact on the genre during this time period, writing 13 books for YA and middle-grade readers in the 1970s. Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret was Blume’s second published novel and first YA novel, following her children’s book, The One in the Middle is the Green Kangaroo (1969). Its publication in 1970 set the standard for YA coming-of-age stories, and its impact is still seen in the YA genre today.
Set in 1970, 11-year-old protagonist Margaret Simon moves from New York City to Farbrook, New Jersey with her parents. Margaret deals with issues of religion, friendship, puberty, and the pangs of growing up while trying to fit in with her new friends. She has funny, heartwarming, thought-provoking discussions with God as she processes the emotions behind her experiences. The combination of serious subjects combined with humor make this novel a YA classic.
Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret captures the spectrum of feelings young adults might experience during adolescence. Margaret’s experiences of embarrassment, excitement, confusion, and desire to belong are resonant and relatable. It was a groundbreaking novel of its time, mentioning the specifics of female puberty and the feelings that might be associated with them. As Margaret and her friends seek answers to why their bodies are changing, they look to their families and celebrities for guidelines about how to look and behave. Margaret and her friends experiment with styles and different behavior as they learn who they are and what they believe in.
Today’s YA novels explore similar coming-of-age themes of belonging, changing bodies, learning to define yourself and what your beliefs are. The YA section of bildungsroman (coming-of-age) stories has expanded in recent years, with libraries having sections dedicated to middle-grade and young adult experiences. YA novels now explore diverse perspectives of gender, sexuality, and setting, so more of today’s teenagers can see themselves reflected in the characters and their experiences.
Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret is a product of its time period. While many of the mentions in the book seem obsolete by today’s standards, it accurately encapsulates the individual experience of growing up for this one girl. Since its publication took place over 50 years ago, it’s a strong foundation for a conversation with young adults about what a preteen experience might have looked like during this time and how it changes. The book also offers opportunities for conversations between generations, as many parents can share Margaret’s story with their children. Finding reading materials that can foster connection and conversation between generations is a powerful thing, and Blume’s Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret does just that.
by Danielle Cappolla