I have vivid memories of my childhood. I can remember the names of my teachers and of many of my classmates and what the classroom looked like and how it felt when I moved from Maryland to Michigan and had to adjust to a new school. I remember the peer pressure and the angst of feeling like I didn't fit in. I remember noticing girls and not knowing why or what the big deal was or who I would or should be attracted to.
Reading Judy Blume's Are You There God? It's Me, Margaret brought back a lot of those memories and feelings.
11-year-old Margaret Simon moves to a new town and a new school just before sixth grade. She struggles with a lot of things, but one of her main struggles is with her religious identity. Her parents - one raised a Christian and the other raised Jewish - abandoned their religions when their parents objected to their mixed marriage. As a result, Margaret grew up without religion. She feels that she lacks a sense of belonging to a community. As she puts it, she doesn't know whether to join the Y or the Jewish Community Center.
Margaret does have a very personal relationship with God, and she talks with Him frequently, always beginning the conversation with the book's title. She finds comfort in this relationship, but sometimes grows frustrated at God, who does not answer her directly.
I absolutely loved this book! Margaret felt very real to me. It took me back to my 11-year-old self and all the conflict I felt at that time and how important everything seemed to me. When Margaret discovered one of her friends lying, I recall the pain and disillusionment of exactly that same experience. When she described the peer pressure, I could instantly relate, as pre-teen me was overwhelmed by such pressures.
Some of Margaret's issues are exclusive to girls (bras, boys and menstruation); but many are common to both boys and girls of that age. We all struggled to find an identity and our place in the world. Margaret shows us how.