Although Banned Book Week ended on October 2nd, I am participating in an ongoing challenge being hosted by a great blogger, and person I consider one of my book enthusiast friends, over at The Biblio Blogazine. If you haven't yet checked out J.C.'s site there, I highly recommend taking a look, because of her thoughtful and thought-provoking discussions and reviews. Her book choices to review are really very good, and keep me connected to the literary world that I love. Having said that, I decided to read a book that I've seen pop up a million times on banned book lists, and have always wondered how and why? Judy Blume has several books that have appeared on the banned book list, which include Forever, and Are You There? It's Me Margaret. Believe it or not, I realized I'd never read anything by Judy Blume, although I was familiar with her books Blubber and Superfudge. Therefore, I decided I needed to check one out, post-haste, so I could get my curiosity fully under wraps!
Synopsis: Margaret and her family have moved from NYC into the suburbs of New Jersey, and is in her 12th year of life, facing all the bumps and hiccups of life that she can see coming in her near future. Wondering whether she'll be able to do such things as fill out a bra, get her first period (sooner than later), or figure out the mystery behind boys, Margaret engages us in her relationship with God as she calls on him to ask for favors along the way. Raised by a Christian mother and Jewish father, who have both chosen to live and raise their daughter as a non-religious, Margaret must also face the uncertainty of what she believes and where she belongs.
Review: While I can't say that I remember thinking as many thoughts about my body or about boys at 12-13 as Margaret, I could relate to the pressure from my peers to dress, think, and feel a certain way. The anxiety of wondering if you were "normal" seems to be a theme that continues even into adulthood, and one that I see every day in my high school students (who also think that they need to stand out...but in a way that makes them part of the group). I realized that this book was probably challenged for its multiple references to the pubescent body, what with Margaret's stuffing of her bra, and obsession with feminine products. These alone probably sent mothers into a frenzy. These, however, seem so minute to the overall buldingsroman of the story, which is watching as Margaret tackles her search for herself and her beliefs. I have to say that as an adult, I appreciated the complexity of the questions that Margaret bravely challenges in the book, as they do represent what an adult should be composed of: physical, spiritual, emotional, and sexual. There are no sex scenes in the novel, even though Margaret gets a kiss during a game of "2 minutes in the dark" (which I never played...gasp). Overall, I found the novel to be brave and honest, just what many teens crave, which is pure honesty out of the adults in their lives.
Once again, this was for the Banned Books Challenge. You can learn more about this iconically banned novel at: Are You There God? It's Me Margaret.