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Literature / Are You There God? It's Me, Margaret.

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I think it's time for me to decide who to be.
Are You There God? It's Me Margaret. is a Young Adult novel written by Judy Blume in 1970.

It's the 1960s and Margaret Simon is a sixth-grade girl who has just moved from New York City to Farbrook, New Jersey. Her mother Barbara is Christian, her father Herb is Jewish (though both are non-practicing), and she's always considered herself non-religious despite her regular conversations with God — until she realizes that in Farbrook, all her new friends are either Christian or Jewish. Margaret feels she must make a choice to "belong", and decides to spend her year-long study by her new teacher researching faith. She also deals with the issues of growing up and puberty — including worry over periods, feelings about boys, getting her first bra, and jealousy about others.

With frank discussions of puberty including bras and periods, pre-teens exploring early sexual and crush feelings, an interfaith marriage in an era where it was more rare, and the questioning of religious faith by a child raised without any as a large part of the plot, the book has been subsequently banned or challenged many times. See some of the reasons here.

More than fifty years after publication, Judy Blume finally agreed to allow a film adaptation to be produced. The film was produced by James L. Brooks and written and directed by Kelly Fremon Craig (The Edge of Seventeen) and stars Abby Ryder Fortson as Margaret, Rachel McAdams as Barbara, Benny Safdie as Herb Simon, and Kathy Bates as Sylvia. It was released on April 28, 2023, but only made back $21.5 million of its $30 million budget in theatres.

The book and movie provide examples of:

  • The '60s: The novel takes place in this time period; the book itself was published right at the start of The '70s.
  • A-Cup Angst: Margaret and her friends are frustrated over the fact that they haven't started developing breasts yet, and insult Laura Denker about being more developed.
  • Abhorrent Admirer: Norman Fishbein for Margaret. She considers him a "drip" and when she calls his number during Ten Minutes in the Closet, he says he really likes her and she reacts by telling him to kiss her quickly on the cheek to get it over with.
  • Adaptational Sympathy: Margaret's mom Barbara is made more sympathetic in the movie, in part by giving her her own plotline outside of Maragaret's perception.
  • Adaptation Expansion: Margaret's mother Barbara. In the film she's the Deuteragonist, with her own story occuring simultaneously alongside Margaret's. She decided to stop teaching painting so she could be a stay-at-home mom, spend more time with her daughter, and participate in the local PTA. Her plotline deals with the troubles she has trying to adapt, and her trying to do right by Margaret while also struggling with her own emotional wounds.
  • Adaptational Nice Guy: Margaret and her parents are nicer in the film than in the book. Barbara is closer to Margaret and checks in on her in a very sweet way after the disastrous visit from her parents (Margaret's maternal grandparents). Herb is less hostile to his wife about her having contacted her parents and more upset about how they treated her than how they treat him - he ultimately says she should let them visit, clearly hoping that she's right and they'll be kinder to her. Margaret, most importantly, becomes willing to make friends with Laura Danker rather than nothing happening after Laura tells her off, and Janie is willing to join her in befriending Laura.
  • An Aesop: Moose tells Margaret she should get the facts about people rather than make or rely on assumptions about them after she accuses him of going behind the A&P with Laura Danker.
  • Against My Religion: During the preparations for Margaret's class's holiday choir concert — with five Christian songs and three Hanukkah ones — Jewish classmate Alan Gordon refuses to sing Christmas songs and Christian classmate Lisa Murphy refuses to sing Hanukkah songs, both claiming it's against their religion. Mr. Benedict's appeal to reason fails. In the book, Alan comes in with a note and doesn't sing the Christian songs. Laura sings when they march, but doesn't even mouth the words during the Hanukkah songs. In the movie, Mr. Benedict compromises by allowing both kids to remain silent during any songs that go against their beliefs.
  • All for Nothing: In the film, Barbara signs on with the PTA and at the direction of Mrs. Wheeler cuts out thousands of fabric stars over several months, even taking on another volunteer's allotment when asked. Mrs. Wheeler wants them glued to the ceiling of the gym to recreate the night sky. However, as it turns out, that's a fire hazard, so all that work comes to nothing.
  • Alpha Bitch: Nancy Wheeler, Margaret's friend, manipulates her friends into following her lead along with rubbing salt into their personal insecurities (Gretchen's weight and Margaret's flat chest) and spreading rumors about Laura Danker.
  • And Starring: To be specific, "And Introducing". Abby Ryder Fortson gets this credit because it's her first starring role, though she'd been in several other films (perhaps most notably, she played Cassie Lang in the first two Ant-Man movies before being replaced by Emma Fuhrmann in Avengers: Endgame, who was herself replaced by Kathryn Newton for Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania).
  • Apology Gift: Or rather, apology visit; when Herb and Barbara realize that Barbara's parents were using their visit to see their granddaughter as an excuse to arrive and leave dramatically (they only stay one day) and make themselves the center of attention — and Margaret sourly points out they ruined her vacation — they get a mutual Jerkass Realization. Herb calls his mother, Sylvia, to come visit Margaret and help cheer her up.
  • Beta Bitch: Margaret becomes one herself when she confronts Laura Danker at the library, upset she's doing a group project with her at all (along with Philip and Norman) and taking her frustrations out on her. Laura's consequent calling out has Margaret realize she's been blindly following Nancy's lead in helping ostracize and torment Laura and immediately feels bad for it. In the film she seems to become less close with Nancy afterwards and even tries hanging out with Laura at the end of the term.
  • Bitch in Sheep's Clothing: Philip Leroy, the most handsome boy in the class. He appears handsome — enough all four girls list him as a Boy they Like in their boy books — but is a brat and a jerk as well as a Class Clown. He tries to step on the girl's feet during the sixth grade square dance, blows mustard on the ceiling of the dining room during Norman's dinner party, and calls Spin the Bottle "corny". During "two minutes in the closet", he goes in with Laura Denker and comes out smiling, but Laura isn't. On Margaret's twelfth birthday he pinches her and says it's a pinch to grow an inch — and then says he knows where the inch is needed. She decides that Nancy can have him from then on. He also barely contributes to the group project on Belgium, choosing to fool around by doodling and reading comics in class.
  • Blatant Lies: In the movie, when Barbara tells Margaret about being disowned by her parents, something that has Margaret indignant and horrified, she says that it happened a long time ago, so she's fine. But she's crying as she explains.
  • Boring Religious Service: Margaret has a Christian mother and Jewish father but was raised without an affiliation to either religion. She attends two Christian services with friends and one Jewish service with her grandmother but Margaret finds the services boring and hard to follow (as she doesn't know the songs or the meanings of anything) and spends the time counting hats.
  • Brand X: Period products are given the brand names Private Lady and Teenage Softies. Tampax is mentioned once by Nancy during the Private Lady presentation; the representative coughs and suggest that "internal protection" wait until they're older.
  • Calling the Old Man Out: Grandparents in this case. Margaret gets furious when Barbara's parents insist that Margaret must be a Christian because Barbara was one and faith passes through the mother — and they can overlook the "sins" of Herb being Jewish. Margaret was already angry at them for coming to visit at all and making her cancel her vacation to Florida, but them insisting on her being Christian is Margaret's Rage Breaking Point.
  • Catholic School Girls Rule: Realistically averted with Laura Denker. She's the tallest and most developed girl in the sixth grade, and all the boys stare at her. But she attends public school, she is not as fast or slutty as the other girls assume, and her Catholicism is only briefly seen when she goes to confession after school — and just before it, calls Margaret out on how she knows how everyone talks about her and that she's tired of it.
  • Coming of Age Story: A story of a girl in sixth grade who is not only going through puberty, but starting to consider larger, more abstract, and adult things such as religion. This culminates with her first period.
  • Cool Old Lady: Margaret's Jewish grandmother, Sylvia Simon. She dyes her hair multiple colors, travels to Florida, and goes on a cruise yearly. After the disaster that is Barbara's parents visiting and ruining Margaret's spring break vacation and only staying one day at that, Sylvia comes over with her new unstated boyfriend she just met, saying that if Mohammad won't come to the mountain, the mountain will go to Mohammad.
  • Cover-up Purchase: Embarrassed about buying menstrual pads for the first time, Margaret and her friends buy other products along with them to curb attention away from the pads. In the book Margaret is not as embarrassed, in part because she's had a recent crisis of faith and is feeling defiant against God; in the movie the purchase is made before her Crisis of Faith.
  • Crisis of Faith: Margaret struggles with being faithless in a community where everyone is either Jewish or Christian and her grandmother Sylvia is convinced she's a Jewish girl at heart. She decides her personal project for the year will be on exploring and possibly deciding her faith, but she doesn't get far; she finds services boring, regardless of which kind they are. She has a large break when her visiting grandparents insist she must be Christian because Barbara was. She yells that she doesn't need religion or even God, and decides she's never going to speak to him again. She keeps it up for the rest of the book, and for her personal project only turns in a single letter rather than the large decorated booklets the rest of her classmates have, saying she's come to no conclusion at all. When she gets her first period, she starts talking to God again.
  • Deuteragonist: The film puts Margaret's mother Barbara in this role. With Herb making more money, she leaves her job teaching painting to be a stay-at-home mom. She struggles to adjust to homemaking and the difficulties of being in the PTA, especially as someone who's just too nice to say no when extra tasks are heaped on her. She's also clearly still hurting from being disowned by her parents, so when they reach out to her she pins her hopes on them having changed. At the end of the film, Barbara has resumed teaching painting and when the head of the PTA tries to corner her for help, she says no.
  • D-Cup Distress: Laura Danker has been wearing a bra since fourth grade — and will quickly tell anyone that a big bust is not all it's cracked up to be, as boys stare at her and girls talk about her and spread rumors all the time.
  • Did You Think I Can't Feel?: Laura Danker tells off Margaret for accusing her of sneaking around with older boys and tells her about how hard it is to develop breasts before your peers do and have boys and teachers stare at her while the girls all talk about her behind her back.
  • Disabled in the Adaptation: Minor, but Gretchen wears glasses in the movie where she never does in the book.
  • Enthusiastic Newbie Teacher: Mr. Benedict is a first year sixth-grade teacher. He's a well-meaning but inexperienced teacher who struggles to get his students' approval and respect. At the end of the year, he states he'll be much more experienced now.
  • Faint in Shock: Nancy faints in panic when she gets her period for real, while on a trip to New York. Margaret isn't amused. In the book, she merely cries and sounds ill.
  • Fake Boobs: The Pre-Teen Sensations stuff their shirts and training bras with cotton balls.
  • Fake Period Excuse: A variant. Nancy pretends to get her first period to try to impress her friends; in the book she just sends a postcard to Margaret with the words "I GOT IT!". This backfires when she actually has her first period later and Margaret is present for Nancy's panic.
  • Fancy Dinner: Norman Fishbein holds a fancy dinner party over the holiday break, inviting the whole of his sixth grade class. The boys come in jackets and the girls in fine dresses, but the jackets are soon discarded. During dinner, the boys act out, blowing mustard on the ceiling with straws, and then Freddy taunts the girls when Mrs. Fishbein says that she's sure the four girls aren't responsible for the mess (and in the process rips Nancy's dress pocket). Mrs. Fishbein lectures them all for their appalling behavior and says any more "hanky-panky" will result in her calling their parents. Once she's gone again, the sixth graders then shift to playing Spin the Bottle and later, Ten Minutes in Heaven (really Two Minutes in the Bathroom, since the basement doesn't have a closet.)
  • Fascinating Eyebrow: Margaret can raise one eyebrow. She does it occasionally to get adults and peers to stop asking her questions and while she doesn't know why it has that effect, it does. It doesn't work on her new teacher.
  • Fingore: Margaret's father Herb cuts his finger trying to mow the lawn, enough that the blood seeps through the towel he wraps it in and he has to go the hospital. He ends up with eight stitches in his finger and has to hire local teenager Moose to cut the lawn.
  • First Period Panic: After Gretchen has her first period, she tells her friends (who've yet to get theirs) that it's nothing to worry about. Nancy says she got hers shortly thereafter and didn't panic at all. Only to panic (with fainting in the movie) the day it happens for real.
  • Four-Girl Ensemble: The Four Pre-Teen Sensations: Gretchen is the tomboyish one one, Janie is shy and sweet, Nancy is fast and knows more about sex and puberty or at least fakes it, and Margaret is the narrator who sees everything.
  • Green-Eyed Monster: Prominent throughout the book. Margaret is continuously jealous of various factors involved with puberty: Laura Denker having large breasts, her crush paying attention to other girls, and not getting her period before her friends.
  • Good Parents: In the film especially, Barbara is a really good mom to Margaret. She's supportive without being smothering — such as when she warns Margaret that wearing shoes without socks will give her blisters, but doesn't insist on them and leaves her to learn this on her own — and worries about not having spent enough time with her. She does make mistakes, but in the film the situation with her parents has her come across much better, and she checks in on Margaret afterwards in a very compassionate way.
  • Heel Realization: After Laura calls her out for how Margaret talks about her and helps spread rumors, Margaret immediately realizes that Laura is right and feels awful about the way she's been treating Laura.
  • High-School Dance: Really an Upper Elementary School Dance. The sixth grade has a Thanksgiving square dance in the fall, complete with lessons beforehand in gym class and a caller at the actual dance. Most of the boys spend both the gym lessons and the dance trying to step on the girls' feet.
  • Hormone-Addled Teenager: The Pre-Teen Sensations accuse Laura Danker of being one of these. Meanwhile, Nancy frets about kissing boys and says she's practicing. At a dinner party, the kids decide to play Spin the Bottle followed by Two Minutes in Heaven.
  • Huge Schoolgirl: Laura Danker is both the bustiest girl in the grade and tall enough to be mistaken for a teacher. During a dance lesson, she had to dance with the teacher as none of the boys were tall enough.
  • Hypocrite: Nancy and her friends are fascinated by and eager about starting puberty and trying to be more grown-up, and are competitive over who develops or has her period first. They also shun and slut-shame Laura Danker for being further along in puberty than they are.
  • I Have No Daughter!: And "I Have No Son-in-Law". A central plot involves Margaret's maternal grandparents who disowned Barbara because, as very conservative Christians, they were angry she wanted to marry Margaret's Jewish father Herb. This is why Margaret is raised with no religion. They later express a desire to reconcile, though only with Barbara — not her father, whom they don't even mention in their letter. They barely acknowledge Herb when they come to visit, and when they abruptly leave it's implied they still haven't fully reconciled with Barbara, though in the movie they've seemingly become more willing to talk to her at least.
  • Important Haircut: Minor, but in the book, Janie is taken to get a haircut right before the fancy dinner party, and her mother has the stylist clip it short. Margaret says she looks elven and it's a good look for her — and thinks about the same cut for herself, but then remembers how long she's been growing her hair out.
  • Informed Judaism:
    • Gretchen Potter goes to the Jewish community center and Hebrew School, but doesn't really stand out as Jewish beyond that.
    • Classmate Alan Gordon refuses to sing any of the Christian songs for the holiday pageant; nothing else is mentioned about his Judaism.
    • Sylvia, Margaret's paternal grandmother. Justified as, even if she does attend services for Jewish holidays, Margaret only goes with her once for Rosh Hashanah.
  • Jewish Mother: Margaret's paternal grandmother, Sylvia, nags her son Herb but dotes on Margaret.
  • The Joy of X: The originator of the Are You There, God? It's Me, X. style of title.
  • Know-Nothing Know-It-All: Nancy Wheeler. She insists she knows everything about puberty, boys, kissing, and sex, and about how all boys are perverted because of her older brother. However she assumes that Laura Denker must be letting boys feel her up behind the A&P because she's already developed (and so warns Margaret away from her), thinks that a specific exercise will make their busts grow faster, and brags about getting her period second. She did, but not when she initially told Margaret.
  • Maligned Mixed Marriage: Margaret's parents eloped because Barbara's Christian parents wouldn't accept their daughter's relationship with a Jewish man. Margaret also mentions that Herb's Jewish parents weren't thrilled with the relationship either, but ultimately accepted Barbara because of how much their son loved her. When Barbara's parents suddenly announce a visit, Herb yells that they're probably coming to see if Margaret has horns, due to the antisemitic idea of Jews being horned.
  • Na├»ve Everygirl: Margaret is rather naive about things.
  • Naked People Are Funny: Nancy says she's seen a boy's body because her brother walks around naked. Gretchen says her father used to but stopped. Janie says her divorced aunt went to a nudist colony for a month, and her mother didn't talk to her sister for three weeks afterwards.
  • New York Is Only Manhattan: Margaret's family moves from New York City to Farbrook, New Jersey at the start of the book; New York is described as nothing but Manhattan, but this is mostly because this is where Margaret goes after moving to visit her grandmother Sylvia.
  • Nice Job Breaking It, Hero:
    • Barbara, after not speaking to her parents for fourteen years, sends them a holiday card out of sentimentality. This results in them sending a letter back saying they're coming to visit — and coming right after Margaret was going to leave to Florida to visit Sylvia for spring break, ruining her vacation.
    • In the film, Margaret asking her mother about her family seems to be what prompts Barbara to send them a card, resulting in all of the above.
  • No Periods, Period: Averted. One of the major plots is around the four main girls wanting their periods, and they frequently talk about them. The sixth grade girls are all taken to a presentation about it during school (sponsored by the brand Private Lady). All of them but one get theirs by the end of sixth grade; Gretchen is first and the other girls ask her everything about it they can. Margaret gets hers in the last chapter, on the very last day of school.
  • Outdated Name: One of the most obvious signs that set the book in the 1960s. While kids named "Margaret", "Gretchen", "Nancy", or "Norman" isn't odd, it's unusual when they're all in one classroom since these names are not as common anymore in the 21st century.
  • Parents as People: The religious issues affecting Margaret affect her parents too. They're good parents most of the time. But Barbara sends a holiday card to her parents, and when they say they're coming to visit, Barbara and Herb cancel Margaret's spring break vacation to visit Sylvia in Florida in order to have her meet them and spend the entire visit using her to placate or annoy her grandparents. They get a Jerkass Realization about this when, after their departure, Margaret says that her grandparents ruined her vacation; as an apology they get her paternal grandmother, Sylvia to come visit and cheer her up.
  • Peer Pressure Makes You Evil: Or at least, a bully. Margaret's first friend in New Jersey, Nancy Wheeler, immediately tells her awful things about their classmate Laura Danker (who is going through precocious puberty), including claiming she goes behind the A&P and lets boys feel her up. Margaret believes what she's told and treats Laura like an anathema throughout the book, until Laura calls her out about it to her face. In the film, Margaret shows remorse for believing this and tries to be kind to Laura before the end of the school year.
  • Precocious Crush: Margaret has one on Moose, a friend of Nancy's older brother Evan. She has one towards her from Norman Fishbein, but she thinks he's a drip.
  • Porn Stash: Margaret's father has a subscription to Playboy. Nancy, when she hears, tells Margaret to go get an issue so they can look at the nude girls inside (as they just looked at a nude male body using an anatomy book).
  • Potty Failure: One of the kindergarten kids wets himself during the pageant performance, directly in front of Janie. She has to keep singing and not react.
  • Puppy Love: Frequently and often; Margaret has one on Moose.
  • Propaganda Piece: The sixth grade girls attend a presentation called What Every Girl Should Know, sponsored by the Private Lady Company. While it is a presentation on menstruation and includes a video (albeit a bland, flowery one), it's more a promotion for Private Lady products and the pamphlets suggest to use that brand. Margaret decides she will never buy them when she needs them.
  • Race Lift: Janie, who is implied to be white in the books, is cast in the movie as black Amari Alexis Price.note 
  • Running Gag: The movie frequently points out the lack of furnishings in the Simon's living room. It's only mentioned twice in the book, once by Margaret explaining her mother hasn't decided and during the visit from Barbara's parents.
  • School Forced Us Together: Margaret after her class acts out out is made to sit next to Class Clown Freddy Barnett and Laura Danker. She later has to do a group project with Laura, Philip Leroy, and Norman Fishbein, which means sitting together and talking; since she still believes in the rumors about Laura, she's upset she has to talk to Laura at all. She also is irritated that Philip doesn't help with the project, Norman reads moving his lips, and the project is on Belgium, which she thinks is a boring country. This culminates in her taking her frustrations out on Laura and saying everyone knows she "does things" behind the A&P. Laura calls her out on how she's been treated.
  • She Is All Grown Up: Herb tells Margaret this after she gets her first bra.
  • Secret Identity: The PTSs decide to give themselves fancier names as part of their secret club: Alexandria, Veronica, Kimberly, and Mavis. They all get tired of trying to remember who's who by December and go back to using their real names.
  • Sexy Sweater Girl: Laura Danker wears one, and she's the only one in her sixth grade class with breasts big enough to pull this trope off. Margaret owns many sweaters, but doesn't fill them out.
  • Slut-Shaming: Happens to the busty Laura Danker. The boys ogle her for her big chest while the girls treat her as a pariah. Nancy leads the way, making up rumors about Laura making out with Nancy's brother Evan and his friend Moose behind the local A&P.
  • Smite Me, O Mighty Smiter: Margaret, after her Crisis of Faith, "defies" God by crossing the street against the light and in the middle. Nothing happens.
  • Spin the Bottle: The girls play this game with their classmates at a birthday party, but come to the conclusion that it's not very fun and decide to play "two minutes in the bathroom" instead.
  • Tampon Run: For pads; Gretchen's mother only uses Tampax, so she has to go out and buy pads for her daughter when she starts her first period.
  • Tears of Remorse: After Laura calls out Margaret for being part of the bullying against her, Margaret follows her to her Catholic Church and and enters the confessional booth after Laura leaves. When the priest asks Margaret what she wants to confess, all Margaret can say is, "I'm sorry" before rushing away and breaking down crying.
  • Ten Minutes in the Closet: Margaret and her classmates play this at a birthday party. Except it's "Two Minutes in the Closet" and they don't have a big enough closet, so they use a bathroom instead.
  • Textile Work Is Feminine: Sylvia knits and makes Margaret multiple sweaters, all tagged with labels that say "Made Expressly For You By Grandma."
  • Trend Covers: The covers have been updated numerous times over the years, to continue to appeal to new generations of readers; one has what looks like a modern text message in the style of ttyl. A 2023 reprint cover is themed after the movie, with Margaret's actress on the front.
  • Unnamed Parent: Zig-Zagged Trope with Margaret's maternal grandparents. They're named on the envelope of the holiday card Barbara sends as Mr. and Mrs. Paul Hutchins; her grandmother later signs her name as Mary Hutchins. However, during their visit Herb calls her Mrs. Hutchins, and the two call each other "Father" and "Mother" instead of by their first names.
  • Wanton Cruelty to the Common Comma: God is being addressed. Therefore, it should be Are You There, God? This has bugged readers for decades. Some newer editions have altered the title to account for this.
  • Weight Woe: Gretchen is constantly harbored about her weight. Nancy asks how much weight she put on over the summer when she gets six Oreos, and Gretchen shamefully puts four of them back. When she gets her period, she says her mother said she'll have to really watch her weight cause she gained too much over the year.
  • What the Hell, Hero?: Laura calls Margaret out for believing the rumors about her and assuming she's a slut or fast because she's more developed than other girls their age. Margaret instantly realizes Laura's right and is genuinely sorry.
  • What You Are in the Dark: Margaret finds out that Nancy lied to their group about getting her period before she does, and Nancy faints (she just panics and cries in the book) when it arrives. Nancy also panics when her mother spills the beans to Margaret and begs her not to tell their friend group. Margaret is mad at Nancy for lying and bragging about it, but decides to keep Nancy's secret.
  • With Friends Like These...: Nancy Wheeler isn't a sweet and reliable friend. Margaret continues to think of Nancy as her "best friend" (even after the Laura Danker incident), even though Gretchen and especially Janie treat Margaret better than Nancy does.
  • Younger Than They Look: Laura Danker, with her busty frame and long legs, is almost mistaken for being the teacher by Margaret on the first day of school.

Alternative Title(s): Are You There God Its Me Margaret