Are You There, God? It’s Me, Cha

You know what’s really hard to do? It’s hard to recommend a book to my daughter. I was an avid reader growing up. Read what are now some classic authors, but back in the 80s, were just books. Beverly Cleary was a go-to. Cynthia Voight. And, of course, the one and only Judy Blume.

Over the years I have tried in earnest to convince my kid that these are books and authors she should read. They are great books. But, here’s what I learned pretty quickly: I am NOT COOL, therefore my book recommendations are also NOT COOL.

I did manage to sneak a few things in. I read Freckle Juice to her out loud at the right age (still such a great book!). We listened to part of Henry and Ribsy on a car ride down to Portland once. I also learned to acquaint myself with some newer, hipper books so I could try to be, at the very least, hip to the past century.

This has resulted in a few successes, most notably Kate DiCamillo and Rebecca Stead (I try not to brag, but I read “When You Reach Me” months before my kid did, begged her to read it, which she wouldn’t. When she finally did and agreed it was a good book I did not “I told you so!” her too bad)

I now know I just need to leave her be and she’ll read who she wants to read. She liked Harry Potter, but she LOVES Percy Jackson. Has begged me to read the full series, all three of them (THREE??). I’m two books in, after two years.

She read another book titled Ban This Book, used that junior fiction novel to learn about a whole slew of books that had once been banned, THEN went and reserved or borrowed a whole bunch of other books from the library. And that’s how we ended up here:

Are you there, God? It’s not me, it’s my kid!

To my surprise one day about a month ago, I was alerted that Are You There, God? It’s Me, Margaret, was ready to be borrowed from the library.

Readers, I was honestly nervous. She was going to read about PERIODS. Which, now that I think about it, why was I so nervous? She had just finished The Hate U Give, is a much more powerful story. I am unsure what made me so nervous. Maybe that this book seemed like something my mother wouldn’t have wanted me to read. As a mother, was I supposed to shield her or something?

She read it in an afternoon. And she liked it, thought the bust exercises scene was hilarious (also confirmed with me that it doesn’t really work), and then went on with her day.

I decided a few nights later to tuck into it (read it in about 90 minutes. I remember it being much longer!), and I need to say this … Margaret still slaps!

The cover of Are You There, God?
as I remember it, back in the 80s

The friend drama is as real today as it was back then (Nancy is still a mean girl), as are the crushes. I had actually forgotten one of the biggest controversies of the storyline, where Margaret researches different religions and tries to figure out who/what she is. This blew me away, as I feel like it could be very representative of where my family stands today.

Blume also updated the references to the sanitary napkins. I remember her descriptions even back when I read it being dated, so I was glad to see she took the time to make this relevant, decades later. And, to be honest, like, what a sneaky way to let girls know how to use a pad. I see what you’re doing, there, Ms. Blume, and I 100% approve.

The kid has already moved on from this book to her next thing (rereading her Baby-sitters Club graphic novels, thanks to the recent Netflix series). But this book has stayed with me for a little longer. My kid is growing up. She will start middle school next year, and at some point my relevance and importance in her daily decisions will diminish. It is a hard pill to swallow. Perhaps this is why I long for us to connect with books.

Guess it’s time to crack open that third Percy Jackson.

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